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?


Thinking About Change? Consider the Art of Possibility!

Cover_smAs the owner of a small business, I find that I'm always taking time out to source new opportunities. Too often, we get stuck in a cycle of the "same old same old" efforts, that result in the "same old" kind of results. To get different results, we have to acquire a new kind of thinking.

In the National Bestseller "The Art of Possibility", Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander outline strategies that can help change the way you think. They open our mind to new possibilities in life, and encourage us to take a second look at outdated models and assumptions that may have outlived their usefulness.

As conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, Ben has encouraged people to embrace the extraordinary, and uses storytelling to get his views across. Roz engages in The Art of Possibility from the perspective of a painter and writer, and helps people set the framework that enables their success.

The book is different from most "self help" books in one major way. It asks us to look beyond the obvious, as a way of figuring out why we're at the place we're at. A few catchphrases from the book include: "It's all invented" ("All of life comes to us in narrative form, it's a story we tell"), "Stepping Into A Universe of Possibilities" ("In the measurement world, you set a goal and strive for it. In the universe of possibility, you set the context and let life unfold"), and "Giving an A" ("We can replace the narratives that hold us back by inventing wiser stories, free from childish fears, and, in doing so, disperse long held psychological stumbling blocks").

A common thread throughout the book is the implication that we write (and live) our own stories. By changing the narrative, we can rewrite our story and get the results we strive for in life. The authors also imply that a lot of our unhappiness comes from the way we "assume" things work. By revisiting our assumptions, we can build a better model that suits our interests at the time. How many times do we base our decisions on assumptions that might not even be true?

As you strive to re-invent your business, consider The Art of Possibility. Look beyond the obvious. To quote the Zanders:

"Look around. This day, these people in your life, a baby's cry, an upcoming meeting - suddenly they seem neither good nor bad. They shine forth brilliantly as they are. Awake restored! the dream revived."