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We can’t make any decision without our emotions


Most organisations are good at communicating facts rather than emotions. Yet it is emotions and not facts that drive our behaviour. Getting the right balance between rational versus emotional positioning is an important task at the heart of many of Think Communications' current client projects.

In this guest blog, creative brand strategist Richard Gillingwater asks: "Why do we keep ignoring emotions in marketing?"

Whilst marketers understand the role emotions play in buying habits, as an industry we have become far better and biased towards communicating facts than emotions. Yet it is emotions and not facts that drive our behaviour. KFC recently announced a dramatic shift in the focus of their campaigns to a more emotive message.

“Almost all advertising is not emotional, but people make decisions emotionally, not rationally,” “We need to connect with people emotionally through advertising and not through reason.”
KFC’s CMO David Timm 2015

Big brands have instinctively understood the need to communicate through emotional messages for a long time. However, we can now evidence this through recent developments in neuroscience, but many brands and marketers still pursue functional messages.

“Despite many marketers' belief that a brand's emotional benefits are important to consumers, nearly two-thirds of brand messages focus on the brand's rational/functional elements.”
Association of National Advertising

So why is this?

In the recent 'Like a Girl' campaign from Always, leading brand of feminine care products, the phrase 'like a girl' demonstrates how a phrase can carry a negative connotation which influences our thoughts and behaviours. The video shows how the term ‘like a girl’ has to mean weak and fluffy.



The same negative connation exists with the word emotion. We say someone is being ‘emotional’ to mean they have lost control, not thinking straight. Headlines such as the recent one in Marketing Week titled ‘Fluffy and weak – what CFOs think of marketers’ compounds and highlights this perception. Therefore when we talk about emotions we also bring into mind this negative association. So who would want to walk into the boardroom and look fluffy and weak by talking about emotions?

But things change and slowly people are becoming happier talking about emotions in the same breath as ROI and impact as evidence builds around the science and as marketers use this tactic more to connect with their audience.

When Dove’s Real Beauty sketches campaign went viral, it gathered nearly 30 million views in ten days. Additionally, it single-handedly added more than 15,000 YouTube subscribers to Dove’s channel over the following two months, not to mention substantial increases in followers on Twitter and Facebook. At the heart of this campaign was its ability to tap into an emotional connection that drove people’s behaviour.

With 5.3 trillion display ads shown online each year, and daily 400 million tweets sent, 144,000 hours of YouTube video uploaded, and 4.75 billion pieces of content shared on Facebook, we need to be creating marketing which can cut through the noise and break marketing boundaries.

In an analysis of the IPA dataBANK, which contains 1,400 case studies of successful advertising campaigns, those with purely emotional content performed nearly twice as well (31% vs. 16%) as those with only rational content. There is endless evidence that shows that emotions drive behaviour yet we ignore this.

Get emotional

Antonio Damasio who's a Professor of Neuroscience at USC puts it simply: “We can’t make any decision without our emotion”. Read it again and the conclusion is simple - content needs emotion to drive behaviour. In today’s society, little emotion means little impact.

So how do you keep creativity flowing and avoid becoming short sighted?

Turn off the block between emotions and marketing. Throw out any negatives associated with showing those emotions. Use the feeling behind your brand to make your audience feel connected, understood and emotionally moved.

Richard Gillingwater is an associate of Think Communications and works at Accrue Fulton.

Julie Kangisser