SXSW and the science of emotionally charged advertising

In the AMC Series Madmen, Don Draper is pitching the new business client from Kodak, talking to them about their new slide projector. The client is convinced that the new technology is its point of difference and wants to focus on the “wheel” as they call it. Draper has a different point of view and demonstrates to them the power of emotion in advertising.

This video was played in the opening minutes of a SXSW session titled, “Heads and hearts: Consumer engagement where it counts.” The panel for this session was a brilliantly diverse selection of thought leaders.

Christina Binkley is the Fashion/News Editor for the Wall Street Journal. John Bricker is the Creative Director for Gensler, one of the world’s largest architectural firms. Melody Lee is the Director of Brand Strategy and Planning who is tasked with turning around the Cadillac brand. And James Thompson is a Neuroscientist, CEO, CTO and Cofounder of Evoke, developers of cognitive improvement tools. Together, this diverse group of professionals tackled the tough issue of how to effectively engage consumers.

Combining their insights from neuroscience, marketing case studies, the creation of more effective retail spaces, and consumer responses to rapidly emerging trends, this panel made several strong recommendations for marketers:

  • Marketers should focus more heavily on emotional appeals over rational ones.
  • They should create experiences for consumers, especially those experiences that lead to discovery.
  • And their understanding of the value of Influencers should be based less on the number of followers the Influencer has and more on how passionate that Influencer’s following is.

Other insights offered by this panel:

  • The release of oxytocin in the brain generates trust. Simply viewing human interaction can cause this. It is also responsible for generosity and bonding. Emotional appeals win hearts and subsequently minds
  • When Cadillac shifted from a demo (an audience profile) to a mindset (a deeper understanding of what motivates an audience) it turned around the declining brand.
  • A true luxury brand sells a dream.
  • The brand makes all the difference. Successful brands like Apple create tribal followings.
  • Strong brands can’t exist without strong products or services. But strong products and services rely entirely on strong brands to thrive.
  • What is the expected value of a brand. Successful brands create high expectations of the reward the brand offers. And then they pay it off.
  • People make emotional decisions first and then the rational brain kicks in.
  • Targeting influencers is so important because people want to be like them.
  • Trust is hard to get back because of the way the brain is wired.
  • Experience becomes everything. A lot of retail today is built around community.
  • Salespeople are brand ambassadors. Companies should motivate employees to feel like they are serving a higher purpose.
  • Just hearing about Starbucks releases dopamine and creates a positive anticipation of experience.
  • Coke (not Pepsi) causes the release of dopamine.
  • Once the brain has figured out what happens next it disengages.  You have to keep it fresh and surprising.
  • Appealing to negative emotions like anger and sadness has a negative effect. It causes people to behave selfishly. It’s not a good strategy because it actually affects a different part of the brain.
  • When competing against a loved brand you can’t just advertise better products (rationalize). You have to become more loved.
  • Marketers should change their focus from metrics to experience. Specifically, their focus should be on the gazed areas of the consumer’s screen. Longer gaze time increases clicks. You can maintain gaze by introducing novelty.

Obviously, advertising science is alive and well at SXSW. Keep checking in with us for more advertising insights from the Austin conference. And don’t miss our other updates on the progress of science in advertising, right here in our Newsroom.

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For over 20 years, Imaginuity has been combining imaginative thinking and innovative technology to create transformative results for our clients, their customers, and our people. Our services and platforms manage complexity to improve marketing outcomes.