The advent of non-traditional distribution channels brought on by advances in technology has raised a number of issues for advertisers. The consumer marketplace has become a dumping ground of sorts for a bevy of messages from companies telling us to buy more - and buy "better."
To reach us, ad agencies have tried numerous tactics including: cool graphics and effects, gorgeous models leading globetrotting lifestyles (who are not an accurate representation of "Joe and Jill" average), and promises that the product will deliver and meet our needs on numerous levels. Billions of dollars are spent delivering the message, but is the message really getting through?
When I think back to my days as a corporate sales representative, my business challenges were not unlike those faced by advertisers today. How do I come across as being "different" than my competitors - and succeed at having my product stand out amongst others that deliver similar experiences?
Looking back, the clincher to my biggest and most successful sales was based on an emotional element that I was able to add to the selling mix. Customers could have bought a similar product elsewhere, but they bought from me. If I was selling toys, then I would be able to use the "cute and fuzzy" factor as a lead-in to the sale. Key sales decisions were always a combination of both rational and emotional elements.
Emotion is important in selling because it leads to ownership and involvement. Remember the breakthrough success of the pet rock? Why else would anyone pay money for a rock in a box, other than the "cool" - and pride of ownership factors? The fact that the rock came with a handbook increased the emotional attachment of the rock to the owner. The success of the mood ring was based on similar principles. The product was even able to "predict" emotion through a display of colour on the owner's hand. We all knew it was a crock, yet we all bought it. In some strange way, we became attached to the idea that the ring could actually predict or reflect our mood. The experience became personal.
Just as in selling, the most effective ads reach us through their emotional appeal. By targeting our emotions, we are able to identify with the characters in the ad. Their story becomes our own.
When I think about great ads, I think of ads that struck a key emotional chord. There was something universal and "human" to the story. Examples of ads that catered to our emotions include:
- Coke's "I'd like to teach the world to sing" (where everyone lives in a world of peace and harmony) - circa 1971
- Coke's "Mean Joe Green" Superbowl ad - circa 1979 (tagline: Have a Coke and a smile) - everyone can identify with the little kid confronting his star idol
- Apple's 1984 launch of the Macintosh computer
- Leo Burnett's ads for the Marlboro man
- Ads featuring Kelloggs' Tony the Tiger
- Pepsi's "Godfather Girl" - tagline "The Joy of Cola"
- American Express's "Don't Leave Home Without It" campaign
The key to customer awareness and engagement can be found in this simple truism...people don't buy from companies - people buy from people.
What other ad campaigns can you think of that used emotion as a way to sell the product? Do you think this is an effective way of reaching consumers? Why isn't it used more often in advertising today?