Curated by Mathew Anthony for those who love the business of persuasion and some ...
Saturday, January 8, 2011
Comm:Function versus emotion, an artificial distinction
Have we created a trap for ourselves by creating an artificial distinction between function and emotion? By assuming the two concepts are separate, have we lost sight of one of the fundamental mechanisms by which advertising works?
The question arose when I was reviewing some ads for inclusion in a presentation last week with Gordon Pincott, Chairman Global Solutions, Millward Brown. Watching an ad for Apple’s iPod, it suddenly struck me that in spite of the fact that nothing is said about how the product functions, the ad ably conveys the experience offered by the brand. It reminded me that there is a reason why we talk about ad “impressions.”
The ad does not tell you how easy the iPod is to use or how many gigabytes it stores. You just get an impression of how much fun the experience of owning one could be. It conveys both the product’s primary function—portable music—and the emotion evoked by using it.
In the last few years agencies have aggressively pursued an agenda to promote the need for emotion in advertising. But in the process, they seem to have driven a wedge between function and emotion in our minds. By doing so, they may have created a trap that dooms many advertising to be less effective than it might be otherwise.
Functionality has become equated with rational arguments and a litany of benefits, specifications and capabilities. Emotion has become associated with implicit communication and non-conscious “persuasion.” And yet the most powerful ads, like the one for the iPod, recognize no such distinction because they focus on conveying an impression of the brand experience.
No one can deny that a relevant and emotionally charged ad is going to be more effective than one that, no matter how relevant, fails to engage an emotional response. But all too often emotion is enlisted to engage the viewer with the creative vehicle, not the brand. Yes, we do need people to engage with the ad, but just as importantly we need to convey a compelling impression of the brand. If advertising is to be effective, people need to understand or be reminded of how the product makes a difference in their lives.
So perhaps we would do well to set aside the artificial distinction between functionality and emotion, and focus instead on the brand experience.
How does it feel to use the product? What are the sensory experiences that one could expect from using it? What are the rewards to be gained from using it?
Critical to the success will be making the viewer “live” the experience in some way, and to relate to it. The more emotionally resonant and personally relevant the portrayal, the more effective the ad will be.
So what do you think? Should more advertising focus on conveying an impression of the brand experience? When might that strategy not work?