My Inner Crybaby Is Crying Uncle
Awards season is ad season, as well. What began with #Downerbowl will end with the Oscars, and we will all be able to see that this year, the theme in agency land was creating emotion. Much like a few years back, it was trying to convince brands to be human. Both of these themes are really close to being successful, yet they miss the mark in my mind. A brand cannot be human. It should instead try to be useful. It is more attainable and reasonable. A brand is not human; it is a business. And if it is a good business, it offers products and services that are useful to people. Therefore, useful should be the place from which the brand communicates. As for creating emotion, this one was soooo close I could taste it. The miss was this: creating emotion for the sake of emotion is manipulative and off-putting.
Create Emotional Connection
The gold is found when brands create emotional connection. Creating emotional connection is real and authentic. Connecting an emotion to your brand is #winning. Making people cry over absent fathers, daughters going to war, or children unable to grow up because you failed to use safety locks does not in any way connect those emotions to your brand. It feels manipulative, and the last thing you want your customers to feel is manipulated and cheated. Which is how we got to #Downerbowl as a trending hashtag. I found that hashtag embarrassing to my profession. And to be completely honest, I did feel manipulated. And it made me actually angry at the brands for trying to get tears from me to buy a car.
Before #Downerbowl, we had a few great ads that made emotional connection to the brand in a powerful way. Dove does a great job with their Real Beauty series. Always did it with Like A Girl. And Similac recently did a great thing with their recent video. All of these examples tied the emotion to the brand. Dove and Always are about making women feel ok about being women and aging. They make the viewer feel powerful. And in Always’ case, they elegantly pointed out that “Like a Girl” is an insult that’s time has come. Similac tackled the age-old parenting battles that tear people down and remind us, it’s about our children because we are all doing our best to raise kids despite our differences.
Connect Emotion To Your Brand
The lesson here is to find a way to connect emotion to your brand. It is not easy. At all. If it were, the ads that fell flat would have been stars. But, they weren’t. Creating emotion is a ton easier. But it isn’t enough.
If you want to go the emotion route here are a couple of tips and tricks to consider:
Do not sell fear
We all see this one a lot. We saw it in the Nationwide ad that lit up Twitter in the wrong way on Super Bowl Sunday, but we also see it all the time in social. Fear baiting is not the way to create emotion. In fact, I have seen countless brands lose a big chunk of fans by posting a significant amount of content that may have been perceived as frightening. Financial and insurance institutions that have posts about fraud, theft, or what to do when you lose your wallet scare the daylights out of people. When people are on using social media or watching the Super Bowl or Oscars, they are catching up with friends; they do not want to be greeted by Debbie Downer scaring the crap out of them.
Play to hope
I want to believe that tomorrow is going to be better, and if your brand can help tomorrow be better – this is an easy win. Show people how tomorrow will be better by using your products. And I do not mean that tomorrow will be better if I have a new car. What I mean is what is your company doing to make tomorrow better and why should my buying your product fill me with hope for the future. If there is no direct play with your product making things better tomorrow, you can always try to tackle a subject that is top of mind to your customers and tackle that in an attempt to be the brand that starts a conversation (without killing a fictional child).
Remember the context of your ads and when people will be interacting with them. I still contend that useful will win the day. But as we are smack dab in the creating-emotion theme in the ad game, I would recommend that we move the bar higher and stop creating emotion; instead, work on creating emotional connection.