Brands failing emotion test

31 March 2011

LONDON: Advertisers are not focusing enough attention on consumers' subconscious, emotional motivations, according to speakers on the first day of MAP 2011.

Presenting to the Warc conference, which began in London yesterday, Les Binet, European director of DDB Matrix, suggested ads that appeal to shoppers' emotions are generally more successful than those appealing to rationality.

More broadly, he asserted advertisers and agencies have yet to acquire a full appreciation of the "brand building" potential of communications.

Arguing 99% of brain activity should not be described as conscious "thinking", Binet warned ads were failing to engage people emotionally, in their "gut feeling".

Recent research published by the IPA shows that "emotional" campaigns generate roughly twice the profits of rational campaigns which focus on "persuasion".

Meanwhile, Alan Mitchell, an author and former Marketing Week columnist, decried the "narcissistic" nature of the way advertising effectiveness is measured.

In a provocative presentation, Mitchell stated marketers might be exaggerating the extent to which they shaped purchase decisions.

Generally, tracking tools reflect conscious "persuasion", and neglect unconscious "awareness".

This means that a successful campaign might simply be due to marketers aligning their messages with what customers are already doing, rather than influencing them to change.

"Our metrics are narcissistic - they're obscure," Mitchell added.

Benoit Garbe, vice president of Millward Brown Optimor, said successful brands shared specific characteristics when it comes to emotional appeal.

"You know a great brand when you see it," he said. "It just hits us."

The company has collated a list of 25 brands - headed by BlackBerry and Apple - generating the highest amount of incremental value between 2000 and 2009.

In all, $400m (€284m; £249m) has been delivered by these brands, which have pursued common tactics like investing in big ideas that organisations, not just marketing teams, can get behind.

"The best brands have one foot in the past and one foot in the future," Garbe added. "Heritage is a tool to inspire innovation."

In another of the day's presentations, Nick Southgate, a consultant for the IPA, revealed how top brands employ behavioural economics to become more successful.

He advised researchers to focus on the context in which shoppers live, and not just their behaviour.

"We're not just hitting individuals," Southgate said. "We're hitting individuals in a certain space."

For example, HMRC, the UK's tax authority, was able to secure £200m more in tax repayments from one of its mailshots simply by changing a single line of copy.

Informed by behavioural economics, HMRC stated at the top of each letter that 94% of people pay their tax on time - and that the recipient was not one of them.

This inverted the typical message of such letters - which tend to focus on the small minority who avoided tax - and instead "normalised" the good behaviour of the majority.

A full Warc report from day one of MAP 2011 is available here.

Data sourced from Warc