Huddle 2018 - Content Hub

The art and science of emotions: How to stand out and make an impact

By Rebecca Waring, VP Insight, Unruly.  

It was the great poet Maya Angelou who said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”  

At Unruly we believe that emotional ad campaigns create preference, lead to decisions and are about twice as effective as rational advertising. In order to stand out, and leave an impact on consumers, brands are continuing to push boundaries in their advertising. 

In September Nike released a powerfully emotive ad as part of their ‘Just Do It’ 30th anniversary campaign. The new short film entitled ‘Dream Crazy’ features a number of athletes who are household names. All the athletes have leveraged the power of sport to help move the world forward. 

On Labor Day Nike’s ad was launched in the US to huge debate and polarised opinion. This was mainly down to the use of Colin Kaepernick in their ads who controversially refused to stand during the American national anthem before NFL games. 

According to Edison Trends, over the bank holiday weekend, online sales in the US for Nike grew an astonishing 31%. This demonstrates the power that emotional ad campaigns continue to have on audiences. 

Using emotion to drive sales is a trend we continue to see across research studies. IPA ran a study around emotional advertising. They found that ‘emotional ad campaigns are more effective and more profitable than rational ad campaigns, even in rational categories’. 31% of emotional ad campaigns reported very large business effects after 1-2 years, compared to 16% for rational ads. 

They also found that 43% of emotional ad campaigns reported very large business effects after three or more years. This was compared to just 23% for rational campaigns, indicating that ‘the longer the time frame, the more emotions drive profit’. 

Nielsen ran a study in 2015 entitled Consumer Neuroscience. They found that ads with above average electroencephalogram scores delivered a 23% lift in sales volume, confirming the idea that emotions drive sales. Nielsen also ran a study in 2015 entitled Consumer Neuroscience. They found that ads with above average electroencephalogram scores delivered a 23% lift in sales volume, confirming the idea that emotions drive sales. 

We looked in our video testing database and analysed the UK retail category to uncover some powerful examples of the use of emotional advertising in this sector. 

The most emotive retail ad we’ve ever tested in the UK is John Lewis’ ‘Buster the Boxer’ from Christmas 2016. However, with this being such a familiar example, we decided to look at a different emotive ad, ‘Come Home’ by German brand Edeka. Since this ad has been tested in both the UK and Germany, it gave us an opportunity to highlight how cultural differences affect emotional responses across different markets. 

The video evoked a strong reaction in both countries. However, emotions ran much higher in Germany where people were more likely to feel surprise and shock. Whereas UK viewers were more likely to feel warmth. Our cultural analysis revealed that Germans have a more “concerned” cultural leaning than the UK. Meaning they worry about the impact that their behaviour has on themselves and others. Therefore the ad’s message of responsibility to others resonated particularly strongly in the ad’s native market. 

Without an objective framework like the one we used in our analysis, it can be very hard to know whether you have an accurate understanding of other cultures. Can you identify which markets are being described by the words hurried, reserved, and restrained? How about relaxed, uninhibited, and impulsive? Both sets of descriptions are in fact both referring to Americans. The first is how Mexicans see Americans, and the second is how they are perceived by the Japanese! 

It became clear to us when ranking retail ads by emotional impact, that the top end of the chart was totally dominated by Christmas ads. So the analysis was split into “Christmas retail advertising” and “everyday retail advertising”. Outside of Christmas ads, retail advertising was considerably less emotive than the UK market norm. 11% lower than norm, whereas Christmas ads are 34% higher! Crucially, brand metrics like favourability (-17%) and intent to find out more (-7%) were also below par. 

So what have we learnt? Ensure you commit to an emotional ad strategy that is both long-term and consistent throughout the year. To this and your business will stand out in customers’ minds.