Emotions in Advertising

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Emotional Advertising

We’ve all seen the big name commercials from this year’s Super Bowl. Whether it was Toyota’s tribute to both fathers and the armed forces, Coca Cola’s attempt to bring positivity to the internet, or Dove’s “Like a Girl” campaign, this year’s big advertising dollars went to something more than just product placement. The focus of much of the Super Bowl commercial breaks were rooted in sentiment and emotions. The question is, does that make commercials and advertisements more memorable?

The Art of Persuasion

Let me fill you in on a little secret: the act of advertising is used to persuade you to buy a product or change your behavior. Now, before you get out your pitchforks and march to your local advertising firm, the harsh reality is that every type of communication we use is meant to persuade someone else on our viewpoints.

The act of persuasion comes from Aristotle’s ethos, logos, and pathos. Each one of these terms is a way that speech can persuade someone. Ethos is persuading someone to listen to you by proving to them your credibility as a speaker on the subject. Logos is persuading someone by using facts, figures and numbers. Finally, pathos is the emotional aspect of persuasion. We’ve all seen those late night commercials for the ASPCA and looked into the eyes of hurt animals; this is their way of persuading us to fight for these animals.

With much of the Super Bowl commercials, the only persuasion used is the pathos method. Take for example, the Budweiser puppy commercial: a little puppy gets lost and eventually finds his way back to his owner. The only product shown is a Budweiser in the hands of the owner back at the stables (and the Clydesdale horse, if you would consider it a “product”). People love this ad, because of puppies, obviously. But, does this ad actually convince you to drink Budweiser?

Further, you have ads such as this one from Microsoft. Microsoft is being very sneaky here. They’re giving the viewer a sense of pride and achievement through the story of the boy with the prosthetic legs. The only mention of the software company is the software used to design his prosthetics. However, they want us to feel a sense of victory when we think of Microsoft products.

Of course, you always get those out-of-left-field, over-the-top emotional commercials. Like this Nationwide commercial. WARNING: BUMMER ALERT

Yeah, no one was expecting that one. This is an example of a company trying too hard to elicit an emotional response from an audience, especially during the festivities of the big game.

Do They Stick?

Every single advertisement we consume elicits some form of emotional response- most of the time we don’t even notice it. However, ads that focus on eliciting an overwhelming emotional response tend to perform better and lead to more sales increases. According to Roger Dooley, emotional ads lead to a substantial increase in profits 31% of the time, compared to a 16% rate when using a logos-based ad. However, these types of ads are hard to craft. The trick to creating a good advertisement that will lead to more sales of a product is repetition: you have to ingrain a message in someone’s mind before they take it to action. Studies have shown that the more emotional a message is, the less repetition is needed to ingrain the message (Millward Brown).

The trick is to build trust from product to consumer. Before an emotional appeal can be effective, one must prove over and over that their product or message is trustworthy. Only after that will an emotional advertisement be effective. Take, for example, the Budweiser puppy commercial. Americans love a nice cold Bud, and it’s one of the country’s most popular adult beverages. Because of this, not much else needs to be said about the beer or the company and thus an emotional ad can be used and it remains memorable.

Evaluating the Ads Around You

With this being said, I hope you’re able to not only able to effectively cater messages to your audience, but also critically evaluate the emotional appeals that advertisers sneak into everyday messages.