By Michael Kline
Do you know that advertising that doubles as an emotional appeal can be far more effective than a lucrative celebrity endorsement? This comes as a big disappointment, as I was looking forward to having Beyonce come to North Conway to play in the sink at The Funky Bubble Bath & Body! Based on solid research, we’ve decided to forgo the expensive celebrity and think more about emotional appeals.
According to a study published in the June 2013 issue of theJournal of Consumer Research, a consumer tends to select products that strengthen emotions closely related to his identity. This means that an emotionally appealing ad can trump one that’s based on a celebrity spokesperson.
A celebrity endorser may be marred by a reputation that can undermine the brand. But this does not happen when you market a product through an emotional appeal. When a specific emotion is used instead of a celebrity, the marketer can eliminate the complications that may arise from the celebrity’s reputation.
The study uncovered that athletes listening to “angry” music are willing to pay more to watch a concert featuring “angry” bands, while volunteers listening to “sad” music are persuaded to go to “sad” concerts. Moreover, an ad displaying anger on a model’s face are found to be more persuasive to athletes, while an ad featuring a sad face are more convincing for a group of volunteers. Environmentalists, on the other hand, are persuaded by an ad that shows a model who is expressing disgust.
All in all, emotional appeals can be used effectively in marketing. As long as the emotion in your ad elicits a response from the consumer group you are trying to sell to, then your marketing campaign has an excellent chance of goading consumers to buy—minus the exorbitant fees paid to a celebrity to become the face of your product.
The other temptation is to really humanize your product or service; to put a big face on your widget and give it a name. This branding approach is everywhere—M&M’s advertised with limbs and endearing eyes, alarm clocks marketed complete with cartoonish faces, etc. Brand anthropomorphization, or marketing a product by endowing it with human attributes, is a powerful advertising tool. Many consumers positively respond to it. But according to a study published in the Journal of Marketing, it can backfire when the “humanized” product malfunctions.
An ad that trumpets a product sporting human attributes can be extremely persuasive to consumers. But if the product malfunctions or fails to meet the consumer’s expectation, the negative reaction is quite strong.
The backlash can be far more overwhelming than a similar product that has malfunctioned but has not been “humanized” in an advertisement.
So the lesson of the day is to know who your target audience is, and to focus on the emotional needs of that audience. Second, you might want to exercise caution when tempted to turn your better mousetrap into a
cute little guy with a funny name.