Aristotle said it first. Neuroscience confirms it. Marketers know it in their bones. Great communication works on both an emotional and rational level. To motivate people to action, marketers need to speak to the whole brain: both the right (intuitive/emotional) side and the left (logical/functional) side.
Advertising that appeals to the heart works. For proof, take a look at Brand
Immortality, by Hamish Pringle and Peter Field. They analyzed 1,400 case studies of successful advertising campaigns, comparing the profitability boost of campaigns relying on emotional appeals vs. those relying on rational appeals. The winner: emotional appeals. Campaigns with purely emotional content performed about twice as well as those with purely rational appeal. It’s a great statistic, but even Pringle and Field admit that creating ads that engage consumer emotions isn’t easy, while basing a campaign on a “killer fact” is comparatively simpler.
In 2004, the AAAAs (American Association of Advertising Agencies) along with the ARF (Advertising Research Foundation) united in an effort to explore some key questions regarding emotionally based advertising. They knew from neuroscience that emotions and instinct “rule” decision-making. The goal of their study was to find out if it is possible to understand the impact of emotion in advertising and to gain a clearer understanding of how storyline, metaphor and emotion drive engagement. It took 3 years to complete the study. In the end, the authors, Joe Plummer and Bill Cook, concluded that:
- It is possible to measure the emotional impact of advertising – both through physiological measures as well as through research techniques that incorporated more imagery and symbolism in its approach.
- Emotional response is nonlinear. So linear, language-based, research methods cannot capture the nuance and change that is inherent in emotional responses.
- Emotional experiences are co-created. That is, advertisers can’t inject emotion and meaning into a person’s mind. People bring their feelings and ideas to a brand just as the brand brings their ideas and benefits to people. It’s at the intersection of the two that stories are co-created and true emotional engagement happens.
In order to be more effective at creating emotionally relevant communications, Plummer and Cook strongly urged advertisers to:
- Learn more about the emotional make-up of their consumers
- Integrate that learning into advertising briefs and executions
- Conduct developmental and evaluative research that ensures the emotional intent of the message is breaking through.
One of the key challenges that advertisers and agencies face, according to Plummer and Cook, is that current research and copy testing methods, while robust, are primarily linear, logical and language-based. They shine when evaluating awareness and functional benefits but are less robust in their ability to figure out how to engage people emotionally over multiple touch-points and platforms.
New approaches to communications research are needed. And that’s where Drumcircle comes in. We have developed – and validated – both qualitative (face-to-face) and quantitative (online) tools and techniques to help advertisers and agencies plan, create and execute advertising based on engaging people both emotionally and practically, at every touch-point.
Our process is:
- Visually based. In both our qualitative and online work, we use images and other sensory techniques to tap into the right/intuitive brain and align its needs with what the left/logical brain wants.
- Projective. Projective exercises help people forget they are talking about themselves. These exercises are experienced like a fun game, in a safe environment, where people can discover and reveal what is most important to them.
- Nonlinear. Emotional responses are messy and can’t always be captured in a linear, reductionist process.
- “Co-creative”. People interact with your stimulus and ideas and then make them their own. You see where and how your ideas resonate with people’s emotional make-up, inner stories and experiences and what kind of tweaks you need to make to make your story/communications more appealing to more people
A summary of Drumcircle’s tools
b.frank, is an online, visually based, emotion-centric research tool. It identifies what emotions drive your consumers, how well your brand delivers the kind of emotional experience consumers want, and (if desired) how well your advertising or product/service concepts deliver on these emotional experiences. It also diagnoses what you can do on a practical level to deliver on the type of experiences and meaning people want. You can go to this page of our website to “test-drive” b.frank. We have an ongoing study on the economy running there. By going through it, you’ll experience a sense of the line of questioning and the types of experiences people tap into when they take our survey.
We call our qualitative process Create/Debate groups. The approach is an evolution of the traditional focus group. It’s designed to be less linear and more visually based, so you can go more deeply in to the head and heart of market.
A traditional focus group is primarily an analytic, left-brain exercise done principally in a question and answer format. Create/Debate groups are designed to give people time and space to translate your ideas into their own world (i.e., co-create with you). We do this by giving groups an opportunity to create collages made up of specific visual and language-based stimuli (this is the “create” phase of the process) and then present and support their ideas to other groups (that’s the “debate” phase). That way, you can see for yourself what meaning people make of your ideas and how much passion they have for them, or not.
If you’d like to see the kind of insights and ideas that emerge from our emotion-based research, shoot us an email and we’ll send you some cases. Better yet, ask us for a proposal on your next study.
 Brand Immortality. Peter Field and Hamish Pringle. 2008.