Emotional commercials sell products. Emotional commercials are also shared more often.
And even though we live in a world where marketers prize consumer research and big data, the reason why people buy the things they buy remain decidedly less quantifiable.
Studies have shown that:
- People rely on emotions, rather than information and logic to make brand decisions.
- Emotional responses to ads have far more impact on a person’s intent to buy than the content of an ad.
- Positive emotions towards a brand have greater influence on consumer loyalty than other attributes.
Douglas Van Praet, author of Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) Marketing, says that “The most startling truth is that we don’t even think our way to logical solutions. We feel our way to reason. Emotions don’t hinder decisions. They constitute the foundation on which they are made!”
Even the words “motivation” and “emotion” share the same Latin root word “movere”, which means to move.
For brands, the challenge is that people don’t consciously choose their feelings because they can’t consciously perceive them. Emotions trigger certain feelings in a consumer’s subconscious and influence the decisions they make. So how do marketers invoke the feelings that lead to brand recall and product purchase?
It is in a brand’s best interest to appeal to consumer’s emotions when hoping to create a connection and ultimately drive conversion. Here in this article we’ll talk about the emotional triggers that connect brands to consumers and some tips on how to create emotional commercials of your own.
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This post has been updated in September 2021.
Positive emotions trigger more shares than negative ones. But any emotional appeal gets twice as many shares than rational content. Some commonly used emotional triggers include:
Some of John Lewis’ Christmas ads are real tear-jerkers but in 2016, they decided to go down a more light-hearted route. “Buster the Boxer” is a joy-laden commercial set to Randy Crawford’s “One Day I’ll Fly Away”, performed by electronic trio Vaults. It follows a boxer named Buster, who waits very patiently to try out his family’s new trampoline. The film plays out his anticipation as he watches foxes, a badger, squirrels and a hedgehog have a go before him.
When he finally gets his turn, that burst of glee is truly something that every one of us can relate to. It’s impossible not to smile.
Christmas is generally the time when brands really up the ante on the sentimentality, so this perfectly executed ode to the season was a welcome respite from heavier offerings. And who doesn’t love a cast of adorable animals?
Commercials from Thailand are famous for being heart-wrenching, and their insurance ads are almost guaranteed to make people cry. This one is not quite the most devastating example, but it’s lighter tone and manner and jocular hero still deliver a touching story with an emotional punch. Called “Unsung Hero” it follows an everyday guy helping people out throughout his day, seemingly for no reason. The supporting cast’s expressions indicate they all think he’s probably simple, but all of the derision just makes the final emotional pay-off that much more satisfying.
The most memorable ads aren’t just the ones that make us laugh or cry; they offer a different perspective. They change the way we think. The Dove Real Beauty Sketches commercial wanted women to realize that “You are more beautiful than you think”. To that end, they created probably one of the most referenced and talked about commercials in the past decade.
What’s truly amazing is that this video was created based on an insight that is truly global: only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful.
In the video, several women are invited to sit down for a sketch wherein they are asked to describe themselves. Then another sketch is made, where a stranger describes her. The two sketches were later shown to the subjects and it is revealed that the second sketch, in all cases, was more flattering. The video records the reactions of the women, and it is a powerful moment indeed when each woman realizes that she is much more beautiful than she thinks.
Righteous anger also provokes emotion, with some commercials capitalizing on invoking a sense of injustice to present their message. Anger is used more often with advocacy advertising; which simply means advertising for a cause. Think environmental issues, animal rights, and politics. Anger is a negative emotion that can cause negative associations to a brand; however, it can also drive action.
Always’ Like A Girl commercial takes a stand for equality for women. It uses an extremely common insult to draw attention to the fact that women are not seen as strong or capable or athletic. And it shows that this mindset is something that girls deal with even from a very young age.
The campaign encourages women to share their stories and the difficulties they face in playing sports and in being taken seriously. It’s debatable whether or not the commercial made a real difference in real women’s lives; inequality is a pervasive issue that is only now getting the spotlight it deserves. However, while P&G has not shared specific sales figures, it is clear that the brand received lots of positive attention and traction from the commercial.
A powerful way to get an emotional response is to use humor or irreverence. People love imaginative and creative commercials that circumvent the standard advertising talk and get straight to the point in amusing ways. The fact that they can appreciate it makes them feel like they are ahead of the game. And as we said, people generally love (and love to share) videos that make them laugh, feel happy or cheerful.
Humor is not the easiest route to take; it can very well backfire if the joke should fall flat! However, a commercial that is humorous, informative and relevant has a great chance of being truly effective.
A case in point is Dollar Shave Club’s launch video which went viral in 2012. Shot on a $4500 budget, it stars the CEO Michael Dubin and took one day to shoot. Today the video has over 26 million views and the Dollar Shave Club was sold to Unilever for $1 billion, with Dubin crediting the video for giving the brand a major initial boost.
As a brand, it’s challenging to tell stories that stick. Here are some tips for creating emotional commercials:
Everything begins with a great story
You might believe that the perfectly crafted script holds the key to unlocking emotion, but what really works is finding a great story that resonates with your target audience. To do this, you’ll first need to know the people you’re talking to. Find out what’s important to them. The insights you glean could be the spark that leads to a fantastic story.
Then comes the talent
The people facing the camera have to do a good job selling your script to the audience. Passion can be seen in the lines of expression in the face, pain can be heard through the voice, talent can make or break a piece of creative. This Super Bowl ad by Ram is a superb example of a well-chosen voice (Paul Harvey). His voice-over is simply so authentic and compelling.
Don’t underestimate music as a great tool to elicit emotional responses.
You would be surprised to find how music actually does a lot to change the tone and feel of your visual. Carefully considered music can elevate your piece, helping the audience understand what’s happening without ever being too intrusive. On the flip side, the wrong music could be awkward and jarring, preventing your audience from immersing fully in the film. A great romance – what if it had tense or suspenseful music? A creepy film – what if the background music was cute and whimsical?
Color helps convey emotion, nudging audiences in the right direction.
Gray tones convey sadness, gold or orange evokes warmth and happiness – every color in the spectrum can affect emotions in a different way.
Remember that your goal is to tell a true, genuine story.
Resist the urge to make a commercial or to make something that is too polished and “corporate”. People don’t like being pitched to. Consumers are incredibly sophisticated today; being exposed as they are to millions of ads in the course of their lifetimes. They can tell when they are being sold to, which is when they tune out. People dislike brands that are all about themselves; think of your brand as a person – what would they be like? What kind of values do they have? What do they cherish?
Emotions aren’t everything
Finally, it’s important for you to actually articulate what kind of action you’re expecting from a viewer. Invoking emotions and shareability with a video is a great achievement, but consider what you want them to do. If you’re looking to drive awareness, it would be best to create videos that uplift the emotion. But when you’re trying to drive conversions and seal the deal, you would be wise to tap into deeper emotions like a desire for control, desire for the best and newest, self-achievement, self-empowerment, poverty of time and so on.
In conclusion, it’s well worth the investment to create an emotional connection with your commercials. After all, it is shown that emotional commercials have the ability to make consumers fall in love with you and stay loyal to you. Emotional triggers you can use include joy, sadness, empowerment, anger and humor. Things to bear in mind during production include the script, the talent, colors and music. And the best thing you can do is to look square at your audience and think of what emotion will resonate with them and ultimately, what action you want them to take once you’ve gotten their attention.
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