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Why brands rely so much on emotional pitching to target customers

Brands have been excessively banking on emotional storytelling for a long time. talks to advertising experts to understand both the advantages and flipside of emotional messaging by brands

Emotions are powerful and we often take every big and small decision of our life based upon what we feel.

Marketers use emotions as a strong catalyst to evoke strong positive feelings for their brands. Some of the most successful campaigns have targeted the emotions of consumers in a bid to get noticed.


But is emotional targeting, even for communicating the smallest of messages, always necessary for marketers? 

We often, and generally, purchase products based not on what a brand or product is communicating emotionally but based on what it can do for the consumer— its utility value. In such a scenario, an emotional appeal might come across as unnecessary or half-baked.


So how can brands find a balance between being emotional and to the point?

Babita Baruah

According to Babita Baruah, Managing Partner, GTB India, the objective of brand communication is to engage in the most relevant way so that the consumer is positively disposed towards the brand, resulting in a change in behaviour or an active action in its favour. She said storytelling has been an age-old way in which people connect. 


“However, the brand proposition has to be at the core of the narrative. If it is at the core, then there is no question of confusion. We often ask the question— will this narrative work if we removed our brand? It’s a litmus test. A brand proposition can be a direct product story or a larger promise stemming from the product. To me, the best brand messaging happens when the creators have a very clear understanding of the objective and a belief in the brand. Without that, a story, however strong, is meaningless and a waste of resources in the brand context.”

Soumitra Karnik

“There is nothing wrong with using emotions because your messages are targeted at humans, who are predominantly emotional beings and especially in an age where technology is taking over. However, how to use emotion is the most important thing. Using emotion is not wrong but somewhere it is more of a problem of your craft of advertising than the problem of using emotion,” said Soumitra Karnik, Independent Creative Consultant.

Samit Sinha

A brand has four levels, explained Samit Sinha, Founder and Managing Partner, Alchemist Brand Consulting. The lowest level talks about the brand features and the one above it talks about its functional benefits and what it does. At the highest level of the brand is the brand's meaning and what it signifies in terms of worldview.

Sinha said this is why brands have to climb up the ladder unless the features are unique, which is very difficult in this day and age. “For example, a washing machine can have only so many functional benefits. I think the power lies in communicating with the consumer’s emotions. It has to be relevant, so even if you're talking about an emotional benefit, the functional benefit has to be linked to it,” he said.

“There are certain other categories where, even though emotional benefits are important, consumers do tend to want rational benefits communicated to them as well. Because these would typically be either product categories that are of very high value but not much badge value. For example, suppose, you are spending a lakh to buy an inverter. It is not typically something you can show off. But you will want things like battery life, etc, to be communicated,” he added.

Santosh Padhi

Santosh Padhi, Chief Creative Officer and Co-Founder at Taproot Dentsu, said unless a brand does not have anything new to offer, an emotional angle has to be ingrained for the audience to remember it. “At the same time, it has to be relevant to whom you're speaking to. For the last 80 years, people have been selling detergent; so how do you keep on creating more stories around the same stuff? It is a big challenge, this is where storytelling comes at work,” he said.

Padhi explained it is necessary to stick to the strategy that gives wings and prep to creativity. “Ariel was cut through with the new positioning of ‘share the load’. It was not selling the cliché because at the end of the day, I am a consumer and I know what a detergent does. So it is a great strategy, which can be done on TV, print, radio, OOH, digital. Some brands take the shortcut but it will not give you the results you are looking for. Sometimes just because you want a presence in print or outdoors, you do that. However, I feel even a small sticker can be effective if you do it in the right way.”

Are print and digital pop-up ads not being given the right importance?

While telling stories through television and video commercials can do wonders for a brand, is enough importance not being given to the craft and creativity in print and digital pop-up ads?

According to Karnik, sometimes agencies would be in such a rush to put things online, it can lead to mistakes and have an effect on brand image.

“If you give a three-hour exam in one hour, you are bound to make mistakes like grammatical and spelling errors. Ultimately every piece is representing a brand. When I see a badly written piece of work, I judge the brand. So do people. If you can’t even write a line or a copy well enough, we can imagine what kind of attention you pay to your products and services.”

Padhi said every small piece of communication must be given equal importance and attention from the industry. “I even tell my juniors that everything is an opportunity, even a small space in a newspaper will give you a chance to convert it into a great piece of work. However, many times I think our industry focuses more on TV because that's where the majority of our audience is and they ignore print. I think a great print work has a chance of going viral on digital or vice-versa and doing wonders. For example, the KFC commercial where they ran out of chicken. That was one of the classic examples of how even a simple beautiful print can go viral on digital.”

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