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Being "On-Emotion" Leads to Marketing Success: Guidelines for Moving Beyond Twentieth Century 
On-Message Marketing

by Dan Hill, President, Sensory Logic


Recent breakthroughs in neuro-science confirm what we marketers know in our guts, but sometimes forget in the day-to-day rush of preparing the next ad campaign launch. Namely, everybody feels (emotions) before they think (rational decision), and without generating the appropriate emotional response, no ad campaign can succeed.

Here are some guidelines to help avoid that fate.

Get Physical

Sight and sound are fine, but over-used. Leverage the sensory dimensions of feel, touch and taste to create more intimacy and differentiation. Remember: the brain originated with the sense of smell. So Descartes got it wrong: it's more like, I can smell, therefore I feel/think and will buy your product.

Keep It Simple

You've got three seconds to connect. The joke that has to be explained is never as funny as the joke you just get. The frustration of"huh" (message-itis) is marketing's hidden emotional cancer. Consumers feel lost more often than anybody wants to admit.

Keep It Close to Home

Generate likeability and preference through familiarity. Most advertising only has time to echo the story already in your head and heart. Out-of-the-box ideas risk being out of one's emotional range. What's intellectually complicated merely becomes emotionally obscure in a 30-second spot.

Focus on Faces

The face is the center of our being, the barometer of one's health and beauty. It's also how we tell if we like somebody, or the place to check if we distrust what they're saying. Fake smiles don't fool us; everybody's a natural facial coder. For instance, "surprise" that lasts for more than a second isn't genuinely feeling surprise; it's canned, spin, rejected.

Make It Memorable

Ad agencies too often set a pace that feels like a blur to consumers. Their clients can meanwhile be foolishly blind to the need for an ad that has an emotional peak. People notice change; a solution where the"pain" of the status quo isn't conveyed adequately means the solution isn't perceived as valuable and the storyline just drones on.

Relevancy Drives Connection

Us and me is everything; attachment and self-esteem are the motivations that work best. Differentiation from rivals doesn't by itself deliver anything on behalf of your target market. In Latin, "motivation" and "emotion" have the same root to move, to make something happen. Without emotional engagement, you're dead.

Always Sell Hope

Meaningfulness is the key to sustained happiness. Create a powerful context, a way to enhance confidence and security, or merely sell a product or service instead. When we're happy we embrace a branded offer, and are inspired to solve problems at a clip that's as much as 20% faster (with superior results). In other words, happiness isn't "soft."

Don't Lead with Price

Price has only to be heard to be pigeon-holed, short-circuiting the emotional connection. In contrast, value gets assessed over time, based on the build-up of brand associations and experience of the offer. Make money by building a relationship. Loyalty is a feeling, after all, and in this case depends on overcoming our natural aversion of giving up cash for a company's goods.

Mirror the Target Market's Values

There are the ephemeral emotions created by responding to an ad as stimulation. But richer pay dirt results from evoking emotions that nourish brand equity through projecting a compelling brand personality and enshrining values that echo what the target market accepts and can embrace. Most companies merely talk to themselves, thinking the offer is the hero, when the consumer is.

Believability Sticks

Arguing through statistics is the least persuasive type of advertising. Analogies and cause/effect ads work because we intuitively believe the story and visuals. That enables us to believe the tale, not the teller, which is essential to ad effectiveness because corporate credibility is on life support.

This material was drawn from Dan Hill's forthcoming book About Face: The Secrets of Emotionally Effective Advertising, Kogan Page, October 2010, ISBN: 978-0-7494-5757-0


The Author

About Face

Dan Hill ( is a recognized thought leader and practitioner in helping companies build stronger sensory-emotional connections with consumers. His previous book Emotionomics was chosen by Advertising Age as one of the top 10 must-read books of 2009. His newest book, About Face: The Secrets of Emotionally Effective Advertising draws on a database built up over a decade of experience using facial coding as a non-invasive, scientific research tool on behalf of major companies.


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