Psychologist Robert Plutchik’s theory of emotion suggests humans have eight primary emotions:
Take the Budweiser #BestBuds Super Bowl commercial:
Let’s break it down.
1. Joy — aw, cute dog has horse friends!
2. Sadness — cute dog is lonely and lost.
3. Joy — cute dog doing cute dog things.
4. Fear — cute dog is about to get eaten.
5. Surprise — what are the horses doing? They’re BREAKING FREE TO SAVE CUTE DOG!
6. Joy — cute dog is safely reunited with horse friends.
The stakes rise as the commercial goes on. At first, the audience is only concerned about whether the dog will find his way home. Then, they’re worried he’s going to get torn to shreds by the big bad wolf. The commercial takes us on an emotional journey and leaves us feeling happy and uplifted.
Of course, this has nothing to do with beer (although I’m sure a lot of women wouldn’t mind sharing one with the guy in the commercial) — but if you use logic and reason to sell beer, your options are limited. You can take the “drink this beer, it’s the best” approach (or you could if it wasn’t Budweiser), or you can take the “drink this beer and life will seem like one of Pitbull's music videos” approach (while insisting your audience drink responsibly). We see so many “funny” and “sexy” beer commercials that they don’t have much of an effect anymore.
And while Budweiser’s #BestBuds commercial isn’t about beer, it makes people happy and it’s all about friendship — and THAT’S what Budweiser want you to associate with the brand.
Emotion-based advertising speaks to your audience on a deeper level than logic-based advertising. It alters their state of being, if only for the time they’re engaging with it. It makes them vulnerable, but more importantly, it makes them susceptible to your call to action. For the #BestBuds commercial, that’s the Budweiser logo at the end. This creates an association in the viewer’s mind between joy and friendship, and Budweiser.
Skype used a similar technique in their 2013 commercial. The outcome? Viewers associate Skype with friendship, bonding, and staying in touch with the people they care about most.
And it doesn’t have to be a high-budget commercial, either. You can use emotion to create impact with your online campaigns, whether you tell stories using YouTube movies, stop-motion Vines, images, or text. Video does make it easier to take your audience on an emotional journey, but you can stretch this out over a longer, cross-platform, multimedia campaign as well: as long as your audience is invested in the real people or characters you share, you can make them cry happy tears.
Which commercials make YOU cry? Let us know in the comments!