What Marketers Can Learn from Actors

When was the last time you went to the theater?  What do you remember about that experience?  Does Romeo’s confession of undying love for Juliet still pull at your heartstrings? Do you still feel the anxiety you had sitting next to the boyfriend you went to see it with- the one you broke up with immediately afterwards because you realized while watching that he was never going to be your Romeo?
You remember these things because they have emotional relevance to you. 

photo by Alex Avalos

photo by Alex Avalos

We go to the theater to witness our shared human experience. Professional stage actors have spent years studying different techniques in order to authentically embody characters on stage.  These same methodologies can be accessed by marketers to channel our audience when developing our campaigns.
Alright, so tell us how.  While traditional marketing uses methods like data-driven customer segmentation, brand audits and competitive analysis to shape a strategy, one of the most widely taught acting techniques, the Stanislavski system, uses “emotional memory recall, spiritual realism and self-analysis” to bring an actor into the state of the character he or she is performing.
These very different techniques are used to answer the same set of seven questions with the shared goal of telling a compelling story that engages, resonates and entertains an audience.  (source)
These are those questions: 

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This presents us as marketers with an opportunity to cross-pollinate; to be inspired by Stanislavski to build upon our current approach to creative strategy, on the side of both agency and client.

"Empathy is at the heart of the actor's art.”  - Meryl Streep

I get it, but now what do I do? We can use the actor’s method to build upon our existing marketing strategic framework, as illustrated below.

The magic happens when we embark on building out an emotional journey roadmap for our target customer, inspired by both our own experience as well as in depth qualitative research.  When done effectively, this thoughtful work can inspire product and brand marketing that breaks through the clutter, hitting at the emotional hierarchy of needs, and ultimately driving relevance.

In order to build an emotional journey roadmap, you must first be clear on who your ideal target customer is.  Below is a sample framework, that can be fleshed out using demographic & psychographic data, ethnographic research, cultural trend mapping, and a bit of imagination.

This is your jumping off point.  From here, determine the emotional life of this person through empathy mapping, using emotional recall, as well as qualitative research, to concept what people think, say, do and feel at each step of the customer journey.  IDEO presents a great technique, but if you don’t have the time and team to tackle this undertaking, identify the key moments in that customer journey and dive in deeply at these moments.
Use the 7 questions to dig deeper into the person's need state, its causes, our contrary nature as human beings, and how we, as marketers, can deliver value at this moment in time.
If you leave with nothing else, remember this: In order to build an emotional journey roadmap, you must first understand that humans are not simple or rational.  Our reactions to things are based upon our experiences as people in the world. 

When building a creative strategy, it is essential that we consider the multitude of influences that will affect how someone experiences our marketing communications.  Yes, our audience may be thousands, if not millions of people, but the power comes when you aim to make an intimate connection with one person.  
The marketing machine will put the rest of the puzzle pieces together to ensure the we hit our touchpoints, but deeper, emotions-driven thinking, is the key to delivering breakthrough across the customer lifecycle.