• James Odene

The emotional trump card

No, this is nothing to do with Donald Trump. This is about the power of emotions over us all. When logic and thought are confronted with emotion, guess which wins...

Small anecdote

At the moment of writing (June 19), my partner and I are buying a house. And as anyone who has done this before, this is no small task. Oh, boy does it take a lot of thinking, with every decision seemingly consuming £20 notes... but anyway.

We had the choice of two houses and we really had to deliberate over which was best. In short, we had to choose between a house A: a cheaper house that was quite small, not the best location with a great garden and loads of potential or house B: a bigger house, perfect location, very small garden and much more expensive (it also needs a lot of work).

We debated and debated until we decided we'd go to town on an Excel spreadsheet and create key values or important things to us and measure each house against the criteria. Things like closeness to a good school, feeling of space, nice location...

In short, house B won. By a BIG margin. After some more debating, we decided that the scoring system was biased and too simplistic. So we did it again with a more comprehensive and less biased scoring system. House B won, again.

Guess which house we bought...

Secretly, we both just really liked house A. And so we went for that one.

Moral of the story - emotions win.

"Emotions constitute an integrated element of the seemingly most rational decision-making. Whenever thinking contradicts with emotions, emotions win."
Giep Franzen: The Mental World of Brands

B2B or B2C, emotions rule

As a marketer or campaigner, it's good to remember, even if you are dealing with CEOs or boardrooms, emotions win over thoughts. For vegan or animal protection activism, this might be translated to emotions win over facts.

Taking of facts, here's a graph for you

Source: The Long and Short of It: Les Binet & Peter Field

Peter Field and Les Binet, in their report 'The Long and Short of It', analysed the data from 1,000 campaigns across 30 years in 80 categories. They were looking at the impact of emotion-led marketing.

One of the clear headline findings of their report was that emotional campaigns had nearly twice the chance of driving large profit compared to more rational arguments.

That's pretty significant.

Squeamish amongst us, look away now... here's another example of this...

Which of these ads do you think is more likely to nudge you towards buying some hand sanitiser?

Source: Youtube



When there is a debate on hanging a campaign on facts and thoughts, it seems likely that instead headlining emotions is the best route to go down.

There is a but...

It isn't yet overly researched the impact of gruesome or bloody images of farmed animals in relation to inspiring positive action and so it's not as simple as going for emotion and getting the desired outcome. It's a matter of finding the right balance of emotion and thought.

Think of the hotel or flight comparison sites - they use all the behavioural biases they can, like scarcity ('Only 2 left!'), fear of regret ('Don't miss this amazing deal!'), social proof/herd instinct ('20 people have looked at this in the last hour') - but do you want to use those kind of sites? They don't exactly inspire repeat custom, in fact they likely disturb or break any brand loyalty or positive customer experience.

The same risk is present here; if you go so heavy on the emotion of a campaign that you actually sabotage yourself - as people are turned off from any additional or supporting messaging that you have - all you are really doing is turning people off. The level that people will respond to emotional content is dependant on a lot of factors and that's why it's always best to test on a smaller scale to see the results and then scale up once you have good indication that you will get the intended effect.

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