Should Agencies Focus Only on Emotions for Advertising?

pablo (7)It is a generally accepted norm by advertisers to focus on creation of emotional connection with people. But the most important thing to understand here is the primary cause behind the significance of emotional response and the factors that triggers it.

We all feel sad when when we come across a depressing story and tend to smile in case of a pleasant one. This has also been proved by the controversial experimentation by Facebook. For the uninitiated – Facebook manipulated the news feed of close to 700,000 users to see if the overall tone of their news-feed (positive/negative) had any effect on the tone of subsequent posts made by them. Result showed that the users were posting positive posts after getting exposed to positive news-feed and negative posts when their news-feed had negative vibes. This kind of emotional response helps brands to establish a strong connection with the consumers. The whole art & science of gauging sentiments evoked by the content, staying relevant to the target audiences, creating emotive messages are done to get a better brand recall at the point-of-purchase and eventually a positive ROI.

Emotions: Far and Wide

Most of the times, we tend to say that an emotional response is induced by an ad whenever any one of the following is felt: fear, anger, sadness, joy, disgust, trust. It can be a dancing baby, some old memories or a playful puppy. But it would be safe to say that everything that comes across us triggers some form of emotional response and that applies to ads as well. Hence emotions play far more crucial role than we actually perceive. Emotions are created mostly on the basis of mental representation of past experiences, and there are no preset emotional responses that are consistent and specific to one emotion or another. If there is something absolutely new for us, subconsciously we will first try to associate with existing experiences. When that fails, our conscious mind will take the charge to understand the scenario and direct our subsequent response.

The experiences which are quite general and invoke disgust or anger are the ones which won’t have lasting effect and in fact they will drive us away. At the same time we’re attracted towards feelings related to happiness. And it is notable that the experiences related to fear and happiness are the ones which leave a deep-rooted impression.

Tapping into Persistent Memory

Quite often advertisers avoid going into fact-based value proposition and run campaigns hoping that it’d create “emotional” connection. They want to strike the right chord and make the target audience empathize with the scene shown in the ad. Once the viewer is done with the ad, the advertiser expects to evoke strong emotional responses like happiness, shock, amusement etc. The trick here is to etch that response in the mind of the consumer and unleash the full potential of such emotions via rational thinking; finally influence the decision making.

Rational or logical thinking done by the consumer is centered around the functional benefits provided by that product. That can be done by showing elements of the product features, cost etc. The claim is reinforced by the brand by displaying the proof. Acceptable evidence and rational arguments are used to ensure that the target audience takes conscious effort to evaluate and process the information.

A car manufacturer can focus on the mileage and pricing to influence consumers who are looking for cost-efficient car. FMCG product might look at the facts related its cleaning ability. Here is an example of Ariel Prozim 2 – a kit containing a fabric piece, paints (to create stains) and sample of Ariel Prozim 2 was sent to opinion leaders to prove that it can remove the stains which are normally impossible to get rid of.


The Journey: Functional to Emotional

Some of the brands have mastered the art of delivering emotional value. For example, Coca-Cola is well known for consistently associating their brand with happiness. Right from videos, billboards, vehicle wraps, digital content (10-step happiness guide) to social media campaigns (#happiestselfie contest), they have covered all of the consumer touch points. By enabling the consumers to find happiness in the context of the Coke, they have made sure that consumers will form a strong association of joyful emotion with the brand.


The Ultimate Goal

The most successful advertising campaigns have one common element – they all make  us closely look at the promise fulfilled by the brand by giving a favorable experience. The emotional aspect will be ingrained in what the brand has been delivering over a long period of time. Thus, established brands like Coca-Cola and Starbucks have moved to a stage where they can afford to not show the functional benefits.

Starbucks did a campaign called “Meet Me at Starbucks” and the video given below is a part of that campaign. It is centered around a deaf woman in Honolulu who told that she couldn’t connect with others during conversations until she came to know about a group of deaf friends who held meetings at a local Starbucks.


A new brand’s ultimate goal might be to get into the delivery of “emotional benefits”, but to do that they still  need to prove the delivery of “functional benefits”.


We need to understand that emotional and rational appeals go hand in hand. Although the emotional connection will be able to create some form of response, a rational connection will be required to give the last mile push and unleash the full potential of emotion. This will truly help people to be cognizant of the brand choice and make them satisfied with their final decision. If the piece of advertising is only focused on creating some form of emotion, then the question remains – whether it will ever be able to help the consumers take a conscious decision?

pablo (4)


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.