Why emotional content?

Because humans are predictably irrational.

Did you ever wonder why Americans’ savings rate is the lowest in the industrialized world, despite a mass of surveys showing that we know we should save more? Or why so many respected institutions, including billion-dollar hedge funds, sank so much capital into Bernie Madoff’s secretive investment fund, despite clear warning signals of shoddy practices? Or why we continue to buy brand-name drugs that cost three times as much as generics that provide exactly the same benefit? It turns out that we humans are far from the perfectly tuned economic actors that economists from Adam Smith to Milton Friedman said we are, applying only cost-benefit and supply and demand analyses to any decision. In a way, this isn’t really news.

Schools of communications and advertising have known for decades that we make most decisions based on our emotional responses. In the book Brand Immortality, the authors used data from 880 case studies in the United Kingdom’s Institute of Practitioners in Advertising Effectiveness database dating back to 1980 to make an airtight case that emotional ad campaigns win out over rational appeals. The cases spanned two recessions and recoveries, showing that poor economic conditions only enhanced the power of emotional content. The institute’s data show that purely emotional campaigns are almost twice as likely to generate large profit gains as rational ones, while campaigns that use facts as well as emotions in equal measure fall somewhere between the two. The study also found that emotional campaigns have a superior ability to create a sense of differentiation for the brand, one that can endure and will not disappear with the next product launch from a competitor. “Fame campaigns,” ad sales that get the brand talked about on the Internet and around the water cooler, only amplify the strengths of ordinary emotional engagement, especially the ability to reduce price sensitivity (think Apple, Starbucks, Perrier, Prada, etc.).

So what does this mean for telling your company’s story? First of all, it means you have to appeal to both the heads and the hearts of your audiences—the cognitive and affective parts of the brain. You do that by connecting with them on an emotional level while also providing rational arguments for using your products and services. Emotional in this context means storytelling, using quotes from real people describing their experiences and problems, and how your products and services helped them and made their work and lives easier. You also have to position your brand as unique, the Apple or Google of your market niche and frame your messages in such a way that clients and prospects will see the immediate consequences of doing business with you.

Let Quo Vadimus Communications help tell your brand story.