Why Emotion Matters in Marketing

How does emotion come into play in marketing? How does it contribute to creating awareness for your brand, and consequently increase sales? Phil discusses good storytelling, evoking a strong emotional response and the lasting impact that follows.

This article was first published in the Orient magazine #64, 15th December 2017.
By Phil Townend, Chief Commercial Officer, Unruly APAC
Emotion matters in marketing. Emotion creates values, sets preferences, inspires action and drives sales. These are maxims we live by at Unruly. We understand how important emotions are to effective storytelling and creating word of mouth. We also know that content that elicits a strong emotional response - positive or negative - is twice as likely to be shared and drive brand loyalty and purchase intent than content that elicits weak responses.
Emotion is the key to a great story. It creates true engagement with your audience, taking viewers on a journey and making them feel not just happy or sad, but inspired, nostalgic, amazed or warm and fuzzy. 
But why should telling a good story, and evoking a strong emotional response, matter to advertisers? At the end of the day, they’re not Hollywood movie studios in the business of making great content for the sake of great content – they need to sell products.
It turns out, the two go hand in hand. Numerous studies have shown that creating emotional engagement with your audience leads to an uplift in just about every brand metric that advertisers care about. Emotional campaigns are more likely to generate sales - leading to increases in revenue, profit and share gain (Pringle & Field, Brand Immortality: How Brands Can Live Long and Prosper, 2008). Additionally, videos that elicit strong emotions are twice more likely to be shared than those which elicit a weak emotional response (Dr Karen Nelson-Field, Viral Marketing: The Science of Sharing, 2013).
Before the digital revolution, the quality of your content mattered less - if you bought enough airtime, your campaign would perform. With the odd notable exception (think Guinness’ white horses), advertising was primarily functional in nature – serving mostly to inform consumers about your product or service features, and shouting louder than the competition.  
But the conversation has moved on. Today, consumers don’t look to TV or print ads for information, they look to the internet. And they don’t wait to be served advertisements about a product they’re interested in - they expect that information to be there as and when they want it. Branded content needs to serve a different purpose.
Add to that the hugely cluttered nature of today’s digital landscape, we are constantly bombarded with content, some of it great, some of it not so great, and there are only so many hours in the day. The amount of content available online now far exceeds our ability to consume it.
So how do you get your content seen? It’s not enough to force people to watch a pre-roll or interrupt their online experience. In fact, this often does more harm than good. Unruly’s Future Video Survey found that 65% of Australian consumers were put off by a brand when forced to watch a pre-roll ad. Rather, advertisers need to up their game and create an emotional connection with their audiences.
But why does emotive content create such a connection with consumers? Well, apart from striking a chord with your audience, eliciting a strong emotional response triggers memory formation. There is a well-documented link between memory and emotion.
How many of you can remember the last banner ad you saw, or how about your all-time favourite banner ad - the one you tell your friends about at parties? Contrast that with really great storytelling through emotive video – I bet almost everyone over a certain age can remember Evian’s golden oldie - Roller Babies - now over a decade old, or JCVD’s Epic Splits for Volvo Trucks or P&G’s Like A Girl campaign.
As humans, we have a limited capacity for processing information and emotion plays a key role in deciding which information is processed and retained. Several studies have demonstrated that if you present someone with emotionally arousing stimuli, it triggers the brain to encode new memories. When attention is limited, as is the case online, emotional items are more likely to be processed – the brain prioritises the processing of emotional information over neutral information.
Take for example the weapon focus effect, whereby witnesses to a crime remember the gun or knife in great detail but cannot remember other details such as the perpetrator’s clothing or vehicle. In fact, you don’t have to witness a crime to experience this selectivity – it occurs all the time. How many of you remember the first time you did laundry? Now, how about your first kiss?
Creating an emotional engagement with your audience means they are more likely to remember your content, more likely to remember your product and more likely to remember your brand. What Binet and Field found in 2013, holds even more true today: “In the long run, emotion is where the really big profits lie.”


About the author:

Phil joined Unruly in 2010 as its 5th employee. As EMEA MD, Phil grew the European business to 6 offices before leaving for Singapore to launch Unruly APAC in April 2014. Unruly now has offices in Singapore, Japan, Australia and South Korea with another 4 to follow. Before joining Unruly, Phil held various roles within agencies, broadcasters and ad technology start-ups. Phil is currently co-Chair of the Singapore/ South East Asia IAB Content Committee and passionately believes that great content and non-invasive, permission based ad delivery will be key to preserving the future of the ‘free internet’.

About the company:

Unruly gets videos seen, shared and loved across the open web for brands that want to move people, not just reach people. By bringing emotional intelligence to digital advertising, they help 91% of Ad Age 100 brands inform and inspire 1.44bn people around the world, using polite outstream formats on sites that people love. Unruly was founded in 2006 and acquired by News Corp in 2015. With 300 Unrulies across 20 locations worldwide, their super power is emotional intelligence and our secret weapon is passionate people on a mission to #DeliverWow. Discover more about Unruly at www.unruly.co