The emotional play

The emotional play

Becky Sarniak

Apr 01, 2014

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Brands strive to stand out from the crowd, to connect and build long-lasting relationships with consumers. One strategy used by companies worldwide is to make emotional connections with their audience. Often this attempt is made through advertising.

Previous research in psychology has indicated that advertisements that evoke positive emotions are associated with longer viewing time, more positive attitudes about an ad, and more positive feelings towards a brand. However, it is important to note that there are cultural influences in how positive emotions impact positive feelings. In a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, it was found that advertisements that evoke emotions which promote the individual or make individuals feel good about themselves (e.g., pride), appeal to individualistic (Western) cultures. Ads that focus on emotions towards others tend to appeal more to Eastern cultures.

Below are four spots that highlight both the emotional tug which advertising can create, and the difference in the emotional strategy based on the culture the brand is targeting.

Western Appeal
This ad for Guinness created by BBDO New York focuses on making people feel good about their own characters and the depths of our collective friendships. This game of wheelchair basketball with an unexpected ending propelled Guinness to 7 million YouTube views in just one month.

In the past ten years, Dove has cultivated a campaign to reach women by empowering them to feel good about themselves with the “Dove Campaign for Real Beauty.” Struggles with self-esteem are ubiquitous, so bolstering self-esteem in a way that makes women feel good about themselves has universal relatability and appeal. By striking an emotional chord that women can relate to and instilling a sense of pride, Dove has been able to reach millions of women. One of Dove’s ads posted last year had over 62 million views by the time of this blog post.

This ad serves to show women how devastating an often inaccurate and low-opinion of themselves can be by depicting an artist sketching the women as they describe themselves and comparing it to how others describe them, encouraging women to have pride in themselves.

Eastern Appeal
Truemoveh is an example of a brand that created an empathic and inspiring ad to reach consumers, particularly those in Eastern cultures. Over 15 million consumers have seen the Thai mobile telecommunication company’s ad on YouTube about how giving is rewarded.

Wacoal Thailand also created another successful ad that creates empathy for the protagonist in the story and sends the message that women are beautiful on the inside. This ad tells the story of a young mother and her daughter. This ad not only has over 2 million views on YouTube in 2 months, but media outlets such as The Huffington Post have praised it.

What ads have been successful in making an emotional connection with you? And did it make a positive impact in how you saw the product or brand itself?

Aaker, Jennifer L. and Williams, Patti. “Empathy versus Pride: The Influence of Emotional Appeals across Cultures,” Journal of Consumer Research Vol. 25, No. 3 (December 1998), pp. 241-261

Olney, Thomas J., Morris B. Holbrook, and Rajeev Batra, (1991) , ‘‘Consumer Responses to Advertising: The Effects of Ad Content, Emotions and Attitude toward the Ad on Viewing Time,’’ Journal of Consumer Research, 17 (March) , 440–453.
Edell, Julie A. and Marian C. Burke (1987) , ‘‘The Power of Feelings in Understanding Advertising Effects,’’ Journal of Consumer Research, 14 (December) , 421–433.

Becky Sarniak

Manager, Moderating Services

What I love about research is learning about people and what they think. Discovering the reasoning behind behavior and what motivates people to move from a plan of action to action itself.

iModerate’s online qualitative interviews have been enormously helpful to us during the concept testing phase of research. iModerate provides us with invaluable feedback from a nationally representative group of Americans within a very short time frame. Not only do we get this data quickly, but it is also high quality. iModerate’s moderators are skilled at asking questions that yield useful responses. iModerate reports provide information that’s more than interesting, it’s actionable.

Sara Bamossy, Senior Strategic Planner, Saatchi & Saatchi LA