If you were ever a fan of the show “Mad Men,” you’ll certainly remember the scene I’m about to describe. It’s perhaps one of the most poignant scenes of the series. Advertising guru Don Draper is masterfully selling a campaign to Kodak for its “wheel” (slide projector). It’s an emotionally charged scene as Don uses the wheel to show images and fond memories of his family. He then recommends renaming the product “the carousel”—reminiscent of a child’s ride where you go around and around, but always come back home, to a place you are loved. The clients’ faces at the end of the scene are priceless. In those few minutes, Don demonstrated the value of creating a sentimental bond with a product. That’s the impact of emotion in marketing.
Abundant research has been done on emotional marketing. It has shown consumers rely more on emotions rather than facts, statistics or other information when deciding which brands to purchase. Feelings often linger after a brand is out of sight. If those feelings are closely associated with a brand, then it’s more likely that brand will form a connection with the customer.
There is proven value in marketing strategies that establish emotional connections. A study by Harvard Business Review concluded that emotionally connected customers are 52% more valuable, on average, than those who are just highly satisfied with a brand. Another study examined successful ad campaigns and found 31% of the ads included emotional content, contrasted with 16% that were driven purely by rational content. While emotions can widely vary from happiness to sadness to fear and surprise to anger and disgust, emotive responses in marketing can be placed in two main categories: empathy and creativity.
Empathy is when people identify with a brand and feel closer to it after seeing an advertisement. A perfect example of empathy in advertising is the old Dunkin Donuts “Time to Make the Donuts” campaign. Commercial after commercial, we saw Fred the Baker wake up at the crack of dawn to make donuts. We can all empathize with him as he’s shuffling out of his comfortable home to make sure there are fresh donuts every day. We’d hate to be that guy, we feel for him…but as consumers, we appreciate a company that puts in the effort to make sure they provide the best product—in this case, fresh-made donuts. The successful campaign ran for 15 years with an estimated 100 commercials.
Ads based on creativity make people feel a brand is imaginative and innovative. Apple is great at this—from past iPhone commercials that show beautiful images and people with voiceovers that explain the latest features to the new iPhone X commercial that follows a young man walking through a city transformed by the video game he’s playing on his phone. Even Apple commercials set to music, with no voiceover, that simply show the product and how it can be used are effective in conveying the brand’s innovation and imagination.
Emotional motivators vary based on where someone is in life. Millennials will have different emotional responses than Gen Xers, who will have different responses than Baby Boomers. While one group might connect with feeling secure, for example, the other may connect with feeling they’re making a difference. So it’s important to know your audience and create messages that will resonate with them.
Where those messages are communicated is another consideration. As counterintuitive as it may seem, using technology has proven effective at fostering emotional connections. One example is Target’s “Thanks a Billion” social media campaign, which ran in 2015. It encouraged people to post messages on the company’s Facebook page that honor teachers who’ve made an impact in their lives. With every story, a teacher’s school received $25. Target gave away $6 million in six days, which helped the company achieve its ultimate goal of giving $1 billion to education that year. The campaign drew more than 240,000 people to share messages of teacher appreciation. It was a great way to generate goodwill while also encouraging emotional connections with the Target brand.
Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor said, “We live in a world where we are taught from the start that we are thinking creatures that feel. The truth is, we are feeling creatures that think.” Most of life is centered around emotions. They drive our decisions and choices. Brands that appeal to our hearts more than or as much as they appeal to our heads will succeed in establishing emotional bonds with their customers and ultimately win greater loyalty.