The run up to Christmas is a competitive time of year for marketers. In order to stand out above the noise a brand has to resonate with the consumer; and what better way to resonate at Christmas time than with the warm fuzzy feeling that comes from something a little sentimental?
The spectrum of human emotion may seem broad but research from the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology at Glasgow University suggests humans experience four basic emotions: happy, sad, afraid and angry. Advertising campaigns need only to connect with one of these four strongly enough to foster an emotional connection between consumer and brand. But why foster an emotional connection at all? Studies indicate that consumers primarily use emotions rather than information when evaluating brands. Furthermore an emotional connection has the potential to establish brand loyalty and advocacy from consumers. Emotion drives action and action is what advertisers need from an audience. Sentimental advertising is a great way to tap into that emotion but how can advertisers ensure their campaigns tug on the consumers’ heartstrings?
Fond memories and positive associations go hand in hand, and this can be a powerful tool in advertising. Nostalgia isn’t so much a longing to re-visit a certain time as it is a hunger for a feeling associated with it. It’s human nature to worry about the future and adverts that play on nostalgia have a tendency to hone in on a collective sentiment of ‘simpler times’. They invite the consumer to look back and imagine themselves living in a world vastly different than the one they live in now. This element of escapism creates what can be defined as a ‘cultural nostalgia’ meaning that even consumers who never experienced a certain time can still feel the effects of nostalgic adverts. Brands that appear consistent from generation to generation reinforce these positive associations and this can foster that coveted emotional connection with an audience.
Feelings of compassion encourage a strong emotional response. There’s a reason why Facebook timelines are flooded with pictures of babies, animals, and the elderly. They all appeal to human kind’s nurturing side. Whether it’s the ‘aww’ factor of the McVitie’s Kittens or the happy ending that caused thousands to shed a tear at John Lewis’ ‘Man on the Moon’, these adverts flood consumers brains with feel good chemicals; a hit they’ll seek out time and time again.
“In a survey of 1,000 UK consumers, more than 30% of people like video adverts that tell a story with 29% favouring those that make them feel nostalgic…” – Groundbreak, ‘The Future of Audiovisual Content in the Commercial Arena‘.
One of the more difficult parts of advertising is getting an audience invested in a brand. What’s to stop a consumer switching off during an advert? Channel flicking, web surfing, or simply getting up to make a cup of tea are all very real threats to television advertising. Regardless of how heart-warming an advert is, if there’s nothing to grip the consumer then they could turn into one of the 90% of viewers who fast-forward through the ads.
This is where creating a compelling narrative comes into play. The narrative is the platform through which sentiment is communicated. It doesn’t matter if it’s a structured tale with a clearly defined beginning, middle, and end, or a simple vignette that peeks into another reality. The defining feature of a narrative or ‘story’ is that is both gripping and something that begs to be shared.
Narrative advertising can be the defining factor between indifference and emotional attachment to a brand. Engaging stories suspend the consumer’s disbelief, allowing them to absorb the brand in an unobtrusive way. This allows consumers to become fully invested in the emotional elements of the advert whilst creating subconscious brand associations.
The Bottom Line
There’s no exact formula for the perfect sentimental ad campaign. Creating one is just as much an art as it is a science and there’s a fine line between an advert that’s sentimental and one that is overly saccharine and pandering. It may seem that brands like John Lewis have cracked the code but a little daring and creativity can help a brand stand out from the crowd.
Insights and advice from marketing experts work to offer a whole new perspective on the way you advertise; something which is vital to raising your voice above the noise.
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