The power of emotional connection is being talked about way more now thanks to Gen Z and motivational coaches, although the advertising world received the memo a long time ago.
At the core of it all, we are searching for that ‘someone like me’ feeling. “You use XYZ shampoo?” (NB: no shameless product placements here) “Wow me too! You buy your gym wear from there? Wow, me too!”
Humans are tribal by nature, which is why more often than not, we connect with others over things that remind us of us. Basic psychology.
This innate need for emotional connection, when translated into marketing messages, brings to life memorable campaigns, such as ‘Like a Girl’ by Always and ’Jahan maamta wahan Dalda.’ It is the reason why Amreli Steels’ ’Aap ki tarah Solid’ campaign that highlighted a father’s silent perseverance is etched in my brain. Why? On a personal level, I have always felt the need to somehow do as much for my father as he has done for me. Amreli Steels hit deep with one single insight; the fact that children in ‘emotional markets’ (mainly South Asia), feel an emotional obligation to give their parents a peaceful retirement.
Having worked on a handful of global campaigns across South Asia and Europe – I can safely say that most South Asian countries share the same emotional DNA. Europe on the other hand, while still susceptible to emotional punchlines – also responds to practical insights and the unfathomable power of cheeky humour.
According to a study by Nielsen, ads with an emotional appeal perform twice as well as those with a rational appeal, in terms of both short-term and long-term effectiveness. Not only are emotions easier to process, they promise more top-of-mind appeal in the long term. Who forgets people and experiences that touch their hearts? This is also why emotional advertising is more likely to influence customer decision-making than rational thought. Moreover, when done correctly and consistently, emotional advertising leads to more loyalty and brand love.
Let’s take a look at some examples. For decades Dalda has not rebranded its ’Jahan maamta wahan Dalda,’ positioning and although there have been variations, in essence, the brand has not deviated from bringing a mother’s efforts into the limelight. Dalda’s latest campaign, ‘Standing Ovation to Mothers’ has to be one of my favourites. Do you know when was the last time I saw this ad? Weeks ago on YouTube where the skip ad button is more tempting than anywhere else. Am I thinking about Dalda a lot more since the last couple of weeks? Yes, I even checked out the packaging and whether or not it is convenient for an amateur cook like me. That is the power of advertising when it strikes a chord.
Another example would be the ‘Nike (M)’ campaign featuring pregnant athletes still killing it on the field, at the gym, or on the yoga mat. Whether you are a mother, about to be one or not planning to be one at all – the voiceover strikes a chord. Despite being targeted towards a very specific section of women, the voiceover speaks to every woman, highlighting that all women, one way or another, are athletes. This is based on the insight that women will hardly ever hold back from powering through despite many thinking their biology may slow them down. “What is an athlete? Someone who moves? Sounds like you. Someone who gets it done no matter what? You do that. Someone who listens to her body? Also you. Someone who defies gravity? You. Someone who deals with the pain, hits her limit and pushes past it. Pushing, pushing, pushing. Someone who earns every single win. You. You. You.” The voiceover just convinced me I’m invincible.
Fun fact: I watched this ad years ago with zero reminders in between, yet in 2023, it still gave me goosebumps. That is the power of emotional engagement done right. You become eternal for the customer, above and beyond the transactional relationship of the buying and selling cycle.
According to Psychology Today, “Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) shows that when evaluating brands, consumers primarily use emotions (personal feelings and experiences), rather than information (brand attributes, features, and facts).”
Now let’s look at how human emotion has created success stories on the tech side. Many apps launched to regulate human emotion in a chaotic world and channel it through personal development, such as MindValley, Headspace, Calm and Evolve, have risen to fame exponentially in the last few years. These products are powered by human emotion itself, so emotional advertising is the only option here.
The responsiveness of customers to emotional ads gave rise to the burgeoning sector of UX writing. The user experience reigns supreme. Enter writers well-versed in tongue-in-cheek humour, smartly saying more with fewer words. UX writing and design has become a need rather than the cherry on the top for tech products that aim to evoke enough emotions within their customers so that they will keep coming back for more. Gone are the days when you could launch a basic app that gets the message across in the most as-dry-as-Italian-bread way possible, and then depend on your marketing teams to handle the emotional side of things.
With app stickiness a separate KPI in itself, brands care as much about how much time the customer is spending on the app as they do consuming the ads about it. Banks usually have a bad rep when it comes to UX, but a few local banks are paving the way to change. Standard Chartered Bank Pakistan’s UX gives me hope. Easy to understand, it seems to be heading in the right direction.
If you take a panoramic view, most of the brands we love resort to emotion to evoke that sense of attachment among their customers. The power of emotional engagement remains unprecedented. Think about it, on some days, when Daniel from CRM is delaying your work and Iftikhar from accounts has misplaced your bank details for the 50th time, Google and Slack are the only two entities that care about your feelings and make you smile. Brand love? You got it.
Taniya Hasan is a content marketer at a fintech.