Brands should harness emotions

11 June 2014

LONDON: Even though the marketing industry celebrates emotional intelligence, its understanding of how to make best use of emotions in the digital age is inadequate, according to an Admap Prize-winning essay.

Most brands have not adopted a strategic approach to emotional intelligence and have failed to observe that the digital age has made people more impulsive and emotionally unrestrained, argues Sarah Morning, an associate planning director at creative agency Dare.

Her essay, entitled "We need to talk about Henry: why we need to learn to manage emotions in the digital age", won the Silver award in the Admap Prize 2014, where entrants were asked to write on the subject of how brands are built in the digital age.

Morning suggests the digital age has increased the range and intensity of emotions that are expressed publicly and that only a few global brands – notably, Apple, Coca-Cola and Google – have mastered the art of emotional management in their communications.

Apple, for example, has put great emphasis when developing its products on assessing how users responded emotionally to its touchscreen controls and icon designs.

Meanwhile, Google has already positioned its platforms as "emotional management and regulation tools", Morning says, and is developing wearable technology that will allow it to infer a user's changing emotional state over a period of time.

And Coke has been adept at using the digital age to encourage an emotional response to its product placement.

By deliberately associating itself with scenes of global conflict in shows like Homeland, the brand successfully encourages people to imagine the loss of Coke's traditional association with happiness and other positive emotions, she suggests.

Emotions are the key drivers behind human decision-making as they have always been, Morning added, but the difference today is that the "emotional capabilities needed to succeed have moved up a level".

Julie Kollman, global head of insights at SABMiller and an Admap Prize judge, commended Morning for her "bold and brave" approach, but questioned whether marketers would think along these lines.

She said: "This paper advocates using emotion strategically, to actively manage and regulate, even manipulate, people's emotions for a defined purpose. It is a bold and brave approach – with great examples of success. But will marketers be bold enough to think this way?"

Data sourced from Admap