Why campaigns need to invoke strong emotions

Published: March 20, 2020 8:36:03 AM

If the consumer can experience the brand even before they walk into the store, you have already won that customer

 When a brand does evoke a powerful feeling, be it positive or negative, people don’t just listen to the brand...they experience it. When a brand does evoke a powerful feeling, be it positive or negative, people don’t just listen to the brand…they experience it.

By Ekta Relan

“I don’t care if it hurts; I’ll pay my weight in blood, to feel my nerves wake up; let me feel these highs and lows; I’m too young to feel so numb; make me feel something.” This is a song by Jaymes Young. This is telling of what the youth are experiencing. Even with so many friends and stimuli around, people have a sense of numbness — a craving to feel something real.

Brands have an opportunity to make their feeling-hungry audience ‘feel something’, something raw and real. The truth is that every message creates either a positive, negative or a neutral feeling. Neutral ones are forgetful; worse than negative. They are money eroding. Yet, most advertising is just that. However, when a brand does evoke a powerful feeling, be it positive or negative, people don’t just listen to the brand…they experience it. If the consumer can experience the brand even before they walk into the store, you have already won that customer.

Of anger and outrage

The driver of many memorable campaigns is the powerful feeling they evoked. The Liril waterfall film made you feel ‘sexy’. Dove’s most impactful work was one in which they showed confident women of all shapes and colour. Beyond its progressiveness, what the ad did is made every woman feel good about herself. What makes any campaign have such a lingering effect is the intensity of this feeling.

People today are pre-sensitive towards socio-political issues. Yet, not all brands talking about these issues are able to do it with the same success. Tata Tea Jaago Re made people feel ‘anger.’ Many social campaigns were launched post this, but we always remember this one because of this ‘anger’ we strongly felt.

While videos evoke feelings, another impactful way is ‘physical experiences’. A simple bronze statue facing the charging bull outside Wall Street evokes such a powerful feeling. No tear-jerking video, just one statute; but talk to any woman, and you will be surprised at the potency of the feeling it evokes. A billboard that said ‘Text and Drive’ with a logo of Wathan Funeral Home created a feeling of instant ‘outrage’. People went on the website to express anger, to actually find out that it was a social organisation that put up the hoarding to get people to stop texting while driving. Brands need to stop thinking of themselves as a product but as a collection of experiences.

Some brands have beautifully been consistent to that one feeling. No matter which touch point of Harley, you experience a sense of ‘freedom’. Years of content and experiences created this. Brands with such profound feeling can design a whole ecosystem around that feeling. Airbnb has the same opportunity with ‘belong’.

What’s your feeling?

Evoking an intense feeling in today’s noise is tough. But this will differentiate a strong brand. Especially now, when people are going through emptiness. The choice of the feeling a brand can own will come from the intersection between its consumers’ desires, anxieties and the brand’s passion.

Psychologist Robert Plutchik has developed a wheel of eight feelings, and then the variations of the same. This could be a good place to start. But the real beginning is when just like we ask “What is your brand’s proposition?” or, more recently, “What is your brand’s purpose?”, we now ask “What is your brand’s feeling?”. It should be at the core of every brand’s thinking.

What Maya Angelou said is true even for brands: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

The author is national planning director, Mullen Lintas

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