#21 Negative Emotions in Advertising

Human emotions are indispensable vehicles for building powerful brands. Our core job as marketers is to elevate brands that elicit (mostly) positive emotions in the hearts and minds of consumers. But what happens when we want to play with negative emotions? In recent months, during the peak of the COVID pandemic, many advertisers converged their thinking that “isolation-sadness packaged as togetherness” sells. It probably doesn’t. But what can you do?

I sincerely believe that building brands through advertising is translated into a desire to make the viewer feel better at the end of the ad compared to how he felt in the beginning. It doesn’t matter how long they paid attention to your commercial or what ad length you used, all it matters is the emotional crescendo—feeling better, in general, haloes into the feelings towards the brand. Memory structures get built easier with emotions and the likelihood that those memory structures get recalled at the point of purchase increases.

The simple path to this crescendo is to have an entertaining, funny ad which most advertisers default to. The other more complicated way is to delve into a sadder story, that has a positive resolution. This latter path is more challenging to nail. The longer time you spend building the negative emotions, the more difficult it is to achieve the uplift in the end. I am not saying it’s impossible, yet solving for negativity faster is a piece of good advice I often give.

Here are 2 examples when we were at our best to turn negative emotions into a positive resolution for Mars brands:

Snickers – Recovery Room
M&M’s – Eating in Bed

And here are 2 examples when we failed to solve negative emotions quickly

Cesar – Love Them Back
Uncle Ben’s – Drawing

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