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No emotion is a bad emotion when it comes to creating content-led marketing campaigns: BBC StoryWorks study

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No emotion is a bad emotion when it comes to creating content-led marketing campaigns: BBC StoryWorks study

No emotion is a bad emotion when it comes to creating content-led marketing campaigns, according to the second instalment of BBC StoryWorks’ award-winning study ‘Science of Engagement’. Building on the findings from the initial report published in January 2016, the focus of this latest research was to explore the connection between emotions and campaign metrics. In doing so, the team has produced valuable insights that can help brands understand how best to maximise the impact of content-led marketing campaigns through engaging with various emotions.

Working alongside CrowdEmotion once again, the study applied a combination of traditional research metrics with facial coding techniques to measure consumer engagement from an emotional perspective.

Nine BBC StoryWorks campaigns, featured on, formed the case studies for the research. The campaigns comprised a mix of video, written, and one infographic created for a range of clients such as HSBC, Huawei, AIG, Cathay Pacific, Mazda, Hainan, and Dassault Systemes. Aside from analyzing the emotional impact of these campaigns, the research team also took into consideration the length of the content and number of social media referrals coupled with statistical techniques such as correlation analysis to identify the key drivers to each campaign’s success.

The research explored which emotions drove engagement amongst the nine campaigns. Key findings included that when you trigger serious emotions—puzzlement, fear, and sadness—a deeper subconscious relationship with the brand occurs. The theory was particularly well demonstrated by ‘Emerging from the Darkness’, a video produced with Huawei featuring artist John Brambitt, who discusses how he paints without being able to see. The content led to a 50 per cent increase in subconscious positivity towards Huawei amongst audiences who had viewed it. The research also showed that triggering serious emotions can help support campaign objectives such as ad awareness, positivity, brand image, and consideration. When applied to HSBC’s ‘Going the Distance’ campaign, an article focused on the difficulty of maintaining long-distance relationships, ad awareness saw a staggering 217 per cent increase. 

Lighter emotions such as happiness and surprise also played a key role in consumers making purchase decisions, and in driving feelings in relation to brand image and consideration for the brand. For example, Cathay Pacific’s light-hearted video on the evolution of in-flight dining received a 57 per cent increase for both brand image and brand consideration.

The research also highlighted how effective content-led marketing campaigns on are proving to be, with the average campaign delivering:

  • 30 per cent increase in subconscious positivity
  • 49 per cent increase in average brand image
  • 56 per cent increase in recommendation
  • 50 per cent increase in consideration

Richard Pattinson, SVP, Content, BBC Advertising and Head of BBC StoryWorks, said, “Emotions drive people’s engagement with brands, both in their desire to be associated with those brands and also in the wish to purchase products or services. Providing a clearer understanding of which emotions should be considered can help drive the brand metrics, which are critical to the success of content-led campaigns.”

“Our latest research not only offers guidance on how to best influence audiences but highlights the success BBC Advertising is having with content-led marketing campaigns on A number of the campaigns included in the research received industry accolades, and they also resonate with the audience for, which celebrated a record year in 2016 attracting 98 million browsers per month.”

Key takeaways:  

  • Trigger serious emotions to deepen subconscious relationships. Triggering puzzlement, fear, and sadness equals subconscious positivity. 
  • Trigger serious emotions to meet your campaign objectives e.g. puzzlement, fear, and sadness increase positivity by 35 per cent.
  • Intrigue but don’t confuse. The right level of puzzlement will drive recommendation and consideration, but too much will deter audiences.
  • Don’t ignore the lighter emotions. Happiness and surprise increase desire to purchase, thus supporting brand image and consideration.
  • Content marketing has a powerful impact for less well-known brands.
  • Clearly label your brand. It adds credibility to the content; consumers are more likely to understand and remember it; it will be more persuasive and have a positive impact on their perception of the brand.
  • Choose video because it drives bigger brand uplifts. For example, brand images are 5x more effective.
  • Showcasing the right emotions will drive social media referrals. Fifty-five per cent of consumers who express happiness, puzzlement, and fear are likely to share content.


The study involved five markets—Hong Kong, Australia, Germany, the US, and Singapore—and 9,136 participants.


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