Emotional advertising: Here’s why brands should let their feelings get in the way

Older Nigerians can remember the MTN ”Ooh Jerry” commercial with a couple in a long-distance relationship, talking on the phone. The reason is because of the emotions it elicited, capturing a tender, heartwarming moment about a man expressing how much he loves his partner. The advert may be cheesy now but as humans, we say cheesy things when we are in love and this was what MTN wasn’t afraid to do.

At a time when the telecommunication brand was new to the market, around the early 2000’s, the advert translated to brand conversion as many felt moved to get MTN sim cards. The strategy here is emotional advertising and it isn’t exactly a new concept. Humans are, essentially, creatures of emotion. As the American author, Dale Carnegie once said, ”when dealing with people, remember you aren’t dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.” With this understanding, brands have been formulating marketing strategies to target specific emotions, with the end goal that can range from boosting sales, brand recognition to customer retention.

How does emotional marketing work?

Persuading people to buy something is the purpose of marketing. So, emotional marketing is the intentional use of persuasive messages to establish a connection between brands and their audience on an emotional level. In this regard, emotion is currency. In a 2016 Nielsen study, it was discovered that when individuals have a positive emotional association with a specific brand, they are 8.4 times more likely to trust the company, 7.1 times more likely to purchase more and 6.6 times more likely to forgive a brand’s mistake. It was also revealed that adverts with an above average emotional response from consumers caused a 23% in sales compared to non-emotional advertisements.

Fundamentally, brands try to appeal to basic emotions like sadness, joy, anger, fear, or any other emotion that can achieve tangible outcomes. These emotions can be broadly grouped as positive and negative. In a marketing sense, both are valid. Positive emotional marketing attempts to evoke feelings of joy, happiness, or excitement. For example, Coke’s ”Choose Happiness” campaign was exemplary for eliciting a feel-good consumer response.

On the other hand, negative emotional marketing play on sadness, fear, guilt, frustration and the likes. Negative doesn’t have a bad connotation, nor is it counter-productive. It just means that these emotions equally have the power to compel target audiences to act. For example, World Wildlife Fund tried to increase public awareness about the harmful effects of global warming by using fear. With our increasingly industrialized world that disrupts natural ecosystems, causing heavy rainfall and leaving the environment degraded, the use of fear to highlight how climate change can change us if we don’t stop it was deeply resonant.

What makes emotional marketing effective?

When done right, emotional marketing can influence consumer behaviour or purchasing decisions. As mentioned above, MTN’s ”Sunshine” advert struck a chord with Nigerians with the feeling of joy and validation so much so that it had many people gravitating towards the brand. Also, the sunshine that appeared in the end of the advert carried the same visual branding codes with the yellow MTN logo, making the message all the more powerful.

Also, emotional marketing leaves a lasting memory on individuals. American poet Maya Angelou said it best, ”They may forget your name, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” In other words, consumers are inclined to remember how a campaign or an advertisement made them feel. In this age of social media, brands can attain virality for selling products along the spectrum of emotions. With virality comes shareability and that leads to a boost in sales.

An emotion-led marketing campaign fosters customer loyalty to the brand. According to this study from Motista, customers who have an emotional relationship with a brand have a 306% higher lifetime value and will likely recommend the brand at s rate of 71%, rather than the average rate of 45%. This only means that when customers are emotionally connected to a brand, they reward the brand with their loyalty. Furthermore, it gives customers a sense of community and belonging. Emotions are universally felt, and it’s a responsibility for brands to make their customers feel like they are part of a family.

Becoming emotional

Because brands aren’t the same, the emotional language they choose to adopt would be different. Understanding your audience and knowing what drives them is integral to making successful emotional marketing strategies. What are their desires? What motivates them? What are their dreams? Many marketing campaigns lean towards storytelling, so find story that’s profoundly familiar with them. This way, an emotional connection can be established. A story can inspire, encourage or fuel people into action. Use a colour scheme that is traditionally known with certain emotions.

Yellow and orange represents warmth, white gives hope while black can signifying something dark or a foreboding. Integrating music is also a spectacular way to ensure your emotional marketing stays in character. Music is known to trigger emotions, and this combination can work to your favour. At the end of the day, customers want to feel something, and that’s what counts.


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