11 / Apr / 17

The Power of Emotional Advertising

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It’s not unheard of that emotions play a significant role in effective advertising campaigns.

Studies have shown that people depend on emotions, instead of facts, to make brand decisions -- and those emotional reactions to ads are more powerful on a person’s intent to purchase than the content of an ad.

In many instances, we engage or disengage with brands based on our past experiences, genetic traits and personality. Some of us might be drawn to the ‘adopt a child’ ad more than another group. But, all humans strive to find significance and importance in what we see, and there is undeniably a universality to how we respond to common circumstances like a loss of someone, a determination to do better, a yearning to gain more. That’s why brands create advertisements that resonate with the viewers on an emotional level.

Traditionally, people have recognized six core emotions: happiness, surprised, afraid, disgusted, anger, and sadness. However, in 2014, the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology published a study stating that the discrepancy between four of these emotions were based on social interactions and constructs. Instead, human emotion is based on four rudimentary emotions: happy, sad, fear, and anger/disgust.

Based on these four categories, let’s look at how brands are using emotions to drive connection and responsiveness:


Brands want to be related with smiling, giggling, happy consumers, and positivity has been shown to increase sharing and engagement. A study carried out in 2010 of the most-emailed New York Times articles discovered that emotional articles were shared more frequently, and positive posts were shared more than negative ones.


Sadness is used to suggest a sense of sympathy or compassion. Ads like these can be effective at drawing awareness to social matters.


Fear is often positioned to discourage people from damaging behaviors, such as smoking or drug abuse. A lot of scare-vertising campaigns can be seen in commercials to prevent drunk driving and cigarette smoking. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is one brand known for its debatable and fear-inducing imagery.

Anger & Disgust

The majority of people think that it is best to sidestep anger -- it’s a negative emotion that will cause negative suggestions. But in some cases, anger can wake people up and trigger action. We become mad when we see another person hurt or an inequality. Disgust can be used to make people feel bad about themselves in an effort to sell medications, diet plans, and “miracle” therapies.

Regardless of the sought after reaction to advertising, the first step is to form a link in consumers’ minds between the memories left by the ad and the brand. To do so an ad must emphasis attention on the brand and the preferred impression at the time of viewing. If that occurs, the memories left will be readily accessible for contemplation when people think about the brand, and the ad will have the potential to affect behavior weeks, months, and even years later. If that relationship is not set up, the investment in content development and media spend will have been squandered.

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