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The new era of emotive advertising

By Patrick Danaher |

March 16, 2012 | 5 min read

It's well known that in marketing, if you can emotionally connect with a consumer then they will be more likely to take up the offer. Patrick Danaher, marketing director of gyro believes that this is a trend that is certain to develop. Here he cites some recent successful advertising campaigns that have used emotional engagement and entered the public subconscious as a result.

A trend has developed in the past few years within advertising for campaigns to focus largely on the financial benefits of purchasing a specific product, rather than building loyalty and brand values to incentivise purchases. BOGOF deals, half price sales and aspirational products became the order of the day for advertisers. But there has been something of a sea change happening over the past year or so, culminating in John Lewis’ runaway success with its ‘The Long Wait’ advert over Christmas. This advert had viewers reaching for the tissues, alongside Google’s ‘Dear Sophie’ advert, about which Google’s VP stated that “If we don’t make you cry, we fail.” Besides pulling on the heartstrings of the British public, what are advertisers attempting to achieve with this tactic of emotive advertising?

I believe this emotive trend revolves around a few key tactics, chiefly brand loyalty and moral values. In this credit-crunch economy, with political leaders extolling the benefits of ‘responsible capitalism’, many companies are understandably worried about being viewed as purely money-grabbing and unsympathetic of the ‘ordinary’ person’s situation. What better way to portray a million – or in Google’s case a billion – dollar business than as a friend with the same morals, values and drives that the public have. Again, take ‘Dear Sophie’ by Google. The whole advert oozes ‘family’, ‘love’ and ‘security’, and merely by association it suggests that this is what Google will provide – exactly what many yearn for in hard times.

These emotive themes also allow audiences to interact and converse with brands far easier than if they were presented as faceless corporations. Brands hope that this will drive customer loyalty, and create genuine relationships between customers, companies and products not seen before. And why not? If a favoured brand acts and supports a lifestyle – be it green, socially conscious or family driven - that is favoured by a customer, he or she is far more likely to give them their custom. So as John Lewis is now the department store of choice for families, what is Debenhams? Or House of Fraser? Don’t be surprised if marketers suddenly cotton on to their competitors and start building a brand image that conveys a specific set of values.

Another intriguing correlation with this emotive branding exercise is the rise of the happiness study. Various countries and governing bodies have conducted wide scale investigations in to the well-being of their populations. However tenuous and flimsy you think this metric is, it is a revealing coincidence that the rising public profile of the nation’s happiness (or lack of it) has been matched by an increase in emotive advertising. The economic outlook over the past few years has turned from bad to worse, and this has caused a change in the outlook of the population. No longer is there such a focus on financial benefits (maybe because there simply isn’t enough money lying around anymore) and so the general consumer now aspires to other things – namely emotional happiness and well-being. It is clear that advertisers have sensed this and realised that a change in tactics was required.

This switch of aspirations by the general public from wealth to emotional well-being naturally has caused a shift in tactics by marketers. Such a major cultural shift means that marketing must now appeal to just more than the customer’s wallet, and must provide benefits that go beyond financial gain. The age of big business, advertisers and corporations making unchecked profit has been consigned to the dustbin, and now society wants companies that will give back not just in taxes and jobs, but in social well-being and morality. Brands must align themselves with this new way of thinking, or risk losing customers. This brings us back to the theory of ‘responsible capitalism’. Many consumers are realising that unchecked financial gain simply isn’t sustainable, and so are re-assessing the way they live their lives – and they expect the business and advertising world to do the same.

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