How emotion drives brands and business success
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Do you remember any of the advertising you heard or saw yesterday?
By the time we are 30 its been reasoned we have seen close to two million commercials – is it any wonder they all just seem to blend and we become unable and subconsciously unwilling, to differentiate one ad from another.
But then what’s the alternative? Imagine if we have tried to process all this noise, our brains would literally seize up. Which is why we filter. Not only the media and channels we choose to be on, but most of all by predominantly using our most trusted purchase guide, gut feel.
You see, we’ve worked out that our best defence to all the noise and marketing rogues trying to sell us stuff is to not really think about much at all.
Economists, cognitive and social psychologists have all reported at length on the fact that 90% of our ‘decision making’ activity is generally performed subconsciously. The word subconscious literally means not conscious thinking. It’s thinking below awareness, humans on autopilot, driven by emotion rather than cognitive (memory, judgement, reasoning) thought. Gut feel.
Now as a human being I say well absolutely. As I take myself off ‘social’ for the weekend, consign my weekly Toast direct mailing to the recycling and politely close the door on yet another party political canvasser, I can feel the faint breeze of liberty wafting through the comb over.
But with my marketers head on, the question I have to ask myself is this, if the majority of consumers are doing their level best to avoid me and what I am trying to say or sell at them, and in any event, the vast majority of their daily decisions are made on autopilot, how can I in what I do and advise others to do, really challenge and effect their behaviour in my favour?
Make it emotional
Using emotion to drive sales is a trend we are increasingly seeing as pulling at the old chords is continually shown to create preference, lead decisions and is about twice as effective as rational advertising at getting and keeping our attention. The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) ran a study around emotional advertising and found that ‘emotional ad campaigns are more effective and more profitable than rational ad campaigns, even in rational categories’. 31% of emotional ad campaigns reported very large business effects after 1-2 years, compared to 16% for rational ads.
They also found that 43% of emotional ad campaigns reported very large business effects after 3 or more years. This was compared to just 23% for rational campaigns, indicating that ‘the longer the time frame, the more emotions drive profit’.
And according to a 2016 Nielson report, “Emotions are central to advertising effectiveness,” and ads that generated the best emotional responses also generated better sales, in this case, a 23% lift in sales volume.
Go for the gut
First the science. Emotions are initially processed subconsciously, only then moving into conscious evaluation. This is because emotional responses are a biological response that requires no consideration or ‘conscious’ thought.
According to Dan Hill in Emotionomics: Leveraging Emotions for Business Success, “Emotions process sensory input in only one-fifth the time our conscious, cognitive brain takes to assimilate that same input.” Not only that, but they are also more likely to “create lasting, instinctual impressions; and actually predispose us to follow the same course of action in the future”.
And so its not surprising we are seeing more and more how brands are looking to exploit our feelings by creating emotional ads designed to go straight for the gut.
The drumming of the gorilla
Do you remember the Cadburys ad? Let’s be honest it had very little to do with chocolate (did it have anything to do with chocolate?) but it increased sales of Cadbury milk chocolate by 9%, increased favorability of the brand by 20% and is credited for lifting sales across the brand’s entire product line. And it did it by appealing to emotional hooks in our subconscious minds.
By combining music those hooks (a sense of fun and enjoyment) with images that required a low amount of attention our subconscious was seduced and eventually a good number of us changed our buying behaviors – quite possibly without really knowing why.
So how does it work?
It’s biological baby, and it works likes this:
- We see an ad and it subconsciously tweeks an emotion in us
- That emotion then enters our conscious state for evaluation and becomes a feeling
- In our conscious state, that feeling then influences our attitudes to both the sender and the message and consequently our buying behavior
Emotions create feelings, feelings shape attitudes and ultimately drive our behaviour. Which in a nutshell is why brands invest so heavily in communication that constantly attempts to create emotional bonds between them and us, because clearly, their ultimate goal is to change our buying behavior.
This is exactly how the Cadbury ad was able to increase favorability and sales for both the category of product and the company. The ad required little attention, was framed by a well-known song that evoked an emotional response (memories) in many of us, and was allied to a humorous and memorable video. Which all meant that when we went to buy chocolate the big hairy fella on the drums and the emotions we remembered feeling when we saw the ad helped us to then make a decision about which brand of milk chocolate we wanted to buy.
It’s been real
It’s very easy to underestimate the influence of emotions on decision-making because we all want to believe we are in control. And it’s no surprise therefore that brands and those clever agency types have been quietly working on our emotional filters for many years.
As Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”
From Oxo mums to models in pants in Launderettes to meeting our para olympic super heroes and the John Lewis inspired trend in sugary Christmas ads, Nike’s ‘What girls are made of’ and H&M’s homage to George Micheal – whether it’s to make us laugh or cry, surprise, enrage or scare us – it pays to get emotional.
And that class, is your biological brand lesson for today.