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  • Subject area(s): Marketing
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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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Douglas Van Praet, author of Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) Marketing, wrote in Fast Company, that “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!”

For too many years it has been believed that a good advertaising should be based on a logical approach to be effective. But in the recent time, researches have shown that emotions play a key role in Communication. Indeed, intresting are the results of an analysis of data from the IPA (the UK-based Institute of Practitioners in Advertising); the IPA databank contains 1400 case studies of successful advertising campaigns submitted for the IPA Effectiveness Award competition in the last thirty years. This analysis compared the profitability of campaigns with a rational appeal  vs. campaigns with a emotional appeal. Those with a purely emotional content performed about 31%, while those with a logical appeal only 16%; campaigns with both emotional and rational approach, 26%.


In 2014 Les Binet (head of effectiveness at adam&eveDDB) and Sarah Carter (strategy director at adam&eveDDB) attended an advertising research debrief for a food brand. !!!The product had a real and valuable functional benefit; it was scientifically proven that it helped in medical issues. The campaign showed real people using the product and talking about its benefits. In theory this campaign should have worked, but the post test reported that it worked well to inform people, but it didn't work very well to persuade them. The problem was that people don't watch TV to get information about brands and products, but to relax, to be entertained and to chill out. To work an advertaising should engage people, and to do that it has to be intresting, because as the creators of this campaign told, “informing is not the same as persuading. Persuasion is primarily emotional, with rational messages playing a second role”.

The majority of people believe that the choices that they make, are made after a rational analysis of available choices. In reality emotions influence and often determinate our decisions. Antonio Damasio (professor of neuroscience at the University of Southern California), wrote in his book Descartes Error that emotions are foundamental for almost all decisons. Damasio's study has made studying people with damaged connections between the “thinking area” and the “emotional area” of the brain; they were able to analyze informations about alternative options, but were unable to make decisions, because they didn't feel anything about the alternatives. In fact the role of emotions in consumer behaviour has been documented throught some tools and researches. For instance, the Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) shows that when consumers evaluate a brand, they fisrt use emotions (personal feeling and experiences) and after informations (brand attributes, features and facts). Furthermore a research conducted by the Advertising Research Foundation reveals that the consumer's emotional response to an advertaising campaign has more influence on their decison to buy a product than the informations conteined in the such advertising (by a factor of 3-1 for television commercials and 2-1 for print ad). Researches also show that positive emotions for a brand have a big influence of consumer loyality. Thus, emotions can be defined as the primary reason why consumers chose a brand instead of another one. In fact, an advertised brand has power in the marketplace because it creates an emotional connection to the consumer; this happens because a brand is nothing more than a mental representation of a product in the consumer's mind. If the representation is only of the product's attributes, features, and other information, there are no emotional links to influence consumer preference and action. More emotional the content is in the mental representation of a brand, more likely consumer could be loyal.!!! Brand personality is communicated by marketers through packaging, visual imagery, and the words used to describe a brand. Indeed, very important in creating a link with the consumer's mind, is the “narrative” of a brand: the story that communicates “who” is the brand, what it means to the consumer, and why the consumer should care. This “narrative” is the base for the advertising and for the promotion of a brand. This because people are emotionally driven beings. They live their life !!! through emotions, and they make the majority of their decisions subconsciously, influenced by feelings and emotions. As Antonio Damasio argues, “We are not thinking machines that feel - we are feeling machines that think”. Watzlawick, a psychologist and communication theorist, in the 60' made a lot of studies to understand how different types of communications were processed and how that affected their lasting impact on memory and recall.!!! He showed that communications that used a rational approach had a shorter life in the consumer's brain than communications that used an emotional approach. This research shows that it is emotional communication not rational communication that creates relationships (Watzlawick, Bavelas, and Jackson 1967). As Joseph Heath wrote in 2006,“Watzlawick et al. find it is not what you say that builds relationships, but how you say it. Or, in advertising terms, it is not the rational message that builds brand relationships, but the emotional creativity”.  In 2013 Les Binet and Peter Field made a meta-analysis of over 800 IPA effectiveness case studies and they found strong correlations between emotional campaigns and brand success, while rational campaigns were less likely to produce business effects and their minor effects lasted shorter: “emotional campaigns produce bigger and more numerous business effects than rational campaigns. Emotional campaigns' effects last longer than rational ones and so build more strongly over time”.

Scholars of cognitive science, like Damasio, Bornstein, Zajonc and Watzlawick support the same cocnlusion, saying that “emotional communications imprint better and last longer, while rational communications are less likely to be absorbed and last only a short time”.

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