Why emotional advertising doesn’t have to mean “consumer benefit”

Method's ideological perspective

I’m a big believer in the power of emotional advertising to sell. Mainly because I’m a big believer in advertising techniques which are supported by tangible evidence, rather than the pseudoscience we find pervasive today. And from what I’ve seen from the IPA, Heath & Feldwick, Binet and Field – their analyses on the role of emotion in advertising effectiveness make for a compelling case.

However – there is an important distinction between advertising which we respond emotionally to, and advertising which tries to own an emotional territory.

These are different things.

You can get a highly emotional response from messaging which isn’t rooted in a consumer or lifestyle benefit. For example a product focused message can be just as effective at eliciting a strong emotional reaction as a consumer insight based message.

What matters is how the message is delivered. The story around it, the music, the imagery, the words. These elicit our emotional response. I’m thinking of Honda’s “Hate Something Change Something” and “Cog” Ads – both of which are focused on the product yet connect with us emotionally.

Some advertisers seem to think that the route to emotional advertising is featuring people having that emotional response. Or showcasing a lifestyle they think is associated with that emotional response. Mirroring the emotion isn’t the same as eliciting the emotion.

Above all this, there are just too many advertisers trapped in the dogma that you have to focus on the emotional end benefit of what the product delivers. This results in bland generic advertising which doesn’t spark any feelings at all. It’s boring to look at.

A recently published WARC paper on Cultural Innovation illustrates this as a case in point. As we reached product parity in many categories, in order to move beyond functional benefits, we started to ladder up to higher order emotional benefits.  Which sees brands all scrambling to own particular territories which could belong to any brand in any category. Coca-Cola became the champion of ‘happiness’, Fanta became the champion of ‘play’, Snapple became the champion of ‘fun’.

By chasing an ownable emotional benefit, brands can end up with slightly nonsensical  positioning territories, invented by marketers getting lost in their own jargon. Competitors become separated only by slight nuances of difference, and the positionings are so abstract that they mean very little to people in the real world.

What this article proposes instead, is owning an ideological territory – an idea I’ve always found really appealing. Brands like Ben & Jerrys, The Body Shop, Dove, Apple, Method, Facebook, Whole Foods and Red Bull, all do this. They focus on having a cultural point of view, rather than promising a consumer benefit. Yet they elicit strong emotional responses from people.

From the perspective of the wider business, this is a much more useful approach. Forging an ideological territory, based on values, gives the entire company a sense of purpose and direction. It means that every company touchpoint can be part of the marketing effort and public image of the brand. And it makes much more sense in a world which is calling for greater transparency and longer term thinking from businesses.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: