Back in the pre-digital era, marketing was so much more straightforward. 

You needed great creative for a memorable TV ad, but then it was a case of buying time on the one or two commercial terrestrial channels and maybe of reiterating some messaging in direct mail, print and/or outdoor display. Simple. 

It’s different now. The marketing landscape is increasingly elaborate. 

TV alone has become considerably more complicated and that’s without considering the online, mobile and social mediums. 

Today, brands need to be smarter and have a vast amount of data at their disposal to help them do that. This presents a challenge, but also a significant opportunity.

The marketer can now reach consumers across a number of touchpoints, and as such their craft must now be targeted, integrated, measurable, and should increase the propensity to purchase.

However, great creative still matters, probably more than ever. And, so does making an emotional connection with your audience.

What differs is the ‘activation’. Brands need to play out strategy in an intelligent way, using data and innovation in unison with creativity to reach and engage audiences.

Consumer cynicism

The fact is, broad messaging just doesn’t cut it anymore. With the fast-paced nature of modern life and the increased digitisation of both media consumption and buying behaviour, the consumer of 2015 suffers more brand-fatigue. 

With so many ads and marketing messages presented every day, making so many demands of them and having seen most emotional ‘plays’ advertisers have to make, consumers are less likely to invest themselves emotionally in brands. 

They have, to a certain extent, become numb to many marketing messages. The consumer has to be a cynic and who can blame them? 

If the consumer really did have no advertising filtration system they would be inclined to purchase every time they saw an ad and their pockets would empty fast. Ignoring advertising is a matter of necessity, not choice. 

Facilitating intelligent emotion in a brand fatigued world

To overcome this inherent cynicism, marketers have to work harder to appeal to their consumers. 

Injecting emotion into advertising to evoke a response is vital to facilitate appeal and many brands, both young and old, have understood this and benefit from an association though emotion.

But does it really translate into sales? Can tugging at the consumer’s heartstrings also tug at his or her purse strings? 

Well, yes, and there are plenty of examples where this is done well.

We can’t deny that the most successful ads are those that have the power to evoke an emotional response for the consumer. 

The feelings captured by a brand are an essential element of its associations, and highly likely to influence the chances of the brand being considered in the purchase process.

What constitutes an emotional response in 2015 is a very different matter. 

It is not enough to laugh or cry at an ad any more. Marketers are looking for engagement, likes on Facebook, retweets on Twitter, video views on YouTube and increasingly gamification. A physical, measurable action is required to prove the success of the campaign and demonstrate the consumer is ‘buying in’. 

But is this too much to expect? 

Appeal through authenticity 

Consumers don’t want to be ‘called to action’. They want to be spoken to on a personal and engaging level. That’s how emotional connections can be achieved. 

Marketers need to think carefully about what kind of reaction they are trying to elicit from the consumer. Often, an emotional connection is needed before a rational decision to purchase is made, but what differentiates the ads of today from those of decades ago is that the old ‘cut through at any cost’ approach simply doesn’t work anymore.

As an example, charities once commonly relied on the staple ‘gritty image of tragedy’ to provoke a response, whereby tugging at the heartstrings elicited a feeling of guilt. Charities had largely moved on from this approach, finding it doesn’t yield the same returns it once did.

 

This is borne out in our research, which found that of all the emotions an advert could appeal to poignancy or sadness would be the least effective in triggering a response from the consumer to research further or donate, with just 4% of consumers agreeing this would be the case. 

There has been a return to this approach however, as many charities struggle to convert the typical digital reaction (a like or retweet) into the more useful reaction of making a donation, potentially opting for achieving a more visceral short term consumer response over building a long term relationship.  

Having knowledge of how consumers react to advertising is vital in order to market to them effectively. 

The marketer of 2015 is not short of consumer data and therefore needs to understand what the consumer is looking for, what makes them tick and, how to cut through. 

Today, with so much fragmented data, it is more important than ever before to connect it, to really recognise and understand the consumer.

Remember, successful content feels organic and goes viral because of peer preference. It is preferred because it feels like it has gained attention in a natural way rather than being paid for as part of a targeted campaign. 

The consumer is looking for content that seems as if it has been put out into the world without expectation, devoid of ROI but is appealing to them. 

Remember, advertising that is clearly prescriptive is like a flashing neon sign in the consumer’s face. The one-size fits all approach more typical in the past is on its way out, meaning it’s all the more obvious when it turns up. 

The ability to curate organic and authentic content is a vital tool in the arsenal of marketers to cut through the noise. Today’s cynical consumers know when they are being co-opted. 

You can learn more about the emerging role of emotions in customer experience at our two day Festival of Marketing event in November. Book your ticket today and check out the CX stage.

Jed Mole

Published 12 August, 2015 by Jed Mole

Jed Mole is European marketing director at Acxiom and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.

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