MT Expert's Ten Top Tips: Secrets of emotionally effective advertising

Here's how to get more bang for your buck from advertising spend. The Government may want to take note...

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Last Updated: 13 Sep 2010
Since becoming Prime Minister, David Cameron has slashed the UK government’s advertising budget by 50% as part of its austerity efforts. In large part, the savings have come from cutting jobs, dumping the Change4Life healthful-living campaign, and shifting from TV and print advertising toward more online marketing to reduce costs. But given that a variety of studies over the years indicate that only about 15% of advertising works well, the Central Office of Information (COI) might get more bang-for-its-pound not only by reining in spending, but it might also want to consider adhering to these rules from advertising expert Dan Hill.

1. Get physical
Sight and sound are fine, but over-used. Leverage the sensory dimensions of feel, touch and taste to create more intimacy and differentiation.  Remember: the brain originated with the sense of smell. So Descartes got it wrong: instead of ‘I think, therefore I am,’ it's more like, ‘I have the capacity to smell, therefore I feel/think and will buy your product’.

2. Keep it simple
You've got three seconds to connect. The joke that has to be explained is never as funny as the joke you just get. Consumers feeling confused (because of verbose claims, i.e., message-itis) is a much more common occurrence than anybody in marketing wants to admit, making frustration marketing's hidden emotional cancer. Use the visual to connect, with crisply focused text providing the intellectual alibi or reason to believe.

3. Keep it close to home
Generate likeability and preference through familiarity. Most advertising only has time to echo the story already in your head and heart. Out-of-the-box ad agency ideas risk not connecting with the target market’s emotional sweet spot, so be bold but wise. What's intellectually complicated merely becomes emotionally obscure in a 30-second TV spot.

4. Focus on faces
The face is the center of our being, the barometer of a person’s health and beauty. It's also how we evaluate whether we like somebody, and the place to check if we distrust what we’re being told. Fake smiles don't fool us; everybody's a natural facial coder. For instance, ‘surprise’ that lasts for more than a second isn’t genuinely felt surprise; it's canned, another case of ‘spin’ and is intuitively rejected. Our results show that the casting alone can account for a 30% swing in consumers’ emotional response to an execution that is otherwise identical in format and messaging.

5. Make It memorable
Ad agencies too often set a pace that feels like a blur to consumers. Their clients can meanwhile be foolishly blind to the need for an ad that achieves an emotional peak. People notice change; a solution where the ‘pain’ of the status quo isn’t conveyed adequately means the solution isn't perceived as valuable and the storyline just drones on.

6. Relevancy drives connection
‘Us’ and ‘me’ is everything; attachment and self-esteem are the motivations that work best. Differentiation from rivals doesn't by itself deliver anything on behalf of your target market. In Latin, the words ‘motivation’ and ‘emotion’ have the same root, i.e., to move, to make something happen. Without emotional engagement, you're dead.

7. Always sell hope
Meaningfulness is the key to sustained happiness. Create a powerful context, a way to enhance confidence and security, or else you’re merely selling a product or service instead. When we're happy we embrace a branded offer, and are inspired to solve problems at a clip that's as much as 20%faster (with superior results). In other words, happiness isn't ‘soft’.

8. Don't lead with price
Price has only to be heard to be pigeon-holed, short-circuiting the emotional connection. In contrast, value gets assessed over time, based on the build-up of brand associations and experience of the offer. Make money by building a relationship. Loyalty is a feeling, after all, and when it comes to price it depends on overcoming people’s natural aversion (disgust) about surrendering cash to purchase a company's goods.

9. Mirror the target market's values
Yes, there are the brief, immediate emotional reactions that happen in response to experiencing an advertising execution.  But richer results come from evoking emotions that nourish brand equity through projecting a compelling brand personality and enshrining values that echo what the target market accepts and can embrace. Most companies merely talk to themselves, thinking the offer is the hero, when the consumer’s heart is where the real action is.

10. Believability sticks
Arguing through statistics is the least persuasive type of advertising. Visual analogies and cause/effect ads work because we intuitively believe the story and imagery. That enables us to believe the tale, not the teller, which is essential to ad effectiveness because too often these days corporate credibility is on life support.


Dan Hill, Ph.D., is the president of Sensory Logic and author of About Face: The Secrets of Emotionally Effective Advertising, published on September 3 by Kogan Page.

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