Built to Love by Peter Boatwright and Jonathan Cagan

Can emotions be engineered? “Absolutely! You can engineer products to elicit specific emotions,” said the co-authors of Built to Love: Creating Products that Captivate Customers in my interview with them. As a matter of fact, their book promises a road map to delivering the strategically intended emotions to your target audience. Yet when we think about influencing emotions, we usually rely on advertising or other communication vehicles, often neglecting critical product development considerations. 


Supported Versus Associated

Supported emotions are evoked by the product itself. They are deliberately designed into the product. Think of a Lamborghini—the way it’s manufactured, the body of the car, the standards of the engine, the interior of the vehicle, and, ultimately, the way it seeks to make its driver feel. The authors make the case that the benefits of supported emotions are provoked in each use or experience and can be less expensive and provide longer-term advantage than those of associated emotions.

Associated emotions are manufactured through repeated links with the product. Think of Coca-Cola’s sponsorship of the 2010 Olympic Torch Relay. Right-on strategy with their current Open Happiness campaign. The authors see these as superficial, manipulative, expensive, and difficult to sustain in comparison with supported emotions.

Statistical Proof for Emotional Strategy

Emotions are not just warm and fuzzy feelings; they can create differentiation, provide price protection, and deliver higher margins. In Built to Love, the authors unveil a 10-year prospective model that measures the ROI of emotion-based companies versus similarly profiled companies. Even after removing outlying companies like Apple, their study proves that emotion-based companies provide an ROI eight times greater than the relevant benchmark. Their conclusion is that an emotion-based strategy is a profitable long-term investment for growth.

A Practical Model 

Built to Love provides a three-step model to engineer emotion-based products:

1.  Determine the appropriate emotions for the product. The book provides 16 emotion categories that serve as a quantitative scorecard for strategic intent and competitive analysis. 

2.  Craft an emotion-based strategy. Synthesize deliberate emotions into your product development strategy.

3.  Translate strategy into emotion-based features. Design critical touch points to stimulate intended emotions and continually meet customers’ needs. 

The book is peppered with case studies on how products from consumer and B2B companies have successfully and profitably executed an emotion-based strategy.


I found the book innovative in its approach linking emotions with product development and profits. I asked the authors what a highly regulated healthcare marketer, who is often relegated to controlling downstream vehicles, can do to impact supported emotions. Their answer was to challenge ourselves to broaden our definition of product, to include services, packaging, adjacent products, and technologies that can support our product emotions. It’s a worthy challenge, since, after all, people buy a product not only because of its function but also because of the way it makes them feel.

Good marketing!

Ramiro Roman

Published in PM360.


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