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Eliciting emotional responses is at the centre of BBC's research on content marketing: John Williams, BBC

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Eliciting emotional responses is at the centre of BBC's research on content marketing: John Williams, BBC

Throwing light on what was described as “the science of engagement 2.0”, John Williams, VP Advertising Sales, South & South East Asia, BBC revealed the essential commandments of content marketing. Being associated with one of most iconic news broadcasters in the world, he stressed that the core aim of the BBC is to produce emotionally engaging stories.  Going further, he spoke of a union between the art of storytelling and science of engagement.

“Understanding how emotional response affects consumer engagement and their behaviour towards brands in content-led marketing is the key to producing better, more effective campaigns,” Williams said. Recounting the findings of a survey commissioned by the BBC in early 2016, he stated that content marketing works much like editorial content if it is executed in the proper fashion, thereby generating trust and influencing consumer opinion. He added that working on a subconscious level, it helped in forging a healthier relationship between brands and consumers.  

Repudiating past researches focussed intensively on analytics and metrics defining advertising effectiveness, Williams appreciated the BBC for engineering a paradigm shift in the measurement of content marketing. “Our approach was to measure engagement using facial coding and to combine it with other techniques,” he said. These techniques were premised on knowing whether content marketing provided the consumers with memorable content and excelled in changing their long-held beliefs.

Eliciting an emotional response

If a brand is able to produce emotions such as fear, puzzlement or sadness then it has reason to be happy. As per the BBC’s research, the maximum emotional engagement between consumers and brands can be arrived at by eliciting these responses. “Deepening the emotional relationship between brands and consumers is really important,” Williams mentioned.

He corroborated his claim by citing the example of a BBC StoryWorks video on blind painters. Those who saw the video were filled with serious emotions resulting in an increase of 50% in subconscious positivity, the speed at which a consumer agrees with a brand’s message. Labelling meeting “campaign objectives by triggering serious emotions” as the second commandment, Williams argued that they drive brand metrics including brand image and consideration.

However, one shouldn’t get worried if a brand is concentrating on the happy side of things instead of the sad ones. “Happiness and surprise still have a very important role to play in content marketing. We found that lighter emotions tend to have an impact higher up on the purchase funnel with metrics like consideration and brand image,” he claimed.

Going viral on social platforms

Furthering the BBC’s emphasis on emotions such as fear and happiness, their research identified a critical relationship between emotions and viral content. Williams urged brands to focus on content with a huge element of surprise or extreme happiness to drive social media engagement.

The BBC also found that both text and video content generates emotional engagement. But video does command a slight upper-hand when it comes to impact owing to the nature of the medium. “Video is much more impactful on the brand. We believe this is because text makes you think whilst video makes you feel,” Williams noted. 

Staying clear of confusion

As a marketer, Williams encouraged arousing the curiosity of readers and viewers but warned against confusing them. “It’s better to intrigue but not confuse. It was proven on some content marketing the BBC produced for Dassault Systems, the French technology company,” Williams said. According to him, the consumers should be provided with enough detail.

It is also important to get your brand noticed among consumers so that they remember it clearly. “When we are thinking about content led marketing and the brand positivity we want it to create or enhance, we need to make sure that the brand is clearly visible/noticeable to the reader/viewer,” he reasoned.

Williams concluded his address by encapsulating the success that an average content-led marketing campaign saw on by registering more than 50% increase in recommendations and consideration. The average brand image and subconscious positivity about the brand also goes up by 49% and 30%, respectively.

Williams was speaking at the ongoing ad:tech 2017.


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