Media and Technology

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?


Selling Your Story: The Art and Science of Media Coverage

Tminthenewsteaser_2Selling your organization's story to the media involves a combination of both art and science. It's an art because you have to find a creative way to capture the attention of people who are bombarded with similar messages on a daily basis. How your message is crafted is also important, so design is key.

The scientific part is nothing new to selling. Selling is a numbers game, and the more qualified people you contact, the better the chance of getting your message out there.

So...what can you do to increase media coverage for your company?

1) Do your research. Figure out who you'd like to reach, then contact the editors of media outlets and publications who cater to this demographic. For example, if you produce a cool new line of outdoor furniture suitable for cottagers, contact publications geared to cottage owners to see if they might do a feature article or review on your furniture. You could also contact your local TV station to see if they might cover your product on a morning show. Keep in mind that many media outlets plan for events well in advance, so get in there early to be sure your message is a timely and seasonal one.

2) Tell an engaging story. Everyone loves a good story, including the media. A well told story that has both rational and emotional appeal will catch the eye of the media. Let them know why your story would be of interest to their readers, and how it would help them maintain their profile as providers of innovative and engaging content.

3) Look into both traditional and non-traditional forms of media. Today, virtually everyone offers online editions of print publications, and if someone doesn't publish your story in print, they may well accommodate in their online edition.

4) Get to the right person. Journalists are very busy people. If you sell design services, don't bother the editor of an antiques magazine. Unless you design a cool new system for antique dealers.

5) Make it personal. How has your product or service impacted your life (or the lives of others), and why would it interest someone else's audience?

6) Be persistent. Calvin Coolidge once said that nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Selling a story is a numbers game, and the more times up to bat, the better the chance of scoring that home run.

7) Don't forget to follow up. The world is littered with people who take great pains to design campaigns, and then don't follow up.

So go out there - and sell your story. Let your voice be heard!

What techniques have you used to successfully sell your story to the media? What worked - and what didn't? Why?

Marshall McLuhan Had A Point

Media and technology visionary Marshall McLuhan frequently spoke about the effects of digital technology on people. To McLuhan, what mattered wasn't so much the type of media used, as was the effect a specific type of media had on people. If the "medium was the message," then how that message was delivered drew on elements from psychology, sociology and technology.

The effects of technology on people and their corresponding interactions were discussed in a book written by Stanford Professors Byron Reeves and Clifford Nass called "The Media Equation: How People Treat Computers, Television, and New Media Like Real People and Places." Through their research, Reeves and Nass concluded that people respond to technology in the same social and natural way that they respond to the real world. In many cases, the human brain processes media as if they were real life (in other words, people interacted with media in much the same way as they interacted with humans). They conclude by recommending that engineers follow the media equation and use it to improve the design of computers, so that they are more effective in performing human to media interaction.

A recent Toronto Star article by Philip Marchand entitled "Why print is still king, amid the multimedia din", discussed the topic of electronic data versus print, and how humans instinctively see electronic data as 'unstable' or 'nervous.' According to Professor Katherine Hayles of UCLA, books are artifacts whose physical properties structure the way we read. While she claims that "there's a reason that print has reigned supreme for 500 years," she concludes that the web offers a different experience. The fact that the reader now becomes an "interactor" means that they must navigate a website. The process can often be a frustrating one as people are apt to suddenly lose information, without the ability to recover it. This has perceptive and cognitive implications due to changes in our sensory input (ie. the reader senses the text as being highly unstable or nervous, and they may become suspicious as to what's really going on).

And now back to McLuhan's point. As Christopher Horrocks explained in his book "Marshall McLuhan and Virtuality"..."For many, his name is synonymous with his phrase 'the medium is the message.' In other words, the content of media is less important than the impact of each medium at social, psychological and sensory levels."

Professor Hayles would agree. As content providers of websites, she encourages reporters and editors to consider site navigation. She urges "serious discussions between Web designers, marketers and content providers, who should make sure that the Web design furthers their intellectual goals for the site."

That's good advice for business. Effective websites are designed with the users end goal in mind. They are also designed to provide an optimal customer experience.

Marshall McLuhan, you had a point.