Without emotion, all communications are simply reduced to words and pictures. Connecting the proper emotion with your marketing message is vital in determining what and to whom you’re selling. Usually, it’s no game, but for the sake of this article, which of these do you identify with as an advertiser and a consumer?
Below are the 10 most common emotional stimuli used in advertising and specifically how marketers use them to sell their products and services.
- Fear: Advertisers use it to scare consumers into spending money to protect their families, homes, health and emotional well being. It’s most effective when brands offer a specific recommendation for overcoming the fear – for example, deodorant ads. More subtle examples prey on people’s fear of abandonment, promising a certain product will make them find love, feel love or be more lovable (dating services, for instance).
- Guilt: A study by Coulter and Pinto found the strongest, most blatant appeals to guilt generated a sense of guilt in mothers, but also made them angry. Their anger influenced their attitudes toward the ad, brand and marketer. Ads that appeal to guilt often stimulate a sense of guilt, motivating people to purchase products or services. But anger interferes with this effect and Coulter and Pinto recommend those who use guilt should do so sparingly – “just enough to get attention and encourage action, but not enough to generate anger.”
- Trust: Every business depends on the trust of its clients and maintaining that trust is paramount to the relationship. Financial services and life insurance are prime examples of industries that use trust to convey their messages.
- Allegiance: People like belonging and marketers know how to take advantage of our need to fit in. Consumers are invited to join a “community,” follow a marketer on Facebook or Twitter and encouraged to maintain their allegiance through innovative customer loyalty programs (airlines, hotels, restaurants, department stores, etc.).
- Competition: Advertisers often create a buying frenzy through aggressive pricing coupled with limited supply and a deadline restriction. This should sound familiar: “Big screen TV, now only $399. But hurry because supplies are limited. Offer ends soon.”
- Sense of achievement: Nowadays everything has to be fast; and we all want immediate gratification. And nothing works better than focusing on intrinsic motivation. Dieters, for example, are more likely to be intrinsically motivated if they attribute their weight loss results to internal factors they can control (e.g. the amount of effort they put in) and believe they can effectively reach their desired goals (i.e. the results are not determined by luck). Weight loss centers and health clubs focus on consumers’ desire for immediate results coupled with their sense of achievement.
- Trend-setting: Just ask best selling author Malcolm Gladwell about how trends work. “The Tipping Point” opens with Hush Puppies – once a dying brand brought back from the brink in 1994 by New York hipsters, then fashionistas who began rediscovering them. Within two years, sales of Hush Puppies had exploded by a stunning 5,000%, without a penny spent on advertising. All because, as Gladwell puts it, “a tiny number of superinfluential types began wearing the shoes.” Reach those rare, all-powerful folks and you’ll reach everyone else through them, basically for free. Loosely, this is referred to as the Influentials theory and while it has been a marketing touchstone for 50 years, it has recently reentered the mainstream imagination via thousands of marketing studies and a host of best-selling books.
- Efficiency: Time has taken on new significance. The less time spent doing chores, the more time for family. Package goods advertisers understand the need for quick-fix solutions, offering time-starved families instant meals, desserts and side dishes.
- Humor: Let’s face it, advertising is about getting attention and consumers relax and pay attention when they know advertisers have a sense of humor. It puts us in a good mood and makes marketers more approachable and memorable. As shown in countless beer commercials, humor works best with established and commonly purchased products.
- And finally the big one: Sex. Sex appeal can boost the effectiveness of an ad or commercial like nothing else, because it attracts the customer’s wants and desires. Long legs on a billboard are more likely to catch a guy’s attention than a puppy, regardless of how cute it may be. Short of selling coffins, sex will sell almost anything.