I always encourage small business owners to be students of media; take the time to look beyond the obvious and see marketing strategies in your surroundings. Powerful marketing lessons can come from watching a few commercials or hearing a couple of radio ads while heading in for work. The trick, however, is knowing what to look for. 

For today's segment, I'd like to use the riveting business of insurance as a backdrop. Yes, "riveting" is an overstated adjective, however there's an interesting observation behind my cheap humor. 

In my estimation, the world of insurance is actually quite dull (my apologies to those in this sector). The average person does not actually need the services of a responsive claims department on a daily basis. Nor do they spend every waking moment pining for a new way to combine "home, auto and life.” So why are we inundated with these types of ads on a regular basis? The answer is quite simple; it's a highly competitive area and those in this industry are looking for every advantage to establish some daylight between their rivals.

In an effort to maintain an edge, most companies will ride razor-thin margins, match the offerings of competitors and run ads around the clock. Despite all of these things, the race remains tight. What else can one do to break away from the pack?

I’d like to submit that a “warm and fuzzy feeling” has become the secret weapon of choice.

Whether you’re a multibillion-dollar insurer or a small business owner, likability is invaluable in the marketing arena.

Peter Noel Murray PhD, author of Understanding The Rational And Emotional Foundations Of Consumer Behavior, states that "Research conducted by the Advertising Research Foundation concluded that the emotion of “likeability” is the measure most predictive of whether an advertisement will increase a brand’s sales." He also states that, “Advertising research reveals that emotional response to an ad has far greater influence on a consumer’s reported intent to buy a product than does the ad’s content.”

If these finding are true, this knowledge will begin to shed light on the country’s most ubiquitous insurance ads. Think about Flo from Progressive, the Gecko from Geico, and the collegiate humor seen in Farmer’s Insurance ads.

So what’s the lesson for small business? Spend more time on how your marketing affects feelings rather than all of your time on selling points. From now on, the creative process for building an ad should start with these words, “What do I want my audience to feel?”

To a small business owner, this may sound like a whole bunch of nothing, but ask, why would these companies invest hundreds of millions of dollars into emotionally driven ads? The simple answer is, being liked works.  Make this idea work for your enterprise.

Walter Dailey is a marketing speaker, consultant, and creative director for DSV Media, a creative services firm and ad agency specializing in Small Business Marketing for companies all over.  Ask your questions: walter@dsvmedia.com