Marketers Should Let Their Emotions Get The Better of Them

Posted on by Richard H. Levey

If branding is the artistic, gut-reliant, pretty picture school of advertising, data-fueled marketing is the results-focused, practical side. But Orlando Wood argues that marketers who tap into the emotional appeal of their ads will also realize quantifiable results – both in terms of viral impact and hard sales metrics such as increased sales and reduced price sensitivity.

“The IPA [Institute of Practitioners in Advertising] has done work showing that emotional advertising is more profitable than rationally conceived marketing,” Wood, who serves as managing director of BrainJuicer Labs (the research arm of marketing consultancy BrainJuicer), says.

“We’ve found that emotional response [to an ad] was a better indicator of the business effects than any of the traditional advertising measures, such as message understood, clarity of branding or persuasion.”

BrainJuicer Labs’ system calls for consumers to evaluate ads based on seven attributes: happiness, surprise, contempt, anger, fear, disgust, sadness. Consumers also have the option of registering no emotional reaction at all.

According to Wood, consumers who respond well on an emotional basis to ads are more likely to provide share gain to the brand, as well as less likely to be price sensitive.

But Wood also finds that ads engendering positive emotional responses are more likely to go viral. “If you are surprised, or feel something strongly, you are likely to pass [the ad] on,” he says.

Wood isn’t just speculating. BrainJuicer’s ComMotion Index reveals a very high correlation between ads that score high emotional responses and those which are passed on through social channels.

Does a high pass-along rate equate to sales? Not directly. But it does contribute to share of voice – the amount of exposure a brand has within its product category due to paid advertising. And BrainJuicer has discovered that for every 10% a share of voice exceeds share of market, a brand can expect a corresponding 1% increase in market.

This means that if a product – say, Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate bar – normally has a 20% market share, but Cadbury launches a saturation campaign that gives the brand a temporary 40% share of voice, the brand can expect a 22% market share, at least temporarily.

That increase is only what Cadbury might expect from paid marketing. If Cadbury comes up with a really terrific ad, one which practically begs to be shared, the lift could be larger. And again, ads that score high on emotional criteria are more likely to be shared.

Cadbury Gorilla Ad Goes Viral

Cadbury actually did come up with a spot that had just such virality in 2007. When the ad, for its Dairy Milk bar, was tested, pre-launch, it was criticized for not having good brand linkage. The product itself is only mentioned in the final seconds of the ad (most of the spot focuses on a gorilla), although most of the action takes place in front of a backdrop that hearkens to the product’s color palette.

But the ad went on to reduce price sensitivity, and it won several effectiveness awards, according to Wood. The Dairy Milk bar spot worked for a number of reasons. It provided surprise and happiness to viewers – and unlike the ill-fated Snickers Super Bowl ad from a year and a half later, it did so without triggering negative responses (the Snickers ad was seen as homophobic).

That last point is important, especially for marketers that want spots for commercial products to be passed along. “Surprise and intensity are really important, and [there should be] a minimum amount of happiness for people to be drawn closer to the brand,” Wood says.

Not for profit ads have a bit more leeway. With cause-based marketing, an advertiser is seeking to raise the profile of a cause or issue – anything to make the ad get shared. “”In those cases, you could set out to engender disgust or anger or those more negative emotions, and it will still get passed on,” Wood adds.

There’s no magic formula for content that gives an ad that emotional connectivity. “The trap that a lot of people fall into is they try to describe the hallmarks of an ad that goes viral,” says Wood. “They say it should contain a child or a cat. We are saying [the element] is any emotional response which indicates virality. We are not giving you what to put in the ad – we are telling you what response to [strive for].”

The emotion-based response even works for business-to-business advertising, despite such purchases being more considered purchases.

“When we [are faced with] really complex decisions, we really don’t like thinking hard, and what we do is rely on a shortcut,” Wood says. “Instead of asking ourselves what we think about something, we ask how we feel about it. This helps to explain why emotional campaigns can reduce price sensitivity. When a brand has made you smile, you will choose that brand even if it is more expensive.”


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