Understanding the power of human emotions in modern-day advertising
The consumer psyche is both complex and fickle, yet simple and fixated, driven by their emotions at varying intensities. In the world of modern advertising, human emotions play a critical role in not only the way brands connect with their customers, but also how customers engage with the brand which eventually and ultimately influences sales and business growth. This ever-changing interplay between human emotions and advertising communication has transformed the marketing communication landscape; giving rise to compelling campaigns that resonate strongly with consumers.
The Appeal of Emotions
In a world filled with confusingly similar products and stiff competition with deep pockets, brands constantly look for strategies that offer stronger emotional connections to sway customers’ heartstrings. Simply put, brand communications that trigger strong emotional responses have a greater chance of becoming more memorable and thereby more effective in driving consumer engagement and loyalty in the long run. Emotions extend beyond the boundaries of rational decision-making.
Advertising and the Psychology Behind It
Advertising at its core is about communication; communication that appeals to customers and sways their opinions, biases, beliefs, thoughts, and emotions. Advertising is a science and an art; offering rational and emotional appeals to human beings who are predominantly emotional creatures by nature, where logic and reason are afterthoughts to decisions and actions taken.
Advertising Success with Emotions
Leveraging emotions in advertising is a powerful tool for connecting with customers. It allows brands to tap into the emotional spectrum to create compelling narratives for a brand to leverage. When emotions are executed effectively, they spark a profound impact on the brand, build strong bonds, and drive incredible sales growth and business expansion. When executed badly, the impact is proportionately devastating. Therefore it is critical for marketers to understand and harness human emotions via their ad campaigns, to set the stage for a compelling customer journey and elevate their brand to new and extraordinary heights.
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Exploring primary human emotions and their combinations
As expressed, human emotions are complex, incredibly nuanced feelings that shape our thoughts, interactions, and behaviours. Over the last few decades, psychologists like Paul Eckman, Robert Plutchik, and other researchers have identified the above set of primary emotions that act as the foundation for our emotional experiences.
The primary human emotions:
Description: The feeling of joy, contentment, and well-being.
Effect: Associated with positive experiences, motivation, and social connections.
Description: The emotion of sorrow, grief, and unhappiness.
Effect: This can lead to reflection, empathy, and emotional healing.
Description: The feeling of anxiety, apprehension, and danger.
Effect: An evolutionary response to threats, prompting fight or flight reactions.
Description: The emotion of frustration, irritation, and hostility.
Effect: Can serve as a motivating force for change and action.
Description: The feeling of amazement, astonishment, and unexpectedness.
Effect: Enhances alertness and can be both positive and negative.
Description: The emotion of revulsion, aversion, and repulsion.
Effect: Serves as a defense mechanism, often related to hygiene and safety.
Description: The emotion of excitement, eagerness, and expectation.
Effect: Motivates planning and preparation for future events.
Description: The feeling of confidence, reliance, and faith.
Effect: Essential for building and maintaining relationships and connections.
These primary emotions have varying intensities and can be combined with other emotions to release a rich, complex, and vivid tapestry of feelings that can make people soar or sore.
Joy + Trust = Love/ Connection
When both combine we experience a deep connection.
Joy + Surprise = Delight
When combined we experience delight; pure, unbridled happiness, and pleasant surprises.
Joy + Disgust = Aversion
When combined we experience adversity; joy tainted by revulsion.
Joy + Fear = Exhilaration
When combined we experience a thrilling blend of happiness and trepidation.
Joy + Anger = Frustration
When combined we experience happiness and irritation at the same time.
Joy + Sadness = Sentimentality
When combined we experience bittersweet emotions evoked by cherished memories.
Trust + Sadness = Compassion
When combined we experience compassion; a warm empathy for those in distress.
Trust + Surprise = Amazement
When combined we experience trust met with delightful astonishment.
Trust + Disgust = Disapproval
When combined we experience disapproval; and disappointment born from betrayed trust.
Trust + Anger = Assertiveness
When combined we experience assertiveness; confidence and determination in the face of injustice.
Trust + Fear = Submission/ Obedience
When combined we experience submission and seek protection.
Fear + Disgust = Horror
When combined we experience horror; an intense fear or revulsion provoked by terrifying situations.
Fear + Anticipation = Trepidation
When combined we experience trepidation or fearful anticipation and anxiety.
Fear + Sadness = Anxiety
When combined we experience the uneasy fusion of fear and sorrow.
Fear + Anger = Dread
When combined we experience dread; intense foreboding and anger merged.
Fear + Surprise = Awe/ Shock
When combined we experience shock and even become defensive.
Surprise + Sadness = Disapproval/ Loss
When combined we perceive loss or wrong or disapproval.
Surprise + Anger = Outrage
When combined we experience outrage; shock and anger in response to an offensive revelation.
Surprise + Disgust = Confusion
When combined we experience bewilderment in the face of the unexpected and distasteful; confusion.
Surprise + Anticipation = Curiosity
When combined we experience inquisitiveness sparked by the unexpected
Sadness + Disgust = Remorse/ Take Responsibility
When combined we experience remorse and the need to repair the damage.
Sadness + Anger = Resentment
When combined we experience lingering hurt mixed with indignation.
Sadness + Anticipation = Melancholy
When combined we experience melancholy; a reflective sadness tinged with longing.
Disgust + Anger = Contempt/ Shaming
When combined we experience contempt or demean the perceived barrier.
Disgust + Anticipation = Apprehension
When combined we experience nervousness combined with an aversion for impending unpleasantness.
Disgust + Anticipation = Revulsion
When combined we experience revulsion; a strong aversion to anticipated unpleasantness.
Anticipation + Trust = Confidence
When combined we experience self-assuredness and positive expectations.
Anticipation + Joy = Optimism/ Hopefulness
When Anticipation and Joy combine we are hopeful about what the future holds.
Anger + Anticipation = Aggression/ Hostility
When Anger and Anticipation combine we feel forced to fight or break through a barrier.
By understanding and tapping into the rich landscape of human emotions, marketers can create content that resonates with their customers but evokes responses that lead to better engagement, more brand loyalty, and even higher business growth. After all, emotions are the building blocks of human experiences. Effective communication and building connections in the modern world of advertising requires harnessing the power of emotions.
Impact: Positive emotions like happiness can create a welcoming and approachable brand image. Content that evokes happiness can attract potential customers to explore a brand's offerings.
Effect: At this stage, customers are more likely to click on ads or social media posts that make them feel happy, driving initial awareness.
Impact: Fear-driven content can grab attention and create a sense of urgency. Fear can be leveraged to emphasize a problem that a product or service can solve.
Effect: Ads that evoke fear may prompt users to consider potential risks and seek solutions.
Impact: Anger can be channeled into content that highlights societal or industry issues. It can provoke thought and discussions.
Effect: In the consideration stage, consumers might be more likely to engage with brands that share their concerns.
Impact: Content that generates anticipation can build excitement around product launches or events.
Effect: In the consideration stage, customers may look forward to what a brand has to offer.
Impact: Trust is crucial in the decision-making process. Content that conveys trustworthiness can alleviate concerns and encourage purchases.
Effect: Customers are more likely to choose brands they trust, leading to conversions.
Impact: Positive surprises can lead to an increased sense of value for customers, motivating them to make a purchase.
Effect: Customers may be more inclined to choose a brand that offers something unexpected.
Post Purchase Stage
Impact: Post-purchase emotions, like sadness, can be related to buyer's remorse. Brands need to address these emotions with exceptional post-purchase support.
Effect: Effective post-purchase engagement can turn sadness into satisfaction and loyalty.
Impact: Disgust can result from negative post-purchase experiences. Brands need to resolve issues promptly.
Effect: Swift resolutions can transform disgust into contentment and ongoing loyalty.
Impact: Positive emotions like happiness can create repeat purchases and even brand advocacy. Brands must encourage happy customers to share their experiences and feedback to attract potential customers to explore a brand's offerings.
Effect: New customers and repeat orders.
It is important that marketers consistently strive to foster deeper connections with customers, enhance engagements, and work towards converting leads to long-term brand loyalty. By harnessing the power of emotions, businesses can navigate the marketing funnel more effectively and leave a lasting impact on their target audience.
How brands successfully harness emotions to drive Effective Sales through communications.
In each of the following examples, the brand has effectively harnessed specific emotions to connect with its target audience. By understanding the emotional triggers that resonate with consumers, these brands have created compelling campaigns that foster trust, loyalty, and ultimately, drive sales.
Apple - Eliciting Desire with Happiness
Example: Apple's product launches, such as those for iPhones and iPads, often generate a sense of happiness and anticipation among consumers.
Why it works: Apple understands that happiness is a powerful motivator. Their marketing is known for focusing on the joy and excitement of using their products. By showcasing sleek designs, intuitive interfaces, and the promise of a better life, Apple taps into the emotions of happiness and anticipation. This motivates customers to be part of the experience, driving high demand and sales.
Heineken - Building Connections with Empathy
Example: Heineken's "Worlds Apart" campaign explored the divide between people with differing beliefs.
Why it works: Heineken's campaign aimed to create empathy and understanding, showing that despite differences, people can connect over a beer. This emotional approach resonated with consumers, making them more likely to choose Heineken for its message of unity, leading to increased sales.
Coca-Cola - Spreading Joy
Example: Coca-Cola's annual holiday campaigns often revolve around spreading joy and happiness during the festive season.
Why it works: Coca-Cola's emotional campaigns emphasize the joy of giving and sharing, perfectly aligning with the spirit of the holidays. By spreading happiness and warmth, Coca-Cola's messaging creates a positive association with its brand, resulting in increased sales during the holiday season.
Dove - Fostering Self-Esteem with Self-Love
Example: Dove's "Real Beauty" campaign celebrates diverse beauty and self-acceptance.
Why it works: Dove recognizes the emotional struggle that many people face regarding self-esteem and body image. By promoting self-love and celebrating diverse beauty, Dove's campaigns connect with consumers on a personal level, fostering trust and loyalty. As a result, Dove's products, aimed at enhancing beauty and self-care, resonate more strongly with consumers.
Always - Empowering with Inspiration
Example: Always' "Like a Girl" campaign challenges stereotypes about what it means to do something "like a girl."
Why it works: Always' emotional marketing strategy is rooted in empowering young women. By challenging stereotypes and inspiring girls to embrace their potential, the brand fosters a connection based on shared values. This emotional bond encourages consumers to choose Always products, resulting in effective sales.
Nike - Motivating Action with Determination
Example: Nike's "Just Do It" slogan and campaigns revolve around determination and overcoming obstacles.
Why it works: Nike's emotional marketing is all about motivation. By focusing on determination, hard work, and achievement, Nike appeals to individuals looking for athletic gear that empowers them to excel. The emotional connection motivates customers to purchase Nike products as they relate to the brand's values.
Airbnb - Building Trust with Connection
Example: Airbnb's "Belong Anywhere" campaign emphasizes connecting with locals while traveling.
Why it works: Airbnb leverages the emotional aspect of building trust through connection. By highlighting the experience of staying with local hosts, Airbnb instills a sense of trust in their platform. Travelers feel more confident booking accommodations, leading to increased bookings and revenue.
Brands that have failed to use the right emotions or just badly executed their campaigns.
Pepsi's Kendall Jenner Ad
In 2017, Pepsi released an advertisement featuring Kendall Jenner, which attempted to align the brand with the emotions of unity and peace during a time of social unrest. The ad portrayed a protest scene with Jenner handing a Pepsi to a police officer as if it could solve complex societal issues. The ad faced significant backlash for trivializing social movements and was widely criticized for its lack of authenticity and sensitivity to the actual emotions of the protests it referenced.
Dove's "Real Beauty" Backlash
Dove, known for its "Real Beauty" campaign, aimed to evoke emotions of self-acceptance and body positivity. However, they faced a backlash when they released a series of limited-edition body wash bottles in different shapes meant to represent different body types. This attempt at inclusivity came across as tone-deaf and drew criticism for reducing complex emotions about body image to a superficial marketing gimmick.
Budweiser's "Born the Hard Way"
In 2017, Budweiser aired a Super Bowl commercial featuring the founder's immigrant journey, aiming to evoke emotions of resilience and determination. However, the ad was seen by some as political and divisive due to its release during a time of heightened immigration debates in the United States. It generated mixed reactions, with some customers feeling it was the wrong emotional tone for a beer advertisement.
McDonald's "Dead Father" Commercial
In a 2017 UK ad, McDonald's attempted to connect with emotions of grief and remembrance by telling the story of a boy who never found anything in common with his deceased father, except for their favorite sandwich. The ad faced criticism for exploiting sensitive emotions around grief and was ultimately pulled due to public outcry.
Building Effective Campaigns with Emotions
While the list below is not all-inclusive, it does cover the major milestones toward creating more effective campaigns with emotions.
Audience Research: Understand your audience; Conduct in-depth research to learn about their demographics, preferences, and psychographics. Identify their pain points, desires, emotional triggers, etc. to gather valuable insights.
Emotion Mapping: Create an emotion map by associating specific emotions with different stages of the customer journey. Align emotions with your marketing funnel.
Competitor Analysis: Analyze your competitors' marketing strategies to see if the emotions they are leveraging also resonate with your target audience. Differentiate your brand by tapping into emotions that your competitors may not be addressing effectively.
Storytelling: Craft compelling stories that have powerful emotions and can make your brand more relatable to consumers. Ensure that the narratives also align with your brand's values
Emotionally Intelligent Content: Ensure that your messaging is empathetic, authentic, and respectful of your audience's emotions.
A/B Testing: Experiment with different emotional appeals and test variations to measure their impact.
Utilize Data Analytics: Leverage data analytics tools to gain insights into customer behavior and emotional responses to understand how specific emotions impact your campaign's success.
Content Personalization: Implement personalized content strategies that cater to the unique emotional triggers of individual audience segments.
Cultural Sensitivity: Emotions can be interpreted differently across cultures, so adapt your approach to align with local sensibilities.
Consistency and Authenticity: Authenticity is crucial; customers can quickly detect insincere emotional manipulation so maintain consistency in the emotions conveyed through your branding and messaging.
Monitor Social Trends: Stay updated on current events and social trends.
Feedback Loop: Encourage customers to share their emotional responses and insights.
Iterate and Evolve: Marketing is an evolving field. Regularly revisit your emotional marketing strategies, assess their effectiveness, and make adjustments as needed. Emotions and customer preferences can change over time.
It is abundantly clear that the role of human emotions stands unwavering in the ever-evolving landscape of modern advertising, as brands continue to vie for attention, preference, and loyalty from customers. From evoking joy and nostalgia to creating empathy and trust, advertising has the power to tap into a spectrum of emotions and evoke positive responses that resonate with consumers. Consumers today are at the receiving end of a barrage of communication messages across mediums. Therefore relying merely on conveying information in the hope that it will be adequate to tap into their minds, hearts, and wallets is wishful thinking. Brands today need to invest in understanding those deep-seated emotions that are driving consumer behavior and then create campaigns that strike a chord and leave a lasting impact. Human emotions breathe life into campaigns, making them memorable and impactful. Brands that master the art of emotional connection are the ones that not only survive but thrive in the competitive marketplace.
Additional Reading: Creating Effective Customer Journey Maps, Customer Centricity for Business Growth, Consumer Insights Marketing Success, How to define and deliver Value, The Relevance of Brand Archetypes, Ethical Marketing in a unfair world, Behavioural Psychology for customer loyalty, Marketing Funnels in a disloyal marketplace, Customer PainPoints and more, Customer Biases for Brand Growth