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What is emotional advertising and how does it work?

What is emotional advertising and how does it work?

The information age we are living in is full of constant information inflow and endless interaction availability. Our attention is continuously interrupted with notifications, messages and news feeds. On top of it consumers are more diverse and competition is harsh. As a result brands are trying to find the best twist to their conventional campaigns. Emotional advertising is one of these tools that companies declare to get successful results when used as part of their marketing strategy. Research from Nielsen shows that ad campaigns eliciting an above average emotional awareness causes sales volume to rise by 23%. Likewise, it is found that advertising campaigns with purely emotional content are performing twice as well (31% vs. 16%) - as opposed to those with only rational content. Just like in press release distribution, emotional advertising can drive your brand awareness, brand loyalty and even turn your customers to brand ambassadors. But what is emotional advertising and how do brands incorporate it to their marketing strategies?  

What is emotional advertising?

Emotional advertising is a type of advertising which has more than average or purely emotional content and this content is specifically designed to arouse certain emotions that are identified as part of an emotional marketing campaign. 

The brain science behind emotional advertising is rooted in the researches investigating the relation between ad recall and consumer action. It is found that when an ad is stimulating enough to arouse emotions it becomes easier to remember. Hence, emotions are like glues between the ad and the consumers.     

Functional Advertising vs. Emotional Advertising

When it comes to making decisions, we are like Homer Simpson about 90% of the time and Mr. Spock only at 10% of the time, meaning 90% of the time we rely on our gut feelings (emotions) when we are making a decision. We’ll open this a bit more down below but this “gut feeling” is actually referred to as “motivation” by neuromarketers. And, that's why emotional advertising is much more effective than the functional ones.

While functional ads can compare your product’s features to your rivals’ and can give a hack of information and facts about your product, the numbers prove that this may not go a long way. Nielsen’s research shows that ad campaigns eliciting an above average emotional awareness causes sales volume to rise by 23%. Likewise, it is found that advertising campaigns with purely emotional content are performing twice as well (31% vs. 16%) - as opposed to functional ads. Consumers are ultimately not that rational and there is a correlation between emotional advertising and recall.

Why use emotional advertising?

The information technologies and the various media outlets have increased the potential contact points between brands and consumers. People are subject to an intense information flow in their everyday life and this increasing overstimulation is leading to fragmented attention. 

A study by Microsoft states that over the course of the mobile revolution, the attention span of the average adult decreased significantly. That's why most of the digital ad formats are limited to 6 or 15 seconds. Capturing attention is not impossible, but conventional campaigns are falling short of capturing the customers’ attention and result with low involvement and engagement. Thus, in order to make an impact the brands need to discover new ways of customer communication.

Today’s customers are becoming more and more emancipated from producers and advertisers, and they are developing higher expectations of a brand. Their purchasing behavior is affected by the brand’s promises on their physical and psychological health, their communities, and their social and ecological environment. This requires brands to connect with customers on a deeper level and go beyond functional advertising which requires connecting on an emotional level. 

Emotional advertising makes brands more memorable 

Triggering emotions of consumers makes your content stand out and helps make your brand more memorable to the audiences. Creating long-lasting memories associated with your brand will develop an emotional connection and in the end the consumers will be more likely to recall your brand when they need to fulfill a specific need. 

Emotions influence consumers’ purchasing decisions

Ads and other elements of marketing are all, in the end, experiences on the consumer side. And as explained above, people can forget the details of their experiences but the emotions as a result of the experiences always stick with us. Emotions are actually what’s left of the experience we had and our brains attach a positive or negative feeling to those experiences which defines if we’ll continue or repeat that activity (e.g., using or purchasing a product or not) in the future. 

When we have to make a decision, emotions from our previous related experiences assign certain values to the options we have at hand which lead to our decision. In his book Descartes' Error, Antonio Damasio, Professor of neuroscience at the University of Southern California argues that emotion is a necessary ingredient to almost all decisions. In his studies Damasio found out that people who have a kind of brain damage that lead to a rupture between their “thinking” and “emotional” skills tend to have a hard time in decision-making. These people can rationally process the information about alternative choices but were unable to make decisions, because they lacked any sense of how they felt about the options. 

Hence, emotional advertising is mostly employed to help influence consumers' purchasing decisions and to lay the foundations of interaction between your customers and your brand. Connecting with audiences on a deeper level can result in more sales and increased brand loyalty. The Starbucks example below may be one of the best examples of establishing powerful brand loyalty through deeply attached emotional bonds.

Starbucks: A successful brand with deep emotional bonds with its customers

Starbucks may be a coffee shop chain but the brand loyalty of the customers and the fact that it has become a lovemark surely demonstrates that it is something more than that. When you are at a Starbucks store, you can feel the emotional connection of customers patiently waiting at the line. Most of the customers are not there for the quality coffee or the prices are a bargain.

Many of them are there for the Starbucks coffee experience that has become a part of their life and who they are. In a way, the Starbucks coffee ritual is fulfilling the emotional needs of the customers. This need to fulfill the emotions may stem from many different motives from self esteem (the way Starbucks staff treats them) to the vision they want to reflect to others.

The motive can vary but a Starbucks experience is for sure more than buying a coffee. In fact, this has become so obvious that Starbucks has removed the word “coffee” from its logo and its CEO Howard Schultz has famously summed up the situation as: “We are not in the coffee business selling to people, we are in the people business, selling coffee.”

All about emotions

Fifty shades of each emotion …

Sometimes we have waves of emotions even which we cannot describe. Humans are complicated beings and so are their feelings. Emotions are like colors and although there are a few definitely defined feelings, most of the emotions exist on a spectrum. A slight change on the spectrum can lead to a different kind of happiness, sadness, and anger like colors with many shades! Perhaps due to this resemblance, Robert Plutchik had illustrated the “wheel of emotions” (a diagram showing emotional spectrums) using colors.

… which can be boiled down to 4 main feelings.

However, University of Glasgow’s Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology conducted a research that in essence found that all the feelings can be boiled down to four basic emotions: happy, sad, fear/surprise and disgust/anger. For example, annoyed could be grouped under anger, and excited could be considered happy.

It is important to determine the feeling you intend to inspire which can give you a direction for your content management ranging from the texts to graphics, music and photos. This requires an understanding of what drives your customers. To adopt a more emotional, customer based approach in your marketing you should identify the abstract meanings of your brand essence. In other words the abstract meanings that consumers associate with your brand.

Once you identify the emotion, you’ll count on you can develop the marketing strategy to make emotional connections. Storytelling is an important tool here since stories are easy to share and easy to trigger emotions.  

Each of the four basic feelings tend to trigger different actions on the consumer side. Here are some examples of how brands use these four basic feelings to drive brand connection and awareness and which actions these emotions provoke.  

  1. Happiness = more shares = brand awareness

Research shows that the fastest traveling content on social media are the positive ones.  

This is also related to the “social smile” phenomenon which refers specifically to babies smiling when others smile. The truth is it applies to everyone including adults. When something makes us smile or laugh we tend to pass it over to our loved ones. 

Coca-Cola is the most renowned example in this category. The brand has been running campaigns that make audiences feel happy for decades. They even changed their tagline from “open happiness” to “taste the feeling”. The brand’s happiness campaign, ‘Choose happiness’ (where they wanted their consumers to share their happy memories) is one of the best emotional ads using happiness. 

  1. Sadness = more clicks = brand advocacy

Feelings of sadness can generate more clicks. It is because sadness leads to connections and empathy. It creates an empathy with a powerful motivation to help others and change things. That’s why many donation and charity ads include sad images or music. Even if your brand does not have a charitable characteristic, you can still use sadness to appeal to the “giving back” feeling of the consumers which can translate into more clicks.   

Since sadness is mostly used to channel empathy and compassion, it is generally used for social issues and creating awareness. Below are some examples:

  1. Fear/Surprise = brand loyalty

How in the earth can fear or surprise make consumers more loyal to your brand? Well, a great number of people are deeply attached to their habits and although most of them like to be seen as adventurous, only a handful are open to surprises (if it is not their birthday) and ready to face their fears.

Hence, sometimes marketers use the fear and surprise factors in their ads to elicit the feeling of “it's best to stick to the familiar things and stay in your comfort zone” which leads to regular revisits to a brand and avoiding to try new ones (and taking risks). Ultimately, this creates brand loyalty. 

Another way fear and disgust is mostly used is when it comes to alert consumers of a probable hazard and get them to take an immediate action - like displaying the consequences of smoking or showing them the environmental results of pollution.        

WWF’s campaign on stopping climate change is a good example of using fear to drive attention. The ad read “Stop Climate Change Before It Changes You” and showed a man with the head of a fish–a terrifying image.

  1. Angry/Disgusted = viral potential 

Maybe the only time when it is not harmful to unleash anger or express disgust is when you purposely use it in ads. Sometimes anger can give a wake up call and spur action. 

We become angry when we see another person hurt or feel injustice. And, when people have these feelings of anger, injustice or disgust, they tend to share the content which may in the end become viral. 

“Like a Girl” from Always is a fantastic example of an emotional advertising campaign, which uses insult and anger to draw attention to the silly discriminating “like a girl” expression. It was so successful that it grabbed the Cannes Grand Prix award, an Emmy, and the Grand Clio award.

Uber is another very successful example of synchronizing with consumers in frustration mode. The company designed its user interface so as to address the frustration its customers feel during waiting times and used methods like gamification (to see how far away the driver is), goal setting (estimated arrival time is displayed) and behind the scenes experiences (showing the customers how the arrival time is estimated). Hence, they gave back the control to their users and a feeling of making progress.

Color psychology: An inseparable element of emotional marketing

Did you know that some colors make you feel excited, others can simply help you relax and some of them can even make you feel hungry? Since the modus operandi of our brains is to simplify information processes and free up storage space, it has a tendency to boil down each of our experiences to its most important facts and feelings. Colors are also a part of this modus operandi and each of them elicit certain emotions.

Color psychology is the study of the influence of colors on human feelings and behavior. Emotions are found to be associated with certain colors. Purple is associated with power and luxury, red is with excitement, green is freshness, pink is compassion and so on… It is also scientifically proven that colors can change the emotional, physiological and behavioral states of the viewer. Hence, an emotional advertising and marketing campaign should definitely contemplate color psychology. Since colors can evoke certain emotions on a subconscious level, knowing the psychology of colors can give you a huge edge in marketing.

To alter the subconscious perception of your customers about the products or services you offer within several seconds, you should also add in the power of associating colors with the experience. When you are doing it, you should also take into account the gender differences. For example, women have a higher sensitivity to brighter colors than men. Hence, the engaging visuals and graphics must be designed accordingly.

Here is an infographic associating colors and emotions

Finding your way to your consumers through emotional advertising 

David Ogilvy once said “People don't think how they feel, don’t say what they think and do what they say”. People are complicated and when it comes to making decisions they are not entirely rational. With the development of neuroscience and behavioral studies marketers are able to navigate easier in the uncharted sea of emotions. 

Despite all the unknown and undiscovered, we know for sure that - when used correctly - emotional advertising will add value to your brand. Whether you make your audience smile or give them a good cry, connecting to them using emotions is important since it makes your brand more relatable and thus more memorable. This will in turn be manifested through a motivation to buy or a purchase decision when it comes to fulfill a need. If your customers’ emotions remain intact, which can happen only if they continue to have a satisfying experience after they buy your product (regarding your product and after sales services) then you’ll be able to create a habit of repurchase and forge customer loyalty.

Emotional advertising is not the only way to increase brand awareness. You can also add press release distribution to your marketing plans. For more information, please read our blog post titled “What is a press release?”. As Online PR Service B2Press, we are always here to help you send out press releases to countries where your target audience is. If you want to know how PR can help brand building, here is another blog post.

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