Monday, July 28, 2014

Emotions, Weird Shit, And Babies.

Effective because it makes us feel fear.

As we all know, emotional advertising is far more effective than rational advertising.

Many clients have read about this, and are now specifically requesting emotional advertising.


Except, there's a problem.

Of the six basic human emotions... five are negative. Namely anger, fear, disgust, contempt, and sadness. (The only positive one is 'joy').

That's right. It's a pretty dark place, down there in your unconscious.

(Side note. Why are nearly all the basic human emotions so negative? There's an article on FastCompany here that explains it a bit. "It’s not that nature inclines us to hate. We’re profoundly social creatures designed to protect: our kin, our tribe, and ourselves." In other words, negatives resonate because we're wired to watch out for threats).

Hat tip to the writer, Douglas Van Praet, who is also the author of Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) Marketing. 

So what are we to do with this information? Make all our ads as bleak as that scene in Terminator where the mechanised forces of Skynet crush human skulls beneath their wheels?

Um, yeah. Basically yes. I've written before about the power of the negative. At least start negative, before you end on a positive. Or in marketing terms, create a tension, and resolve it. That's how you generate some charge.

But we should also be aware that it's not just emotions, that our unconscious mind pays attention to.

According to Van Praet, our threat-obsession has also imbued us with a powerful (and pre-rational) 'startle response'. That's why surprising advertising works. Hence the power of 'prankvertising.'

And finally, we're obviously attuned to anything related to our survival and reproduction. Hence our love of food porn, and any ads with babies in.

In short, our unconscious minds are not turned on by facts and figures, but by primal stuff - emotions, things that are new and different (and therefore worthy of our attention), and anything to do with passing on our genes. 

In really short, if you want to do good work, fill your ads with emotions, weird shit, and babies.


Anonymous said...

I'm going to go with emotional babies with weird shits. And see how that works. I'll let you know.

Sell! Sell! said...

Oh man, advertising is in such a pickle. It's so confused. This snowballing fashion for 'emotional advertising' has it disappearing up its own thingamy. It's interesting that you've illustrated this article with the Volvo truck ad. This is a classic piece of advertising. It has a rational point at its core - Volvo trucks have this stable reversing system that makes them easier to reverse - and it's brought to life using a good, simple idea and great craft. In effect it's a really, really good product demo. It's not 'enotional advertising' in the uber-fashionable, singing kittens and dancing babies sense of the term. But it is great advertising.

Scamp said...

Oh, Sell! Sell!.

I love this argument that we have.

Obviously, I totally agree with you that there is a rational point at the core of the Volvo ad, a point about stability.

But what Science (capital S!) reckons is that human beings make decisions emotionally, then afterwards look for rational justifications. Afterwards.

This has been proved in a lab. A real lab. With test tubes.

So the emotional content of the ad ('feel less fear') is far more important.

According to Science.

Do you dispute the science...?

Sell! Sell! said...

Oh Scampy I know the research and the books you're referring to, many in advertising have oversimplified some of neuroscience's findings to suit their opinions. But I'll leave that augment to another day. More importantly, what makes his ad is great is simple, a feature of the product that is important to would-be buyers, brought to life brilliantly. People are getting confused between the great craft of advertising - making people react and engage and remember things - like great ads have always done - yes of course, making them feel something in the way it's done, and this new fashion of purely 'emotional advertising' (nothing is communicated but it makes to you feel something).

Calling this a purely 'emotional' ad diminishes what is good about it.

Sell! Sell! said...

...what I will say in reply to your question though, is that - far be it for me, a mere adman to dispute the Science with a capital S, as you call it. But the science is disputed within Science (with a capital S). If you've read the actual science rather than someone else's interpretation or spin on it, you'll know it wasn't conducted in a lab, or with test tubes. And if you've read around the subject, you'll know there is a lot of dispute - within science - of the merit of the findings. Now that all doesn't stop this being a fashionable thought. And a lot of people in advertising have taken this and run with it without having the full picture.

Anonymous said...

Care to link us to the case study, Scamp? Need something heavy to hit the creatives over the head with.

jim Powell said...

Scamp you seem to be under the seductive appeal of scientism.

How was the lorry even made. Was it an emotionally invention? Do they not utlise real science in its construction? Did the engineers not think I wonder if we could and how could we? And then apply modern technology to solve a problem? With human reason.

Or did they think how do we make a truck that emotionally appeals to potential buyers?

If those engineers told you how they came to create such a vehicle would you say they were post rationalising their thoughts? And in fact they were emotionally driven (no pun intended). CAn we never reason. Yes we make mistakes but I fear that reason is thrown out with the bath water.

The problem with (some) modern cognitive science is that in a misanthrppic world it is so appealing, to see people as solely bags of chemicals with no power of reason.

Ever argued with someone who gets over emotional? Would you not rather they responded better to reason?

It is interesting that great ads like Volvo get classified as emotional advertising along with other great ads that at their heart actually appeal to reason but have style that appeals to us emotionally i.e. are well crafted / produced.

As Dave Trot recently said 'product is what you say, brand is how you say it." Today it is vogue to do everything in terms of brand (emotions).

Of course people can be emotionally manipulated but that is the con game, isn't it? And if people feel manipulated then eventually they respond by ceasing to buy.

The biggest problem in this debate and it it is the best debate in ad land currently IMO is that the people who say emotional advertising works best have a poor definition of emotional advertising.

Just because a product benefit is demonstrated cleverly with symbolism or metaphorically doesn't make it emotional advertising does it? That's the craft / skill isn't it?

Good advertising may not even require a strap line.

Start with the product - the magic is in the product said Bernbach. Although you'd think he never existed today wouldn't you?

TheBigMacGaul said...

Well... commercial breaks seem to be filled with emotions, weird shit and babies today. And they are all pretty annoying and adolescent. It's like watching MTV every time your show goes to a brake.

By the way, what ever happened to differentiation? If we all use emotions, weird shit and babies, won't every ad look like the same? Oh yeah, that's also happening right now...

Scamp said...

Ermahgerd, so many points I could take people up on...

I'll just pick one.

Jim, you asked "Ever argued with someone who gets over-emotional?"

Yes I have.

And you know what? They won.

Emotion wins.


Scamp said...

Okay I'll do one more.

Sell! Sell! you described the Volvo ad as "a feature of the product...brought to life brilliantly."

I agree.

But is your statement useful? Not really.

Why is it brilliant? How can I do brilliant?

You don't give any help on that.

Me and Van Praet have the answer. You tap into emotions. It's the emotion of fear ("Shit, this guy might die") that makes the demo powerful.

Is it not?

Having said that, I once pitched a campaign to a bank that was based on anger, since that is also one of the six basic emotions. I told them to talk about the anger that customers of 'other' banks feel. They were massively sceptical...

Jim Powell said...

Scamp - You lost an argument to someone who got over emotional. Oh dear. Next time turn the water works on? Or become better at reasoning?

So if Volvo Trucks is an emotional ad, then I don't know what ads contain reason then.

That's why I often agree with some folk who say an emotional ads is good like the one in question, Where we differ is there definition of emotional advertising.

Why have the product there at all? Couldn't they have made Volvo Trucks more death defying? Tigers rather than trucks maybe or a pit of rattle snakes. There is a reason the trucks are there isn't there? There is reason they are reversing.

Of course. of course, of course it has emotional impact but in context of the trucks properties.

The BigMacGaul has a point - won't you be chasing the same five emotions for all your clients? I bet most ask for Joy. How many times does Joy appear on a brief these days?

Let's have a reasoned debate on this. Or should I be typing in capitals and getting really angry to make my point? OF COURSE I SHOULN'T !

Scamp said...

Yes, most ask for Joy. I guess that was the point of my post. That we shouldn't forget the other ones, hard to sell though they may be. Because they have power.

And I'm not too worried that there's only six. Aren't there just seven basic stories?

Also, remember we still have Surprise, Food, and Babies to play with!

TheBigMacGaul said...

I fully agree that emotions are a good resource, but not in every category and not just because "emotions, duh". It's mainly for commodities and "bullshit" categories, like perfumes.

If you can link an emotion to a real attribute (Volvo!), then you have gold. But the Volvo ad is more reason than emotion for me.

Parvez Sheik Fareed said...

I have a very simple opinion: if an ad doesn't show anything interesting that is being dramatised then it lacks an idea. Usually something interesting is based on a fact relating to the product or the service, showing the customer what's in it for him. If not, it's just bullshit with no idea decorated with happy people doing happy things.
In short: if you can't find anything interesting*, you'll end up with emotions, babies and weird shit.
*Sometimes you've got something interesting, but the client prefers the emotions, babies and weird shit.

Christina Force said...

Hey Simon- thanks for calling it how it is. That Volvo ad is also well shot, in an emotive way. I've shared this so photographers wanting work from you creative chaps understand the need to shoot in an emotive way. Here's something I wrote about the same topic a while back

Scamp said...

Crikey, I'm amazed at the resistance here. Big Mac - please tell me which category is NOT a commodity category. Remember that examples of commodity categories include insurance, automotive, beer, sportswear, financial services, tea, water, perfume, spirits...

Even when there ARE facts, consumers don't care. Or more accurately, they're not what make consumers buy. They just use them as justifiers for a decision they've already made.

I know it's uncomfortable reading but I'm not making this shit up.

Anonymous said...

No, you're not making this shit up Scamp. You're just jumping on the bandwagon. I really can't comprehend how the guy that did the "small but tough" ads for Polo can honestly believe in this planner propagated bullshit.

Scamp said...

Well, let me explain. 'Small but tough' was indeed an emotional sell, about feeling safe. At least, that's what the post-rationalising Planner side of me reckons...

Anonymous said...

I think you're confusing "communicate the safety of Polo" with "make people feel safe when they look at our Polo ad".

Much like you're confusing "communicate the precision steering of Volvo trucks" with "make people feel fear when they see our ad for Volvo trucks"

The reason why you're getting so much resistance is because any creative worth his salt would tell the post-rationalising planner to go fuck himself if they'd get the latter in a brief. I know I would.

You need something very simple and basic, then you can load it up with emotions, make it funny or make you feel fear. Not the other way around.

No successful creative, in any industry, picks an emotion out of those six and writes their screenplay or ad or novel based on it. Shawshank Redemption does make me weep when Red and Andy meet at the beach. But I bet you any money in the world that if you'd ask Stephen King how he went about writing the book, it wasn't "I want grown men to cry like a little girl at the end of it".

And the reason this is peddled by planners is because they want to look smart and justify their salary, as opposed to the waste of space they actually are. There, I said it.

Scamp said...

Yes, I admit I may be confusing. Or confused. Or both. But I'm also open-minded. I'd be willing to give this a go. Let's face it, there's never really anything concrete on a brief nowadays. With rare exceptions, few brands have anything 'to say'.

So wouldn't it be refreshing if the planner walked in and said: "It's an ad for a bank. Let's leverage the anger that people feel towards banks." Or "It's an ad for a low-fat yoghurt. Let's play on the disgusting taste that most low-fat yoghurts offer." Or "It's an ad for an insurance company. Let's play on the sadness people feel when something goes wrong."

Worth a try?

Anonymous said...

And that's lazy thinking on the planner's side, which will lead to mediocre and forgettable ads.

If you're trying to leverage the anger people have towards banks, you have to tell them why your bank isn't like those other banks. This one won't make you angry. You have to convince me with a logical argument, not just say so, otherwise I won't believe you. No one will.

Same goes for the low fat yoghurt. Tell me why yours is better tasting than all the other ones. What's in it or how is it made that makes it taste not shit? Again, if you don't bring up a logical argument to convince me, I won't believe you.

Planners treat the average populace like mouth breathing morons. Before any of us got into the ad business, we saw ads and we didn't believe them unless they made a good point.

Saying that "few brands have anything to say" is exactly the problem. You're supposed to tell them about a product, not about your brand values as a manufacturer of low fat diet yoghurts. No one gives a shit.
I'm stuffing my face with your yoghurt, not your brand values.

I'm not saying that no ad should move you emotionally and hit you in the face with the USP repeatedly until you pass out. I'm saying that planners are going about it the wrong way with this "feel feelings, damnit!" approach.

Whenever I get a brief like this, I do the following. I get out my phone and ask for the planner's phone. I put both on the desk in front of him. I ask him to pretend that he doesn't know anything about either but he has to buy one of them. I'm a shop assistant and he can ask me anything he'd like to know.

What do you think is the first question he will ask? Is it "which one will make me feel joyful?" or is it "what can this one do that the other one can't?"

Come on Scamp, I feel like you're taking the piss here.

Jim Powell said...

Yes it would Scamp, don't they do that?

All 3 examples are good ones but there has to be a reason why people feel anger towards banks. What is that anger why does it exist how can we alleviate that frustration. Is it the queues, the cold calls, the internet crashes...

And yes I think a yoghurt come can talk about how tasty it is because it is packed with fruit compared to the others which tastes inferior.

Yes Insurance should point out the reason you have insurance is because if you don't you'll be sad when you have to pay the whole cost of a new car, or you house floods, burns down etc. We are here for a reason and of course there is an emotional attachment to that reason.

There is nothing wrong with pointing out the negative emotional impact of something but I think and I don't think you agree that there is a reason why products do what they do even if there are products fairly similar to them in the market place.

And these products solve problems, move away from pain and or move towards pleasure whilst doing what they do, the reason they were made.

Scamp said...

Anonymous, I think we're going to have to 'agree to disagree'. You're confident that "You have to convince with a logical argument... otherwise I won't believe you. No one will..." Whereas I'm saying (and Science is backing me up) that the actual human brain don't work like that. We like to think it does, but it doesn't. To use your phone example, I bet that the person in the shop will go through all the logical arguments, and then the customer just picks the iPhone anyway...

Scamp said...

Jim - every fucking yoghurt is packed with fruit. Always has been.

Anonymous said...

Why would you waste money on ads for people who already made up their mind to buy an iPhone anyway? That's not really how ads work Scamp...

Scamp said...

I'm guessing the iPhone ads at least played a part in the customer making up their minds to buy an iPhone. But I doubt the rational features played much of a part. Cos the iPhone's features don't stack up...

Anonymous said...

Can you post a link to the Science please Scamp?

Scamp said...

You could start with Dan Ariely, Daniel Kahneman, or Byron Sharp.

TheBigMacGaul said...

If emotions are so important, why does the phone industry (let's keep that example) fights over who launches a dual-core or snapdragon first. Or the battle over pixels onscreen. Or battery time.

I'm about to change a lifetime of PC for a Mac, mainly for portability and battery time. And is a pain in the ass for me changing OS (absolutely no joy there), but those logical reasons are making me change. And a Mac costs double, so I wouldn't choose it just for the joy or the "think different" emotional appeal.

Jim Powell said...

Plain yoghurt isn't - never has been never will be.

I'm surprised that Jonathan Haodt isn't on your list Scamp - the emotional dog with the rational tail. He is right up your alley. Although far more nuanced IMO.

But not everyone including neurologists agrees with these cog. psychologists. And I am not sure how Byron Sharp necessarily fits on that list really.

Neurologist themselves that disagree include Raymond Tallis , Sally Satekl and Kenan Malik for starters have all come out against modern neuro bollocks. And there are loads more that are sceptical about findings of fMRI scans including the great Dead Salmon experiment by Bennet et al that is detailed here.

And philosophers like Mary Midgley, Rebecca Goldstein and Dan Dennet in parts. Psychologist Paul Bloom and Gerd Gigerenzer who although agrees we do make emotional decisions / heuristics he believes that they are reasoned and often correct where as Kahneman points out system 2 simply confirms systems 1's emotional short cut that are often faulty - that is what you are saying right?

Even Sam Harris believes in the power of reason and he thinks consciousness is an illusion and we have no free will at all. But lets lead the 'hard problem' for another day. And Dennet and Harris are having the spats of all spats about it, which kind of disproves some of Haidt's work interestingly.

I do think we should be careful about saying we know how the brain works. And long may the debate continue.

Can I be a planner now?

Anonymous said...

Greek yoghurt.

Scamp said...

Okay, I've got work to do, and many new scientific references to check out, and Greek yoghurt to eat (bought for entirely rational reasons of course!) so am letting you guys have the last word.

Anonymous said...

I think one of the main things that riles creatives is that planners (or the neuroscientists that they quote) claim to KNOW how people behave. When in actual fact, they don't have any better idea than the creatives.

Here are a few quotes picked at random from Ariely's conclusions (as he's the only one with links to his reports):

"the relative influence of perceptual and conceptual inputs on overall evaluations likely depends on the timing of the information"

"the malleability of one’s tastes is likely influenced by the timing of attitude-discrepant information"

"An explanation that is implied by our research for this discrepancy may be a self-fulfilling nature of consumer expectations"

They're littered with qualifiers, because there's no way to objectively measure results in psychology.

The dangerous implication with science is that it's definitive. But even results from measurable, objective experiments in physics are often later disproved. So why should we listen to people spouting quotes from "Thinking Fast & Slow" like it's the gospel?

Anonymous said...

I think the main emotion in the Volvo ad is safety not fear. Safety made by nostalgia. Because practically every single element of the clip is completely familiar to the viewer. The music: a late 90ies,early 2k icon. The face: a late 80ies, early 90ies icon. The trucks: well trucks are trucks. The sunset: cheesy as can be.

Scamp said...

Yeah I kinda agree. Well, I'd say that the emotion of fear is raised (by the split) and then removed (leading to the absence of fear, i.e. safety) and as you cleverly point out, the familiarity of the other elements assists here.

Jim Powell said...

Byron Sharp writes, neuro-matketing is overrated and an over fascination with science is silly.

Worth I read.

Scamp said...

But also this...

Jim Powell said...

Thanks Scamp - Which is why you need behaviour change not attitude change?