Consumer Goods

Selling Emotion In Advertising: The Psychology of Effective Ads

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:

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?


Second Life for Barbie

Barbie has entered the virtual world with the launch of Mattel's Chuck Scothon, General Manager and Senior Vice-President, Girls, Mattel brands, says that Mattel is "....thrilled to be the first global, virtual online world designed exclusively for girls and offer girls an unparalleled online/offline hybrid play experience."

How times have changed! The launch of has become the world's fastest growing virtual community, touting 4 million registered users to date. Registration is expected to increase with the just released Barbie Girl device, which will function as a portable MP3 player and give girls added interactivity through the website. At just 4 1/2", it's touted as one of the most exciting tech gadgets to hit the streets this year. The customizable device will hook up to computers via a USB-enabled docking station. Once hooked in, girls will be able to "hang out" in the virtual world. They can adopt pets, buy fashions, decorate their rooms, and chat with other users.

User safety has been addressed, and girls won't be able to sign in without online parental authorization. Measures have also been taken to prevent the exchange of personal information online.

The Barbie Girl device definitely represents the next generation in fashion doll play. What's interesting is the device's ability to cross over between the physical world, and the virtual one. The device incorporates all of the key benefits of interactivity to be found in the virtual world: the ability of the user to manipulate and control their experience directly, the ability to personalize an experience - and the ability to communicate with others through media.

Just imagine the implications for other products. Consumer goods and services companies have already advertised their wares on Second Life.

What's next? What about virtual communities where companies are able to offer needed products or services based on stories provided by online visitors? (last I heard, IBM was working on that one...) What about websites which take to the next level, and are able to offer you new product ideas based on your actions and lifestyle in the virtual world?

Images of my childhood Barbie doll will never be the same...