Emotion in Advertising

  • Categories:


  • Date:

    June 09, 2014

Emotion in Advertising


Last month for Mother’s Day, American Greetings distributed a video that caused people to consider moms in a different light. Maybe you’ve seen it; it has more than 20 million views on YouTube. It’s a brilliant promotion – a great example of how to tap into people’s emotions and tell a story with the potential to go viral.

When I first got into advertising, comedy reigned supreme. A 30-second spot might not give you goose bumps, but it’d tickle your funny bone. Even with all those laughs, though, advertising could be sort of cold. The product came first, and even the best marketers couldn’t often give people the warm and fuzzies with dog food and toilet bowl cleaners.

So, what changed?

The smart brands noticed a big change in the world – specifically in how we communicate with each other and share information. It used to be all about leading a horse to water and waiting for it to drink. But in today’s hyper-connected world, we don’t just need our audience to buy our products – we need them to connect with us on an emotional level. We need a conversation. We need our audience to visit our website, watch a video or share our story with their friends because of what our brand means to them.

True-to-life stories are more likely to be shared, because they’re more powerful. People see themselves in these stories. They feel good afterward, even if they’re crying. And that rush of emotions solidifies their connection with the brand. At the end of the day, we discovered that that authentic connection would – you guessed it – sell more products. And eventually, emotion – real, did you see that, leave you speechless emotion, became the new marketing tool of choice.

This didn’t happen by accident. The tears really started to flow around the time the drive to create content took off. The content movement, in case you haven’t heard about it, is all about building stories that people can hunt down and share. It’s about creating and distributing content that doesn’t look like paid advertising. It’s the flip side of the unpardoned interruption to our regular programming.

Technology, too, plays a role. How often do you check your email? Do you “talk” to your friends on social networks more often than you visit with them in real life? Is Facebook the last place you “saw” your mother? Technology is great, but it leaves many of us wanting to connect with other human beings. Powerful stories can help fill in the holes.

Like everything, there’s a wrong way to advertise with emotion. You can’t just stick a cute baby in an ad and expect your kitchen faucets to sell like hotcakes. And you can’t lie. We all know a better razor won’t help you land a Double Cork in the half-pipe, so P&G had to come up with an authentic way to tell their story during this year’s Winter Olympics. Did you see those ads? If so, you may recall that while P&G doesn’t give our Olympians their world-class talent, they do support the moms who support them. That story is believable.

If you want to rise above the tide, don’t forget that competition and noise play a role, too. Even if you have a great product, there might be 10 more just like it. That’s where your storytelling skills really come into play. You’ll also want to consider what your brand means and the role it plays in people’s lives on a deeper level. Think beyond your brand’s or product’s qualities (faster, softer, more durable). What’s the soul of your brand? And at the end of the day, be careful to strike the right balance. Don’t let the story overtake your brand. You made them cry. Great! Will they remember what the ad was for?

So, are you ready to catch the emotional wave?