By Roy H. Williams
Transactional and Relational are the two styles of selling and the two modes of buying.
Customers in Transactional mode are concerned only with today’s transaction. They enjoy the process of shopping, comparing, and negotiating. Their only fear is paying more than they had to pay. Relational customers don’t relish the idea of comparison shopping. Their only fear is “buying the wrong one.” This is why they’re hoping to find an expert they can trust.
Good ads target one mindset or the other.
Transactional ads work faster because they target customers who are consciously in the market for the product; which explains why they’re more apt to notice your ad. But Transactional ads build weak brands. Relational advertising - true branding - requires patience. Which is why we see so little of it.
The challenge facing both types of advertisers in our over-communicated society is that of gaining access to Working Memory, conscious awareness, the imagination — in other words, winning the customer’s attention.
Winning the attention is difficult because Broca’s area of the brain anticipates the predictable and blocks it from ever reaching Working Memory. Most advertising today is painfully predictable and consequently, invisible. To win the customer’s attention we must surprise Broca’s area with sensory stimuli other than that which was expected.
The Cognoscenti know the only way to elegantly surprise Broca and win the attention of the highly profitable, Relational shopper, is to employ Particle Conflict, featuring incongruent -- but connected -- information with a high degree of divergence and an explicit moment of convergence. The best example I’ve seen in recent years arrived with 114 other inserts in the Sunday paper. The simple fact that I noticed the ad is mind-boggling because I can honestly say that I haven’t read a Sunday paper insert in at least 20 years.
Broca’s first surprise was the conflict of style with subject matter: a profoundly artistic photo featured a trash man. The early perception of quality and refinement was driven deeper by the weight of the coated cardstock and the elegance of the layout. The copy contained within the little brochure was understated and personal, a conversation between friends, pure gold to the relational customer. Accompanying the Relational brochure was a free sample of the product packaged to attract the eye and answer the questions of a shopper in Transactional mode.
If it requires a rare genius to create such ads, it requires an even rarer genius to run them. My hat is off to the unknown creators of the new Glad ForceFlex trash bag campaign.
And I bow with a flourish to the invisible brand manager with the courage and good sense to fund it.