What Matters the Most, Message or Emotion?

Have you ever had the experience of buying something or doing something, feeling so excited and later, wondering why you did it or actually, what was the force that pushed you to do what you did? The truth is more than simple: 95% of our decisions are made emotionally and unconsciously, and rationalized later, consciously. That is the reason why emotional advertising has made many companies successful ones. Hence, does the message play any role at all, or has it has been irretrievably replaced by emotions?

Message or emotion? Can you come up with an example of a word which embodies power, strength of persuasion, and beauty, and one that gives you freedom of choice but, simultaneously, forces you to take action?


It is the truth universally acknowledged that the modern world of advertising is a place of bright, catchy, and groovy images or ideas.

We face it every day, in every aspect of our lives; and since we live in the material world, where everything, or almost everything, can be sold and bought, ads have undoubtedly become part and parcel of our lives.

There are billions of different ways to catch somebody’s attention, and it is no secret that advertising agencies use all the available tactics and strategies to achieve their essential goal – to persuade us.

However, which way is the best way? What feature is the most important, and what kinds of ads make people react (positively), buy, and share the most?

Studies show that in the majority of cases, people rely on their emotions and listen to them, rather than information.

Moreover, emotional responses are always more influential than the message or content of any advertisement. Douglas Van Praet, the author of “Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) Marketing”, wrote in Fast Company,

“The most startling truth is we don’t even think our way to logical solutions. We feel our way to reason. Emotions are the substrate, the base layer of neural circuitry underpinning even rational deliberation.

Emotions don’t hinder decisions. They constitute the foundation on which they’re made!”

It is therefore no surprise that emotion-driven advertising is always the most successful.

If we look at examples of the best ads in 2017, it is quite easy to notice that in each of them, conveying the message has a certain emotional background.

Since happiness, sadness, fear/surprise and anger/disgust are the basic human emotions, all the ads try to communicate these feelings and make use of them.

Therefore, while watching emotion-driven ads, we have the impression that the message is addressed directly to us, as though those people/companies or whatever they are, understand us and our needs.

We actually feel like we ourselves and our feelings matter to someone, and this is the moment when the initial goal is achieved.

Imagine if the conditions or situations described in one of the ads were somehow close or similar to the addressee’s position.

Then it would have an even bigger result since the emotional connection would be so much stronger.

Many tactics and strategies have been created, based on people’s emotions, and they are successfully used in marketing and advertising.

Furthermore, the truth is that the “creators” are not going to slip into complacency. One of the examples of such tactics is “the 6 Principles of Persuasion” by Dr. Robert Cialdini.

His research shows that there are 6 basic tactics to guide human behaviour and, as a result, to get a “yes” to almost any request.

Among them are:

  • reciprocity (e.g. try one week free)
  • scarcity (e.g. hurry-up, the availability is limited/almost sold out)
  • authority (e.g. recommended by dental professionals)
  • popularity (giving examples of celebrities using the same product/doing the same activity)
  • consistency (people want their beliefs to be consistent with their values)
  • social affirmation (e.g. 23 people booked this hotel in the last 48 hours).

There are also many other techniques like this, for instance: bandwagon, humour, repetition, flattery, nostalgia, analogy, and a hundred others.

All of them just strengthen the emotional impact by transmitting this kind of subtle pressure.

It develops as our demands are growing, and the effect is more than obvious.

What about the message?

Do people pay attention to it, or not?

Well, everything depends on the individual and his/her ability to control emotions. As soon as we manage to calm our feelings down, we can think rationally, and then we are able to see the initial message or idea, which sometimes is completely different from “the cultivated image”.

Being aware of all the strategies and the ways you can be influenced has a crucial value in the modern world.

This is the way you can start to read between the lines and not just see what jumps out at you. There are plenty of examples of social advertising, and you can learn from them which kind of techniques are used and how to find the hidden messages.

It is tremendously interesting and useful, after all.

Taking everything into account, it is evident that although many believe that the choices we make result from a rational analysis of available alternatives, our process does not really work this way.

We are emotional creatures, and our feelings and emotions have a great influence on our decision-making, sometimes even determining our choices.

Therefore, the next time you are in a shop, and you are approached by a consultant or feel excited while watching an ad, ask yourself: which is on top, the message or your emotions?

Photo: Shutterstock

Read more here.

The Employment of Emotion in Advertising

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