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How brands can use emotions to connect with their audience

by Jade Halstead

March 14, 2022

Let’s play a quick game. Make a list of your favorite adverts. Aim for between five and 10. They can be from any time in your life.

- Write down what you love about them.

- Write down why you think you remember them.

- Now write the emotion you associate with that advert.

- And now, rate that emotion on a scale of one to ten.

Any idea where I’m going with this?

If you’ve put two and two together, hopefully you’ll have worked out that the reason you’ve remembered these adverts was that you had a strong emotional reaction to them.

This is the same with most of our memories in life; the ones that we remember most vividly are the ones that have a strong emotion connected to them.

Emotions make us remember. Emotions make us buy. Emotions make us form brand loyalty. Emotions make us post reviews online (both positive and negative). Emotions are what drive us, as humans, to make decisions.

So, are you focusing on emotions in your marketing?

What sparked this article was a piece I read on the BBC regarding technology that predicts if an advert will work or not. The article references Cadbury's gorilla ad. Of course, you know the one. Who doesn’t?

Anyway, the advert was left, ready to go, at Cadbury’s for nine months before it was released, as the Cadbury bosses thought it would fail. However, a senior member of the marketing team used some technology created by System1 to predict the success of an advert based on emotional responses.

They predicted it would be a hit. And guess what? It was. It became one of the best ads in Cadbury’s history.

How many other Cadbury ads do you remember as well as this one?

Maybe the eyebrows one? That was absolutely brilliant too.

The Superbowl ads 2022

System 1 also analyzed the Superbowl ads as they aired this year. Here are the top five:

1. Your cousin from Boston - Boston Beer 4.9

2. Push it Flamin Hot - Doritos and Cheetos

3. Robo dog - KIA

4. Jurassic Park trailer - Universal Studios

5. On the road again - Sketchers

So, from System1’s POV, why does the Jurassic Park advert work so well?

1) Dinosaurs (duh) – happiness peaks when we see a herd racing across the prairie because dinosaurs are inherently cool (ask any four to six year old).

2) Nostalgia – when the original Jurassic Park cast members show up the audience love it, they remember their childhood.

Combined, these leave Jurassic Park as the apex predator of Super Bowl trailers, leaving the much-hyped Lord of The Rings effort in the dust.

Now from my POV, my favorite ad was the Robo Dog KIA advert. It evoked a huge range of emotions for me with hope being the most prominent. I was fully invested in the little dog having a happy ending.

Regardless of whether the dog was a robot or not, it’s in our human nature to want to care for the young and innocent. Five stars from me.

Right, let’s move on. Now you understand why emotions are so important in marketing, let’s have a look at how you can become an emotion centered marketer.

Understand behavioral psychology: System 1 vs System 2

Coined by the behavioral psychologist Daniel Kahneman, System 1 and System 2 refer to the two states of human consciousness. System 1 is the fast-thinking part of our brains (e.g. turning round when you hear a loud noise), while System 2 is slow-thinking (e.g. working out a mental maths problem). System 1 is impulsive, automatic and intuitive. System 2 is thoughtful, rational and deliberate.

Ever had an internal struggle? This is System 1 vs System 2.

Many marketers believe consumers buy and act in accordance with System 2 (i.e. rationally), but this is mainly false. It’s a system 1 world out there with the majority of decisions being quick ones - and quick decisions are often governed by emotion.

Think about the emotions you want to provoke with your marketing

Although there are many theories on emotion, psychologist Paul Eckman identified six basic human emotions in the 1970's: happiness, sadness, disgust, fear, surprise, and anger. All of which can be easily identified by facial recognition.

Eckman later expanded on these six core emotions to include amusement, contempt, contentment, embarrassment, excitement, guilt, pride in achievement, relief, satisfaction and shame.

Having an understanding of all of these emotions and how they could affect consumers buying potential can help you advertise with emotions as a key component.

I also found this fantastic tool online called Atlas of Emotions to help you understand the six core emotions followed by their sub set of emotions. And Here’s a YouTube video on the Atlas of Emotions with Dr. Paul Ekman and Dr. Eve Ekman.

Sell the sizzle, not the steak

Understanding the result or outcome your consumers want will help you create campaigns around emotions. You want to focus on the emotional response a consumer will feel when using your products. Sell the lifestyle. Sell the feelings. Sell the results.

Another little task:

Think about the last thing you bought and quickly mock up an advert for it. (This can be in your head.)

Now think about why you bought it.

What was your desired outcome from the product?

What emotion comes up when you think about that product?

Now design an advert with that emotion in mind.

How different were the two, and which advert do you think would’ve made you buy?

So now, hopefully I’ve created a spark in your head that's going around quicker than a hamster in a wheel.

What do you feel is more important, showcasing your product or making a memorable, emotional advert?

Emotional marketing in practice

Emotions should be at the heart of all your marketing, from content to digital pr and outreach; from SEO to advertising. If you need any help with any of this, Honcho’s the right agency for you. If you wanted to know how emotions play a role in these areas of marketing, read this.

I hope you loved reading this as much as I loved writing it.

You’ll find me here if you need me and if you need Honcho, we’re all here for you too.


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