Volume 17 No. 3: Why customers aren’t feeling your ads

Ever wonder why some ads stick with you for years, even decades, while others are just... meh? Leaning into emotion in advertising isn’t just a recent trend. It’s a proven tactic for greater impact, attention, and memorability. 


Embracing the power of emotion in ads 

Each week, we break down another marketing concept so you can skip the hype and get directly to what works. 

Research conducted by System1 and Pinterest now shows that digital ads that tap into emotion drive long-term growth. In the study, higher-rated ads for emotion appealed to viewers’ creativity by using a clear sense of place, characters, and distinctive assets, and resulted in a staggering 90% average increase in brand favorability. The most effective digital ads, they found, also fuel emotion by making viewers feel part of a shared experience, often by referencing cultural moments like holidays or large sporting events. 

Earlier this year, Kantar and Affectiva published research supporting the same finding. They found the stronger emotion an ad evokes, the more it drives long-term brand equity and the more likely it is to go viral.  

The IPA also notes that 43% of emotional ad campaigns reported very large business effects, including sales, market share, price sensitivity, loyalty, and new customers, after three or more years. Only 23% of rational campaigns did the same.   

And the power of using emotion to drive results isn’t just for B2C. The B2B Institute's report “Cashing In On Creativity” reveals that emotional ads significantly outperform rational ones in terms of revenue, profit, and market share.  

But there is some nuance to how emotion should be used. 

Not all emotions are created equal in the advertising world. Surprise and happiness tend to generate better outcomes than anger or fear. The type of emotion that works best also varies based on industry. For example, while humor can be incredibly effective—Kantar found humorous ads tend to be more expressive, involving, and distinct—it may not be the right choice for a very solemn business category. And in any category, it’s important to ensure the specific style of humor you use aligns with your brand and resonates with your audience. (Because not everyone thinks the same jokes are funny!) One way to confirm your audience will respond well is by pretesting creative before sharing it publicly. 

Another reminder is that while emotion drives attention and memorability, emotion in an ad should be paired with relevance and clear branding. Because we’ve all seen engaging, emotional ads where we remember the storyline but not the brand being advertised. 

Finally, the impact of emotion is maximized when paired with the right marketing channel. Video, for instance, amplifies the delivery of emotional content by being a natural storytelling medium and sharing content in an audio/visual format.

Key Takeaway: Emotion in advertising is a potent tool. But for the greatest success, be industry-specific, ensure how you use humor actually appeals to your audience, and prioritize video channels for maximum impact.


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