Marketers know that emotional response plays an important role in consumer decision making, but many still push explicit messages in ads at the expense of emotional relevance and creative engagement. So, should marketers forget about trying to say anything and just make ads that entertain? No, but they need to be a lot smarter about how they convey functional benefits and evoke an emotional response.
Advertising works best when it makes a memorable and lasting impression.
In our connected world, the perception is that people are 'always on' but that doesn't mean they're always receiving. We know people actively block content on their digital devices, and that skipping ads has become second nature, especially among younger viewers.
We recently conducted research to explore a typical week's advertising across TV, pre-roll and social media. We found that almost two thirds of the ads reviewed delivered an explicit product message.
This seems at odds with the evidence from cognitive science that people rarely think through decisions, and that snap judgements and instinctive reactions are a key part of the brand decision making process.
Emotional relevance and creative engagement in advertising are critical to success. Kantar's database shows that, when compared with ads that focus on a key message, ads with creative impact, driven by branded, emotional engagement, have a much clearer relationship with in-market sales effects. Failing to get the key message across in ads is associated with a lower likelihood of a sales response – but this is dwarfed in comparison to the problems caused by failing to engage viewers.
So what's the best approach? Brands which have clear meaning are more powerful and successful in the long term. Marketers should move beyond the message and focus on the impression they want the ad to leave behind as a whole.
This includes the creative idea, what is said in the ad, the way the story is told, and the emotional tone. It's time to stop selling product features and start building brands instead.
For many brands, making this change goes against the rules of conventional wisdom, and change may require taking a huge leap of faith.
To help make the leap, Kantar identified five key creative development principles used successfully by brands around the world.