Emotions Are The Key To Effective Advertising
Ian Forrester, Global SVP, Insight & Solutions
Emotion matters in marketing. Emotion creates values and sets preferences. Inspires action. Drives sales.
These are maxims we live by at Unruly. We understand that emotion is the key to a great story. It creates true engagement with your audience, allows you to take them on a journey and make them feel not just happy or sad, but inspired, or nostalgic, amazed or warm and fuzzy.
But why should telling a good story, and evoking a strong emotional response, matter to advertisers? It turns out the two go hand in hand. Numerous studies have shown that creating emotional engagement with your audience leads to an uplift in just about every brand metric that advertisers care about.
In their 2013 study ‘The Long and Short of It’, Binet and Field found that over a 30 year period, 23% of organisations using rational or combined (rational and emotional) ad strategies reported large business gains vs. 43% of organisations that employed purely emotional ad strategies over the same time period. In 2016 Field’s 2016 Selling Creativity Short (The Gunn Report) study found that creatively awarded campaigns were far more likely to be emotional in nature than non awarded ones, and that award-winning campaigns delivered on average 10x higher profitability than rational campaigns.
The effects are felt on a campaign-by-campaign basis too, with ads that evoke a strong positive emotional response increasing purchase intent and willingness to find out more by over 200% (Unruly EQ campaign data, 2018).
Before the digital revolution the quality of your content mattered less - if you bought enough airtime your campaign would perform. With the odd notable exception (think Guinness’ white horses), advertising was primarily functional in nature - it was about informing consumers about the features of your product or service and shouting louder than the competition.
But the conversation has moved on - consumers don’t look to TV or print ads for information, they look online. And they don’t wait to be served ad about a product they’re interested in - they expect information to be there as and when they want it. Branded content needs to serve a different purpose.
And with the amount of content available online far exceeding our ability to consume it, how do you get your content seen? It’s not enough to force people to watch a pre-roll, or interrupt their online experience - in fact this often does more harm than good. Unruly’s Future Video Survey found that 60% of consumers globally were put off a brand when forced to watch a pre-roll ad. Rather, advertisers need to up their game and create an emotional connection with their audiences.
But why does emotive content create such a connection with consumers? Well apart from striking a chord with your audience, eliciting a strong emotional response triggers memory formation. There is a well documented link between memory and emotion.
How many of you can remember the last banner ad you saw, or how about your all time favourite banner ad? Contrast that with really great storytelling through emotive video - everyone over a certain age can remember Evian’s golden oldie - Roller Babies - now over a decade old, or JCVD’s Epic Splits for Volvo Trucks or P&G’s Like A Girl campaign.
We have a limited capacity for processing information, and emotion plays a key role in deciding which information is processed and retained. Several studies have demonstrated that if you present someone with emotionally arousing stimuli it triggers the brain to encode new memories. When attention is limited - as is the case online, emotional items are more likely to be processed - the brain prioritises the processing of emotion information over neutral information.
Take for example the weapon focus effect - whereby witnesses to a crime remember the gun or knife in great detail but cannot remember other details such as the perpetrator’s clothing or vehicle. In fact, you don’t have to have witnessed a crime to have experienced this selectivity - it occurs all the time. Remember the first time you did laundry? How about your first kiss?
Creating an emotional engagement with your audience means they are more likely to remember your content, more likely to remember your product and more likely to remember your brand. What Binet and Field found in 2013, holds even more true today:
‘In the long run, emotion is where the really big profits lie’.