AD:TECH REPORT: The Power of Emotive Advertising

Apparently, Descartes had it all wrong. Instead of pronouncing “I think, therefore I am,” he should have instead quipped “I feel, therefore I am.” That’s one of a number of key points to consider after hearing Dr. Bruce Hall, a partner at Merrell & Partners, speak at a panel called “Emotive Advertising.”

Ad folks like us have always used the power of emotion to push our brands, but never with a clear understanding as to what about emotions really drive brand perception and consumers’ opinions. The rise of neuroscience study and availability of MRI technology is leading marketers to re-evaluate the power of emotive advertising in total.

The source of this new-found interest comes from consumers themselves. Marketers can no longer reach them with a barrage of advertising anymore. If consumers don’t want to hear what you have to say, they won’t. They have to come to you, and what drives them is emotion.

According to Hall, the marketing world is stuck in the 60s. All the models we currently use come from a hierarchy of effects assumption, which moves from consumer cognition, to affect and then to behavior. This is based on a completely mistaken paradigm of how the brain works. It assumes that the brain is a computer, when in fact, the brain is an entertainment system that has evolved to attract the opposite sex.

The way we really think/work is from an opposite direction, from affect to behavior and then to cognition. Once we behave differently, we think of reasons why we do it. Hall presented four key insights that marketers and advertisers need to appropriate:
1.    Emotions drive decision-making
2.    The causal role of conscious thought is greatly overrated
3.    We see the world as we want to see it.
4.    Memory is a poor marker for our decisions.
Our emotions drive our decision-making (I learned this after a string of break-ups in college). We have evolved to see things in a very pragmatic way. Our visual system and all of our senses are based on probability distribution. By changing probabilities our there is the way we change the way people see the world. This is pretty much advertising.

In the advertising world, we try to take advantage of changing the probabilities of the way consumers perceive things. Our memory is a very dynamic process, where we take bits and pieces and reassemble it. If you introduce new information in that process, you can change the things we remember, and advertising is about getting people to remember the world the way we want them to remember.

Think about it. Why does Coca-Cola advertise their product? Because if you stop advertising Coca-Cola, people will remember it as sweet tasting water instead of the Coca-Cola brand. Changing memories sounds very sinister, but this is what we do.

In the end, it’s much more powerful to have ads that allow consumers to co-create the story in the ad for themselves. Everyone has a personal story. When you create a piece of advertising, it should be a way to have people write your brand into their personal story.

People are rational, but they are not necessarily logical. The way to make it logical, it  takes an emotional story, the brand story. If you are successful with any piece of communication, you change the way people view the world. But every time you do something obnoxious, you’re losing the game. Advertising is all about improving the world for the consumer. If you can’t do that, you won’t get your brand into their world.

At with that note, a lot of marketers in the room got pretty emotional.

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