Emotions are at the heart of everything we do. While we may believe that the choices we make are guided by careful evaluation (or System 2 thinking as psychologist Daniel Kahneman’s model notes), in reality the majority of our decisions are made through quicker System 1 thinking. It’s this intuitive reaction that influences the brands we buy. 

So, it makes sense then that the best way for brands to cement themselves into the hearts and minds of consumers is to appeal to our emotions. In fact, campaigns with an emotional strategy are nearly twice as likely to report very large profit gains over the long-term than those that do not. However, as Orlando Wood notes in his research on emotion in advertising, the key to producing the desired action is appealing to the right emotions.

Psychologist Paul Ekman identified seven universal emotions – happiness, surprise, fear, disgust, anger, sadness and contempt. Of course, it is also possible for people to feel nothing when they see an ad, so it’s important to take neutrality into account. Most advertisers will go the route of entertainment and lean into happiness to build mental availability. 

However, negative emotions can also be used to a brand’s advantage. Sadness, fear, disgust and anger can encourage people to support a particular social cause. But if you do want to introduce an emotion like sadness into the storyline, resolve these feelings by the end of the ad to ensure long-term effectiveness.

Whichever emotional journey you take, it’s vital that you also consider the advertising features that impact emotional response and effectiveness. Wood’s work looks closely at the brain’s two hemispheres and finds that appealing to the broad-beam attention of the right brain, rather than the narrow attention of the left-brain, helps build stronger memory structures. Viewers connect more easily when creative uses melodic music, characters, a clear sense of place, dialogue and references to the past.

On the other hand, left-brain features like voiceover, monologue, words on the screen, rhythmic soundtracks, freeze-frame effects and flatness are more likely to hinder positive and strong emotional reactions. To put it simply, left-brain advertising is less commercially effective.  

The brands that make us feel – ideally positive emotions – are the brands that get remembered, and ultimately purchased. And the best way to elicit emotion is by leveraging the right-brain features that are proven to deliver greater creative effectiveness.

Want to understand how viewers feel about your creative? System1 uses emotion measurement to predict and improve the commercial impact of advertising. Feel free to come chat and have a glass of prosecco with us at our cabana, next to the Attention Stage.