Emotions are sneaky things; they creep up on you, when you least expect them to, slipping in under your radar and catching you unawares. And guess what? There’s nothing you can do about it. Absolutely nothing. Zilch. Nada.
Our brains are genetically hardwired to analyse and react to every stimulus on a deeply emotional level, a throwback to Neanderthal times when fight or flight, hunting-gathering, mating- every decision was made by the pre-frontal cortex- the seat of emotions in our brain.
Most people believe that the choices they make result from a rational analysis of available alternatives. In reality, however, emotions greatly influence and, in many cases, even determine our decisions. Emotions have always had the upper hand in every interaction we have with the world in general, and always will. We can cry ourselves hoarse about logic and analytics and rationale, but hey, the fact remains that humans are highly emotional creatures and emotions are our cul-de-sac.
The power of these emotions and feelings makes them fantastic vehicles for deeply moving advertising. For, these emotions lunge at the cockles of our hearts, catching hold of them and refusing to let go. Social media is chock-a-block with superb examples of effective emotional marketing that hit pay dirt.
Let’s consider few outstanding ones;
The ‘Dove- Real Beauty Sketches’ campaign struck a chord with consumers, generating close to 3.8 million shares in its first month online and adding 15,000 new subscribers to Dove’s YouTube channel over the following two months. The campaign tapped into women’s feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem, generic worldwide.
It was centred around a core emotional insight that resonates with women globally. The compelling storytelling led to highly emotional moments of awareness in women everywhere. The uplifting, feel-good ad became the most shared video of all time on social media.
The 2012 ‘GoPro- ‘Fireman Saves Kitten’ is another heart-warming video that created massive buzz on social media. The emotionally charged video notched up 5 million views in a week on YouTube, even while it caught the attention of Chinese electronics giant Foxconn, which acquired an 8.88% stake in GoPro in late 2012 for $200 million. GoPro filed for an IPO in 2013.
David Abbott’s Father’s Day print ad for Chivas Regal is a perfect example of an ad that conveyed emotions so real and universal that almost everyone connected instantly with most of the things mentioned. Written from a personal perspective, and conveying a direct message from the writer to his father, it was an ad that moved consumers to the core.
The ‘Cello- Main Aur Maa’ campaign also succeeded on the premise of real emotions, skilfully conveyed. Racking up over 5 million views in four weeks, the video has warmed the cockles of many hearts.
The true-to-life incidents, the human story, the heart-warming relationship resonated deeply with both men and women, forcing them to recollect instances from their own lives and thinking about their own mothers. Not only that, it even got people to think about what they could do to make up for lost time in their most valuable relationships. That’s some advertising!
Viral ads driven by strong emotions not only garner highly-coveted social engagement for brands, but also translate into an exponential increase in sales and business. Johnnie Walker’s ‘Keep Walking Lebanon- Keep The Flame Alive’ campaign garnered it a 20% increase in market share. Under Armour’s viral campaign ‘I Will What I Want’ led to Under Armour Women’s sales lifting by an incredible 28%.
WestJet’s ‘Real-Time Giving’ campaign was a delightfully heart-warming campaign, one which catapulted the company’s sales to a massive 86% increase over the same period the previous year. Not all emotional marketing actually cuts ice with viewers. There is a catch to what makes an emotional campaign work, and what doesn’t.
Now here’s my theory on which emotional campaigns or viral videos work and which don’t:
The key to success, I believe, is its ‘authenticity’. The authenticity of the base feeling drives in most parts the success of the campaign. (I will share what constitutes the rest a little later in the article). Now what is authenticity: It’s being real, being genuine. Today, discerning viewers can detect a fake from a mile away. Emotions that are not real do not connect and are rejected outright. For emotional ads to make a mark, they must be real, they must hit a nerve and they must strike a deeply emotional chord in the viewers to actually grab their attention and leave a lasting, memorable impact.
Let me give an example of a viral video which received serious flak on the internet: the ‘Jai Hind’ video made for an online Hotels reservation brand. The high production value video including celebrity stars (Raveena Tandon and Manoj Bajpai) not withstanding, the video had misplaced emotions and in appropriate execution. The movie tried too hard and directly so.
However, the world has moved on from showing loud overdramatization and melodrama to subtle indications. I believe away from movie Kranti to say, Lagaan. There seemed to be a deliberate infusion of extra feelings and sentiments; trying hard to force people to get the message. On the other hand, watch the subtlety in Dabur Vatika video or the movie Masaan and their astounding critical acclaim.
Here’s another inauthentic one: A British rock band’s recent video ‘Hymn for the Weekend’. The video has been at the receiving end of serious online flak.
The reason being, stereotypical and archaic portrayal of India. The sadhus, the slums, the urchins, so on and so forth. India has long ceased to be the country of snake charmers. It has moved forward. It’s a new rising India. So, the Slumdog Millionaireish depiction of this India failed to establish a connection with the young, urban audience.
In short, a video, an ad or a campaign that tells a story in an authentic and compelling way is more likely to move you and stay with you for a long time, as against in-your-face hamming and copious amounts of fake sentimentality that only leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Fake emotion often results in work that is cloying, irritating or emotionally manipulative; work that rolls eyes instead of reaches hearts. Successful emotional marketing involves emotions that are raw and real, that fire the synapses in your brain and hit you square in the solar plexus, leaving you utterly, completely moved.
Now, this is my theory. I’d like to hear your views. Do write your comments and let’s discuss.