Hope is a powerful human emotion. As the world becomes increasingly chaotic, individuals are now looking for hope more than ever. According to MacInnis and de Mello (2005), hope is a positively valenced emotion evoked in response to an uncertain but possible desired outcome. People look towards politicians for hope, as well as in nations, communities, families, and/or spirituality. Increasingly though, people are placing their hope in brands.
Hope, either expressed verbally or through behaviour, is one of the most recurring human emotions and cannot be deemed irrelevant or unimportant during the process of designing unique customer experiences. For example, the fans of the Manchester City Football Club (MCFC), prior to its acquisition in 2008, had very little hope of ever witnessing their beloved club reaching the glory it once held many years ago. That is not the case anymore. With the help of an injection of resources and new management (Ladyman 2016), MCFC has been able to carefully craft and deliver hope, and as a consequence, build a global brand worth nearly 2 billion USD (Forbes 2016). How can brands and marketers be custodians of hope and craft this powerful emotion in a way that enhances consumer experiences? According to MacInnis and de Mello’s (2005) research, there are two primary paths:
1. Turn Impossibility into Possibility
The first tactic that marketers can use to craft hope is to make possible a wanted outcome previously perceived as impossible (MacInnis and de Mello 2005). Specifically, marketers can accomplish this goal through three strategies. The first is to suggest possibilities in the product itself. This typically comes in the form of new innovations or designs deemed revolutionary, where consumers perceive that previously unattainable outcomes are now possible. The second is to suggest possibilities in the person, so that control resides in the consumer. This is typically communicated by comparison (Bandura 1997), where individuals compare themselves to others and ask “why not me?” The third is to suggest possibilities in the process. Through this strategy, achieving a goal is seen as impossible if a consumer does not know where to start. During its revitalization, MCFC chose to craft hope by suggesting new possibilities in their product. For example, it invested nearly £1B on new players over a three-year period including superstars such as Robinho and Samir Nasri (Ogden 2011). Through these investments, MCFC assembled an attacking force comparable to any team in Europe.
2. Enhancing Yearning
Customer experience designers can also induce hope by increasing consumer yearning for an outcome (MacInnis and de Mello 2005). This can be done in two ways. The first is to enhance the outcome’s perceived importance. The second way a brand can enhance yearning is by increasing the degree an outcome is associated with a favourable goal. This can be accomplished by linking certain outcomes a brand can provide contributing to a deep fantasy a consumer may have. Manchester City enhanced yearning by listening to its fan fantasies and pursuing outcomes that contributed to those fantasies. MCFC used social media extensively, as well as creating a dedicated fan listening site and Fanzones to listen to what its fans wanted and co-create the brand to match their desires (Glenday 2016). MCFC fans did not just want to win. They hoped that the club would once again become a force to be feared within Europe; a club to rival the beauty of Real Madrid or the might of their fierce rivals Manchester United.
When brands create and craft hope to their advantage they can reap the benefits. Consumers that place their hope in brands are much more loyal to them and forgiving when performance is below expectations. In fact, one study suggests that consumers will deliberately ignore or rationalize poor performance when they have high hope in a brand or outcome. Increased hope also decreases the amount of persuasion a brand must do in order to convince consumers to try their product (MacInnis and de Mello 2005). MCFC is a prime example on how a brand can craft hope in order to build an ultimate customer experience and brand loyalty. By taking into consideration the methods above, marketers can give people hope in this new world, and form deep lasting relationships between consumers and their brands.
Brandura, Albert (1997), Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control. New York: Freeman.
Forbes (2016), “The business of Soccer, 2016 Ranking.”
Glenday, John (2016), “It’s all about the fans for Manchester City FC’s all-new ‘co-creation’ site,” The Drum, (July).
Ladyman, Ian (2016), “Manchester City can dominate for years with Pep Guardiola in charge… by luck or by judgement, they have got their timing right,” The Daily Mail.
MacInnis, Deborah J., and Gustavo E. de Mello (2005), “The Concept of Hope and Its Relevance to Product Evaluation and Choice,” Journal of Marketing, 69 (January), 1-14.
Ogden, Mark (2011). “Manchester City taken to a whole new level with Sheikh Mansour’s £1 billion investment,” Telegraph Media Group Limited.