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Tear-jerking ads: How much emotion is too much emotion?

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Tear-jerking ads: How much emotion is too much emotion?

With the streak of emotional ads on Indian TV channels, it looks like emotional advertising is the back to being the buzzword in the ad community. Instead of communicating why a product might be useful or beneficial, advertisers are trying to make the consumer feel a specific emotion about the brand in an attempt to ‘own’ an emotional territory. We’ve seen this approach used to sell bank accounts, jewellery, search engines, and most recently cooking oil, amongst others. But, what is the threshold? Where does one draw a line? When does it stop working?

The connect

Some brand advertisers believe that through advertising you can influence consumer attitude towards the brand enough to change their buying behaviour. How people execute emotional ads will always change and relevant emotional ads will always work.

“Anything that talks to the heart will always stick, of course the caveat being, how well the idea is conceptualized and executed. And we’re Indians! We thrive on emotion, anything that pulls at our heartstrings, has more chances of pulling at our purse strings. Of course buyers are more rational now when it comes to making a purchase, but the job of communication is to pull the buyer in with emotion, eventually the product with all its rational specs has to convert the consumer,” says Chraneeta Mann, National Creative Director—Regional, Rediffusion Y&R.

“Emotion has to be relevant for it to really work. So whether it is a Minute Maid Nimbu Fresh ad that takes the viewer back to the days he ran around the alleys of his hometown with his childhood sweetheart, or it’s the concept of comfort food ‘the dal my mom makes will always make me feel better’ as in the recent Fortune Oil Ghar ka Khaana ad; all these are emotions the consumer can relate with and has experienced. To my mind, an emotion that makes the viewer feel that the ad is all about him, is the strongest emotion to portray,” she adds.

According to Papri Dev, Managing Director, Zeno Group, India said, “Brands that have stayed true, over longer durations, to the emotion that perfectly fits with their values have reaped dividends. Look at Nike as an example—the people who are drawn to the brand can connect with the stories it has been telling over years. Brands have always belonged to consumers and their audiences. Marketers believe they own them but actually that’s not true. The age of social has shown us that a brand’s perception and what it stands for rests firmly within the consumer mind and opinions. For some of us who have worked in the earned media space for a long time have always known this while working with brands to tell stories through influencers and build communities around them.”

Take the example of Coke, it looks like the brand owns one emotion in advertising—happiness. What works for the brand is its long-lasting affiliation to the emotion.

Smart consumer

The changing profile of the Indian customer from a passive viewer to a more engaged consumer has made it imperative for the marketer to change the way he communicates. The next generation Indian customers are educated, smart, equipped with technology and well informed through various media channels available now.

The recent outrage against Facebook’s emotional manipulation study has shown that emotions are something private that people hold dearly to themselves, but it is also crucial for advertising to touch the hearts and minds of people.

Emotional versus hard sell

Chraneeta Mann says a hard-sell is just any communication talking just cold facts without too overt an emotional connect. Let’s say the difference between ‘this washing powder has these fantastic granules that punch out the dirt from your shirt’ versus saying ‘Daag achhe hain’. The latter suddenly takes the same granules and places them bang in the middle of a conversation that is currently ongoing in the consumer’s head. Suddenly the product finds a need in your life, you relate to it, you want to be the mom who lets her kids splash around in the mud so they can be kids. No prizes for guessing what works better.

“I would also say a hard-sell is short term, showing you results till a competitor comes along and hard-sells his product better. But an emotional connect effortlessly goes and sits inside the consumer’s mindspace. However sometimes a hard sell is required, for instance, in communication for e-commerce at its nascent stage. The need there is to educate consumers as to how e-commerce works, address their apprehensions as they experiment with a new retail format.”

When asked about the fine line between emotional selling and hard sell, Keshav Bansal, Director Marketing at Intex Technologies, said, “There is no benchmark to measure the emotional quotient involved. Rather, a brand’s prerogative must be to deliver to its promises through its quality offerings. A prolonged consumer connect can only be established if a brand sticks to its commitment and delivers the promised.

In my opinion a brand need not hard sell if they can deliver on their brand promise. Emotional connect can always be established through interactive campaign/s but, a brand must relate and deliver to the emotion every time in order to sustain its customer.”

Too much of anything is not good and in the case of advertising, pointless melodrama is a deterrent.

Constant hammering of an emotion could cause it to lose its value in the plot, says Suresh Eriyat, Founder and Creative Director, Eeksaurus. “If there is an emotional connect, there is no hard sell. Superficial melodrama does not cut ice because people are clever enough to see thorough this,” he points out.

Papri Dev of Zeno has a similar opinion: When the emotion is a misfit in the brands and all you see is the hard sell that does more harm. Emotional stories and programmes need to be driven by great insights, if it isn’t there then it is inevitably a let-down created by the brand even if unknowingly in the mind of consumers – sometimes that can even  drive core fans away.

Vicious circle

It looks like when the consumer gets bored of one, advertisers revert to the other.

“It’s a vicious circle where trends are concerned, but the game comes a full circle when one realizes that real connect can be made on real emotions because that is always a constant,” feels Suresh Eriyat.

In a lot of cases, advertisers tend to get bored faster of the emotion than consumers. “If research/business proves that consumers are getting bored, it is a symptom—an indication that there is a need to dig deeper to find the problem. The brand’s position in its lifecycle, its need to reinvent, an external changing force in the environment could define the need for marketers to re-evaluate. It cannot be fickle, because if it is, it won’t last,” says Papri Dev. 

Chraneeta Mann feels differently, “I wouldn’t say hard-selling ads or emotional ads are trends where one kicks in for some time, and then is replaced by the other. I think they co-exist. Both answer to different communication needs, different client sensibilities, depend upon what stage your brand is in. It also depends on how much the advertiser is really able to pick an emotional space that can be owned just by him and stick with it.

Way forward

“Advertisers need to understand how the ad would impact the consumer if the brand is taken out of the video. Is there any consumer connect at all? Emotion is all about relatability. Content has to stand out,” asserts Pratik Gupta, Co-founder, FoxyMoron.

The more advertisers try to understand the nature of most human decisions, the less plausible the persuasion model of advertising becomes. The emotional model has simplicity—it speaks to the consumer. And getting consumers to feel is becoming the core job of advertising.

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