The degree of one’s emotions varies inversely with one’s knowledge of the facts. —Bertrand Russell
We are in that time of year when our moods are more random and our emotions tend to run flat. Our favorite television series are hitting their season finales. Fashion’s busy with fall production and worrying about numbers for the first quarter. Most people who were getting a tax refund already have it spent. Spring break is over and there won’t be any more vacation time until after Memorial Day. To make matters a little worse, with spring comes pollen so everyone with allergies, which is probably half the people you know, feels stuffy and irritable and sleepy from their allergy medication and that still doesn’t prevent them from sneezing and blowing all over the place.
Shopping tends to dip around this point in the year. We are less likely to buy the things we don’t need because we’re generally not excited about much of anything. We have our heads down, working diligently, waiting for summer. We don’t have time for nonsense.
That just doesn’t work for the people who need you to buy things, though. People who are selling products feel exactly the same way you do, but their day gets a whole lot worse when no one is buying anything. So, they pull out the one trick that is sure to get you to open your wallet: emotions. If advertisers can create ads that make you feel something, anything, then you are more likely to buy their product when you finally get around to going to the store.
We’ve been watching the spring crop of ads very carefully and have found some that do a very good job of pulling in the ol’ heart strings. One of the strongest is actually a tradition of sorts. Proctor & Gamble have done a “thank you, Mom” spot for the last four or five years and, of course, we expect those to make you feel nostalgic for an imagined childhood. They really ratchet up the emotional scale this year, though, with an ad using Olympic athletes and showing times when Mom was their rock. The tone is a bit dark, but it hits right in the feels.
So, what if your product isn’t one that naturally appeals to emotions and really needs a boost in sales right now? As in, your product line experienced a drop in sales last quarter for the first time ever. There might be a little bit of pressure to bring those numbers back up. But, how does one attach emotions so something as utilitarian as a phone? Easy: just add onion and hope it goes viral.
One thing that the coveted millennial audience gets emotional over is food. The question for Unilever’s Knorr group was whether they could turn people’s love for food into love for each other. The theory was an interesting one. The background for the ad is detailed on AdWeek. In short, the company used food preferences to match singles, then got them together and made them feed each other. Did the concept work? Knorr’s senior global director, Ukonwa Ojo, told AdWeek: “We know that one of these couples [Antonio and Irma in the video], even though that shoot was done months ago, they’re still dating today.” So yeah, love can really happen over shared tastes in food. Remember that when you see the Knorr brand in the store. Here’s the ad:
Not every emotion we have is positive, though, and some ads look to explore emotions such as fear and distrust. Such is the case for the non-profit Liberty Human Rights. They created a PSA that calls into question the far-reaching effects of a proposed British law that would allow government to essentially snoop on all of one’s digital communications, on any device, at any time. They compare that to a stranger coming up and asking to look at your phone. The ad is a touch humorous in its approach, but the emotions being plucked are fear and suspicion.
There are probably about a dozen more ads I could include here, but I think this is enough to make my point. You and I, my dear friend, are having our emotions manipulated rather strongly. Not that this is anything new, but keep that in mind next time you find your hand reaching for a product you’ve never used before and, possibly, don’t really need. Yes, we need you to buy things, but shouldn’t you know why you’re buying them?