Recently I was asked through a journalist query about the new trend of brands understanding the great value of associating their products or ideas with positive emotions in order to persuade audiences, customers, voters, etc. You might think this concept is intuitive and age-old, but marketers are always looking for new names for old ideas—that is called “re-branding,” right?
Emotional branding coupled with compelling storytelling proves to be particularly effective and even more engaging as the “seller” has an even greater chance of connecting with a “buyer” through common experience hooks. Storytelling is key—people relate to life stories, much more so than content that features or promotes a product. When it comes to online video advertisements, which people have a choice to view, or skip, they would rather be told a story they can relate to than have products pushed at them.
Emotional storytelling and branding campaigns have historically been the most successful as they tap into our primal emotional needs for survival or feeling good about our decisions and ourselves. Our central brain limbic system processes images, and all sensory stimuli almost instantaneously and advertisers presenting commercial images that resonate with our basic needs always win the branding race.
If you show a smiling face on TV or hear laughing on audio media, your first reaction is to pull up memories of your own positive reactions. If those positive reactions are associated with a product or idea, of course you will initially have good associations with what the advertiser is selling. The powerful results from using emotions to brand products are that the connections happen so quickly—even before we process the persuasion at our cognitive level. In reality, we are convinced before we really have time to think about a choice.
If you eventually decide to dispute the theme of the ad, you have to have really compelling new information to do so because you really have to overcome that crucial first impression. And we all know how hard it is to overcome first impressions, to do so is really arguing with oneself.
So, go for the emotional branding target. It’s been the most successful way to persuade an audience since the first human mother smiled at her baby and the baby smiled back, without thinking at all.
Guest contributor Scott Sobel, MA Media Psychology, is president of Media & Communications Strategies, Inc., a Washington, DC-based public relations firm.