Why Ads Make Us Feel the Way We Do

Advertising is a curious mix of fact and emotion. But while facts are easy to come by and measure, marketers have always struggled to measure the emotion customers feel for their products. While an advertisement that presents a list of facts about why a given product is superior will often fall flat, what works is an advertisement that leaves people feeling good about themselves.

Beer companies can tell us about the quality of the mountain water used in the brewing process or adherence to Bavarian standards, but when it comes down to it, what matters more is that we are part of a group that loves to sing and dance on cruise ships with exotic passengers. We are the life of the party. We are the most interesting men in the world. We don’t just like a particular brand of beer, we have an emotional connection to it.

Similarly, Lincoln’s “The feeling stays with you” is pure emotion. Paired with an elegantly-dressed Matthew McConaughey, the commercials tell us very little about the mechanics of the automobile. Rather, they are designed to appeal to our wants and needs. McConaughey, in the commercials, always appears supremely confident and successful. He is portrayed as a man who knows what he wants, and gets it. Yes, we want to feel like that. That’s what the campaign is all about.

Why the facts don’t always work

New and innovative products are often short-lived, and marketing based on a technical advantage will be relevant only until your competitor adds that same advantage, and your product becomes just another basic commodity. Facts only go so far before they become irrelevant in a crowded marketplace. Emotions are forever. “Many industries see tepid growth at best. Traditional approaches that build brand awareness and customer satisfaction have become short-lived and commoditized,” said Scott Magids, CEO of Motista, which provides predictive intelligence that allows companies to activate the emotional connection that exists between brands and consumers. “We’ve always known that consumers are fundamentally motivated by their emotions. This is a universal truth. We believe that if we can help businesses more systematically connect with their consumers’ emotions and connect with their deepest motivations, that customer value and loyalty would increase.”

Measuring the facts – and creating campaigns that are driven purely by those facts – doesn’t sell soap. “All of us as humans are principally motivated by our emotions, and the preponderance of our decision-making is irrational,” said Magids. “We want to have an escape from the complexities of everyday life. We want indulgences. We want to feel accepted. All of us have those emotional motivations as part of our makeup. What affects the brands, is that they are able to understand and activate those emotions across all of the different touchpoints they have with their customers.”

Measuring emotion

Historically, marketers have always believed in the power of emotion, but it may have taken years to develop a true understanding through qualitative research on how to motivate peoples’ behavior based on those emotions.

How is it that Dos Equis understood that we want to be interesting? Heineken got that we want to be admired? Lincoln knew that we want to be self-confident? That Philip Morris (now Altria Group) knew, in the 1960s and 1970s, that women wanted to feel modern and liberated, and came up with the “You’ve come a long way, baby” tagline?

Well-known methods of measuring satisfaction, like the Net Promoter Score, do provide insight – but still don’t measure the emotional connection, and they don’t bring the insights marketers need to come up with brilliant emotion-driven campaigns. “At its fundamental level, Net Promoter is still about ‘how do you like me,’ said Magids. “Emotional connection is about, ‘what do we do for you.’”

Successful marketing isn’t just finding the right audience and communicating the value and features of your product, the ultimate goal is to connect with your audience on an emotional level – making them feel like part of a community. Making them feel happy and good about themselves. New metrics, driven by big data, specialized analytics today are allowing marketers to fine-tune their emotional appeals.

Marketers have traditionally used surveys and focus groups, which analyze customers on a spectrum of “dissatisfied” on one end, and “highly satisfied” on the other, but this approach only measures functional benefits and overlooks that emotional connection. According to Magids, there is a big difference between a “highly satisfied” customer and an emotionally connected one. “When we talk about the emotional connection, we’re talking about how the brand transcends those functional benefits, and actually connects with the deepest and most important, intrinsic motivations of a customer. Helping a customer feel better about their family. Helping them stand out socially. Having more confidence in the future,” said Magids. “What we have found is that when a brand goes beyond ‘highly satisfied,’ they set a new bar.”

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