Motivation and emotion/Book/2020/Advertising and emotion

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Advertising and emotion:
What is the role of emotion in advertising?

Overview[edit | edit source]

basic emotions
Figure 1. Robert Plutchik's "Wheel of Emotions"

Psychology plays a huge part in marketing strategies, because people are able to remember commercials and products better when emotions play a part in the advertising efforts. Emotional Advertising involves strategies that aim to deliberately manipulate consumers' reactions to trigger certain emotions such as happiness, sadness, and even anger (Decker, 2018). This includes advertising of any form, including commercials, posters, and even the colours the brands use in their logos and advertising materials. Doing so often makes viewers notice, share, and eventually purchase the product advertised.

What is emotional advertising?[edit | edit source]

In the past, people recognised six core emotions namely, happy, surprised, afraid, disgusted, angry, and sad. In 214[say what?], the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology publish a research [awkward expression?] where they stated that human emotions is[grammar?] based on just four basic emotions: happy, sad, afraid/surprised, and angry/disgusted[factual?]. The idea is that every other emotion fits into these four basic emotions. Figure 1 shows Robert Plutchik's "Wheel of Emotions", which illustrates that certain emotions could be grouped together, much like a color spectrum. For example, 'annoyance' can fall under 'anger', while 'boredom' can be grouped with 'disgust'.

Emotional Advertising or Emotional Marketing refers to the advertising and/or marketing strategy that fundamentally use emotions as the driving force of their campaigns, to hopefully make their audiences notice, remember, share, and eventually consume their products (Decker, 2018).

What is the role of emotions in advertising?[edit | edit source]

[Provide more detail]

Advertising and psychology[edit | edit source]

How a person feels has an important connection to whether or not he or she will respond to what he sees. It is for this reason that the subject of feeling is a major operative factor in advertising (Gill, 2013). Feelings are either pleasurable or painful, and such feelings elicit a response from the person. According to the book "Advertising and Psychology (RLE Advertising)" by Gill (2013), proficient writing of advertisements is often based on a psychological sequence. First, the advertisement writer must first be able to grab the attention of its target audience before he seeks to capture their interest. Third[say what?], the advertiser must be able to make the consumers deliberate and reflect by giving them reasons to buy the product with conviction, hopefully leading to decision and resolve.

Emotion is a necessary component of decision-making. Studies have shown that the most shared ads are those that are based on emotional content ("Top ten brands that connect emotionally with consumers", 2019). Another study conducted by the University of Southern California found that people with poor functioning in the limbic system, the emotional region of their brain as seen in Figure 2, have the ability to think critically, but are unable to make decisions. Their explanation to this was that such people knew what had to be done, but had zero understanding of how they felt about the different choices presented to them (as cited in "Top ten brands that connect emotionally with consumers", 2019). This shows that our decisions are heavily determined by the way we perceive emotions. A study cited in the same article mentioned above shows that positive emotions are more likely to drive viewers to like and share, compared to negative emotions. Concurrently, advertisements that elicit sadness and contains words with negative connotations tend to generate more clicks. A good balance between both positive and negative feelings would make for a very successful marketing campaign[factual?].

Consumer behaviour[edit | edit source]

A study found that if a brand is able to establish an emotional connection with consumers, it will be able to significantly increase its annual revenue (Brinkley, 2012). This is because emotionally-attached consumers purchase significantly more than regular customers do, which in turn allows the company to stay away from holding promotions and discounts to generate more revenue. Thus, Brinkley (2012) concluded that emotional branding is a much better predictor of purchasing behaviour.

In an article on Psychology Today, Murray (2013) wrote that functional magnetic resonance imaging or fMRI shows that consumers primarily use emotions, instead of information, when evaluating brands. He further stated that researchers in advertising have revealed that a consumer's emotional response to an ad has a much greater influence on their reported intent to buy the product versus the actual content of the advertisement, by a 3:1 factor for television commercials and a 2:1 for print advertisements. Furthermore, his study has shown that a consumer's positive emotions and attitude towards a brand makes for a better sense of consumer loyalty than does trust and other factors based on a brand's credits. Furthermore, the reason why consumers are willing to pay more for brand-name products, even if there are much cheaper generic alternatives, is because those who are able to nationally advertise their products have more power in the marke place, as it is able to develop an emotional connection to their consumer. A great example of this is Dove's "Real Beauty Sketches" campaign.

Case study

Dove's "Real Beauty Sketches" campaign is a video that features a forensic artist who draws a group of women from behind a curtain. He draws these women based on each women's self-description of her appearance, then he draws them again based on a stranger's description of the same women. In the end, it showed that the sketches based on the strangers' perspectives resulted in a more accurate and favorable portraits than those that were solely based on each woman's self depreciating[spelling?] descriptions of themselves (Lehr, 2016). Dove's inclusive, no-nonsense commercial focused on ensuring every woman feels beautiful. In effect, this puts their product in a very positive light covering many emotions such as acceptance, serenity, optimism, and self-love. As of writing, the video has more than 69 million views on YouTube[link?].

Strategies[edit | edit source]

According to Decker (2018), the first and crucial strategy in emotional marketing is to know your audience. Knowing your audience allows you to decide on which emotion(s) to target in order to elicit the most beneficial response. Secondly, advertisers should lead with colour, as emotions and colours are closely interrelated, and colour plays a big role in evoking emotions. A wide variety of businesses and organisations use colour psychology. In the same way that directors use certain colour schemes in movie scenes to elicit emotions of fear, hope, love, etc., brands use colours to evoke feelings from their consumers. Take into consideration the Coca-Cola red or the Starbucks green. Coca-Cola's red colour evokes strong feelings such as love, excitement, and joy, as well as positive, friendly energy. On the other hand, the colour green Starbucks is known for, is often associated with harmony , nature, and growth, which are all components of the brand, as well as the “green” movement.

Moreover, a successful emotional campaign is able to tell a story. Storytelling ha become a very popular technique for increasing the emotional power of advertising, because humans tend to store information in the form of stories and narratives[grammar?]. As stories stimulate consumers' reactions, they also subconsciously combine these stories with their own personal experiences. Thus, storytelling is thought to be a very effective way to deliver messages and promote communication, especially in advertising. Lastly, emotional campaigns must be able to create a sense of movement or community and inspire the impossible (Kang, Hong & Hubbard, 2018). Positive feelings of camaraderie and acceptance allow consumers to create a sense of loyalty to the brand, and the feelings of aspiration and inspiration move audiences to dream and reach their goals. A perfect example is Proctor & Gamble's "Thank You Mom" campaign that aired before the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

Case study

P&G's 2014 "Thank You Mom" campaign featured many famous Olympians and the real stories of how each of their mothers supported them throughout their athletic journey. P&G's main target audience are mothers, so this ad was a perfect way to elicit emotions from their consumers by both telling a poignant story and marketing their many products (Decker, 2018).

How are emotions used in advertising?[edit | edit source]

[Provide more detail]

Happy[edit | edit source]

Advertisers often want to associate their brands with smiles, laughter, love, and fun. Aside from it being the most common emotion used in advertisements, positive ads often receive excellent customer engagement and make for extremely shareable content. By eliciting happy emotions from their audiences, brands are more likely to affect their buying decisions in a good way. One example is Android's "Friends Furever" campaign.

Case study

To promote their latest phone, Google's Android used this video campaign to feature pairs of animals that were very unlikely pairs and were very cute to watch. As of 2015, the ad has garnered over 30 million YouTube views, and was 2015's most watched and shared ad of all time ("DSIM- Digital Marketing Blog", 2017).

In addition, Coca-Cola's 2015 "Choose Happiness" campaign is a great example to show how brands use emotions to connect with their audience. The campaign itself inspired customers to share their own happy memories and experiences from that summer.

Sad[edit | edit source]

Perhaps one of the more popular types of emotional advertising is "sadvertising" or using the emotion of sadness in marketing. While it is not necessary for sad ads to make viewers cry or shed a few tears, they should be able to move a something deep inside the viewer that would inspire them to act on what they have just watched. MetLife Hong Kong produced this heartbreaking ad in 2015.

Case study

MetLife Hong Kong produced a sad and heartbreaking ad featuring a daughter and a father who is attempting to lead a better life to better care for his family. In the beginning, the daughter first describes all the things that she loves about her dad. Further into the video, the story is broken down when she also started to describe all the lies that exist in the relationship between her and her father. The commercial ends with the tagline “A child’s future is worth every sacrifice,” which at the same time places the ad in the position to connect with the brand's target audience: parents who’d do anything to provide for their children ("Top ten brands that connect emotionally with consumers", 2019).

Afraid/Surprised[edit | edit source]

Fear is a natural instinct, and it helps us react appropriately when we feel threatened. Although fear seems like a negative emotion, it is a positive marketing tool, mostly to be able to build consumer loyalty. Fear creates a sense of urgency, and prompts people to research and take action. A lot of "scare-vertising" tactics can be seen in commercials discouraging drunk driving, and bad habits such as cigarette smoking, and alcohol and/or drug abuse. A famous brand that connects with their audience through fear is the World Wildlife Fund. They have a notable ad to raise awareness for climate change.

Case study

The World Wildlife Fund is known for their controversial and fear-inducing photos. The company aims to raise awareness about the effects of climate change, and their photos are great examples of visual content that can be used in social media marketing. The idea behind their images is that if nothing is done about climate change now, it will greatly affect our direct descendants and future generations ("Top ten brands that connect emotionally with consumers", 2019).

Angry/Disgusted[edit | edit source]

Brands use anger to encourage people to resolve important circumstances and rethink their perspectives. They want to show situations in which it is possible to do something to change for the better. A remarkable, award-winning ad that demonstrates this is Always' "Like a Girl" campaign.

Case study

Always, a feminine hygiene brand, launched their empowering "Like a Girl" campaign six years ago. The ad's title is taken from the famous offense that is used against women, in efforts to attract more attention and encourage women to share their own stories. This particular campaign strived to exploit and hopefully get rid of the term " a girl". In the ad, they ask the question, "What is it mean to do something 'like a girl'?" Always successfully turned the insulting phrase into a very powerful and empowering movement that not only brought the company an increase in revenue and immense popularity to their brand, it also won an Emmy, a Cannes Grand Prix Award, and the Grand Clio award, which is a recognition that is unprecedented in the advertising industry (Decker, 2018).

In 2012, Metro Australia launched their "Dumb Ways to Die" campaign.

Case study

The "Dumb Ways to Die" campaign for train safety uses comics and a catchy song to evoke humour, disgust, and despair. The video ad is a great play on cartoons and emotions, because it starts out as an innocent, catchy, almost-childish tune accompanied by cartoons, but it also depicts different instances of despair, some of which are borderline gory if not for the comic illustrations ("Top ten brands that connect emotionally with consumers", 2019). This ad has received worldwide reception and as of writing, has over 198 million views on YouTube.

Does emotional advertising work?[edit | edit source]

[Provide more detail]

Advertising effectiveness[edit | edit source]

The easiest way to explain why emotional marketing works is simply because people feel. In one way or another, as human beings, we are capable of experiencing emotions. Another reason this type of marketing works is that it leaves lasting first impressions. When one is presented with two advertisements on the same product, with one having the ability to elicit a certain type of emotion and the other plainly just talked about the product, chances are the advertisement that made you feel would stand out more in your head (Decker, 2018). In the first Australian Advertising Effectiveness Rules report, it was revealed that emotional campaigns are more powerful for brands over the long run (Murphy, 2019).

Another reason why emotional advertising has proven to be effective is that it makes great first impressions. Because these first impressions are formed within a matter of seconds, emotions can help shape that impression and make that product stand out in your mind. Another factor that plays into the effectiveness of this marketing approach is that emotional marketing actually motivates consumers to act based on their emotional decision. For example, happiness makes consumers share. Studies show that on social media, photos and videos that spread much faster are those with good news and positive connotations[factual?]. When we see someone who is happy, we tend to reflect that same emotion, and then leads us to the content that made us smile. Sadness on the other hands make us empathise and connect, which then leads to the inspiration to give and share.

A 2007 study shows that feelings of empathy move people to be more altruistic and have that motivation to act on behalf of other people. Surprise and fear makes consumers cling to what is comfortable, and in emotional marketing, that comfortability leads to increased brand loyalty. Studies have shown that inducing fear in audiences allows a brand to be seen as the "one good thing in the world", and will make consumers feel that the brand is very reliable when things go bad. Lastly, anger and disgust makes people stubborn. This stubbornness is to the brand's advantage, as it most often leads to loyal followers and viral content. Much like happiness, another strong emotion, anger and disgust, also inspires people to share the content, which leads to a wider audience reach (Decker, 2018).

Brand performance[edit | edit source]

Out of 1,400 successful advertising campaigns, it was found that those with purely emotional content performed almost twice as well as those that only focused on rational content (Decker, 2018). Data from an article published by Mulloy (2015) shows that consumers are more drawn to ads that trigger warmth, inspiration, and happiness. Furthermore, a study cited in the same article stated that emotional campaigns outperform on almost every measurement, including profitability. It suggests that around 70% of viewers who had an intense emotional response to such ad led to an increased possibility of buying the product. A good example is NRMA Insurance's "Help Is Who We Are" campaign.

Case study

In 2018, NRMA Insurance shifted its entire marketing approach from product and retail to pure branding. They brought back their "Help" campaign where they featured stories of real-life heroes who help the community, believing that in doing so, they will be able to shift the policy inquiries into much more meaningful conversations. During the first major crises in early 2020, the Australian bushfires, and eventually COVID-19, NRMA Insurance was able to use their "Help" campaign to showcase stories of Australians helping others in a way that made their content the centre of national conversation. As a result, NRMA Insurance was able to play a role in helping people feel more connected within their community ("How NRMA Insurance strengthened their Brand Promise using Real Stories of Help", 2019). Furthermore, NRMA was able to reverse its eight years of decline, as this campaign delivered substantial business impact and customer acquisition. On top of it all, the "Help" campaign has become the 2019 Gold Effie winner, arguing that the campaign is a great example of stimulating the emotional power of a brand through connecting on a deeper, more personal, and a much more empathetic level (Murphy, 2019).

Quiz[edit | edit source]

Test yourself!
Select the correct answer and press "submit"

1 There are 4 basic emotions used in emotional marketing.


2 Happiness is a positive marketing tool to increase brand loyalty.


Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Emotional marketing plays a huge part in brand name retention and consumer behaviour. Studies throughout this chapter has[grammar?] shown that emotional content in advertisements play a bigger role in a consumer's buying decision than does informational content. Emotional marketing uses the four basic emotions happiness, sadness, fear/sadness, and anger/disgust to evoke responses from audiences. Different types of emotions tap into different types of consumer response, depending on the advertiser's goal. Studies have consistently shown that ads that have strong, positive content, such as happiness, appeal to a much larger audience, and tend to be more shareable. On the other end of the spectrum, another strong emotion such as anger tends to make viewers more stubborn, leading to more engagement in likes and comments, allowing brands to grow a loyal following and more often than not, viral content. Meanwhile, ads that elicit sadness drives audiences to empathise, and those that elicit fear drives consumers to trust the brand more as they are seen as the only positive light, and creates a mental imagery that when things take a turn for the worse, the brand can be very reliable in helping them out.

References[edit | edit source]

Brinkley, C. (2012). Australian research: Consumers are emotionally attached to brands – Econsultancy. Retrieved from

Decker, A. (2018). The Ultimate Guide to Emotional Marketing. Retrieved from,to%20elicit%20a%20consumer%20response

DSIM- Digital Marketing Blog. (2017). Retrieved from

Gill, L. (2013). Advertising and Psychology (RLE Advertising) (pp. 107-111). Hoboken: Taylor and Francis.

How NRMA Insurance strengthened their Brand Promise using Real Stories of Help. (2019). Retrieved from

Kang, J., Hong, S., & Hubbard, G. (2019). The role of storytelling in advertising: Consumer emotion, narrative engagement level, and word‐of‐mouth intention. Journal Of Consumer Behaviour, 19(1), 47-56. doi: 10.1002/cb.1793

Lehr, A. (2017). The Role of Emotions in Shareable Content: An Analysis of 100 Viral Reddit Images. Retrieved from

Mulloy, T. (2015). From Cause Marketing To Sound-Off Ads: Here Are The Top Content Trends Of 2015 - Unruly. Retrieved from

Murphy, P. (2019). Advertising effectiveness: the power of emotional brand building - AdNews. Retrieved from

Murray, P. (2013). How Emotions Influence What We Buy. Retrieved from

Oetting, J. (2019). Emotional Advertising: How Brands Use Feelings to Get People to Buy. Retrieved from

Top ten brands that connect emotionally with consumers. (2019). Retrieved from,to%20connect%20with%20the%20public

External Links[edit | edit source]