Head or heart: How much does emotion really matter?

What’s in a decision?

When you think of “heart vs head”, the logical side always wins on paper. But it’s never that easy: some things just don’t feel right, no matter how rational they are. The best decisions are often made using logical decision making based on emotional responses to campaigns or individual adverts.

Think about it: when was the last time you really felt moved into action? Was it when you saw a few pretty pictures with a direct call to action, or was it when you saw something that sparked an emotive response?

Emotion marketing approaches ads as more than just a sales message. We want to create some sort of reaction and deeper connection with your audience to make the message stick out in their mind. And there are 3 core emotions we’d recommend targeting:

Happiness

Invoking a positive response with your audience doesn’t just make them feel great at that specific point in time: they’ll associate your brand with positivity, thus building loyalty. But it’s not as simple as showing happiness. Creating a story that reminds the audience of their own happy times are becoming more popular, especially over the pandemic.

Hull Trains’ All You Need Is ♥ is a great example of using positive emotion for a great result. As the first non-Covid related campaign since the pandemic began and the travel industry was shut down, All You Need is ♥ reminds the audience of everything they’ve missed over the last year, be it family, friends, concerts or something else. Everyone has missed something since the pandemic began, so the wish to “get back to what you loved” is a pretty consistent feeling. And with consistent social CTRs above average throughout the 14-week campaign, the message clearly resonated with the audiences.

Fear

What creates change in personal behaviour more than fear? That reminder of, “If you don’t change your actions, something awful could happen,” is the easiest way to get an audience to reflect on their choices. Whether you’re looking to create a difference on a worldwide level or just need people to follow the rules, the fear of what would happen without their help can be really effective.

Using scare tactics are sometimes necessary, especially for the likes of Leicestershire Police. In our latest campaign with them, we were tasked with raising awareness towards catalytic converter and vehicle part theft poses the risk in a vivid light to their audience. Many people don’t even think about the risk their cars are in when they’re not around, so this campaign uses present tense to emphasise that this threat isn’t metaphorical: it’s real and happening now.

Image showing a vehicle part theft in process with distressed text "Vehicle Part Thefts are happening". Followed by three key telltale signs "Loud drilling noise, car jack in a residential area, suspicious activity underneath a car" and sign off of "Spot the signs. Call 999."
Surprise

When you see the unexpected, it sticks in your mind. Whether it’s tied into the brand specifically or not, the element of surprise makes memorable adverts. Surprise often leads audiences to cling to what’s familiar, even if it’s a simple colour scheme.

Whether you loved it or hated it, you remember it because you didn’t expect it. Cadbury are king when it comes to surprise marketing. Whether it’s the drumming gorilla or the eyebrow dance, these adverts brought out the fun-loving side of the brand and increased the appeal to everyone. It’s been 14 years since their famous Dairy Milk Gorilla graced our screens (I know!), but if I have to hear my dad say what a great advert this is one more time…

Did any of these adverts stick in your memory after seeing them? If they did, it’s likely because of your subconscious emotional response. Sometimes, even the riskier adverts that take a socio-political stance and take a chance on something that could stir up a story can see an uplift in their sales and brand awareness because of the emotions behind them. Look at Nike, who saw an increase in income of 10% and increased social mentions by 135% after the controversial Kaepernick signing.

Emotion marketing isn’t always the safest strategy. But if it aligns with your company values and you take the values of your audience into account, the effects can be felt quickly and significantly. And it runs deeper than just the subject matter: colour, testimonials and storytelling all contribute to the emotion someone feels towards an advert.

At the end of the day, whether your audience is made up of CEOs and CCOs or Joe and Sally from down the road, it’s always made up of humans. And whether you laugh so hard you cry, feel your stomach drop to your toes, or get overwhelmed by nostalgia, emotion is human. So, why not use it to create great campaigns?

Let’s inject a bit more sentiment into your marketing. Drop me a message at sma@cwa.co.uk.

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Written by
Sophie Aldridge
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