Marketers Must Provide Value, Not Just Emotional Ads

Humans are emotional beings and, often, feelings can outweigh rational thought. That’s why marketers have historically turned to emotional manipulation tactics when crafting an advertising message. Marketers are familiar with using storytelling to elicit an emotional response, however, consumers are becoming more savvy - they want more than just a story. 

Emotional Manipulation isn’t solely negative. Typically, it is used by a brand to align with a specific feeling rather than product/service benefits or facts. Studies from the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising and reports by the Nielson Company showed that sales and profit significantly increase when the advertiser successfully evokes a positive emotional response from the consumer. Using empathy and appealing to emotions is a useful tactic, but it is not enough to convince the modern day consumer. 

Unlike the ads designed to influence the masses in the earlier days of advertising, advertisements now must convince a range of skeptics. Consumers are not only presented with endless options in the market, but also have access to unlimited information at the click of a button. Consumer power and knowledge makes it harder for emotionally manipulative advertisements to be as effective as they were in the past.  

Today, consumers seek transparency and authenticity - they want to know how a product best serves them (or their community). If marketers want a successful campaign they must re-adjust their strategy from a completely emotional to an educational appeal in order to earn the consumer’s trust and thus gain loyalty and create real brand advocates

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What can marketers do to move towards educational advertising to avoid manipulative advertising?

Chris Raih, the founder and president of ad agency Zambezi said that brands can “combat the atmosphere of disbelief” and show their value to the consumer by bridging gaps, communicating, and inspiring consumers


There are a number of ways marketers can influence consumers:

Providing Context / Bridging the Gap

Marketers should prove to consumers that the brand is worthy of attention.

Car commercials typically hit the mark when it comes to bridging the gap, communicating, inspiring, and proving their value to the consumer. A good example is Subaru’s - “Love. It’s what makes a Subaru a Subaru.” campaign, which perfectly handles emotional storytelling while espousing the vehicle’s durability and useful features.

Providing Value / Communicating

Marketers need to address and relate to the consumer’s problem and provide the solution that makes the consumer’s life easier. Data enables marketers to personalize advertisements, products, and content. Personalized content is relevant, thus valuable, to the consumer’s current needs/wants. 

Additionally, product tutorials or educational materials guide the consumer in product use, simplifying their lives. 

Providing Truth / Inspiring

Marketers cannot expect the consumer to blindly believe that the brand’s product is the best. Kent Grayson, a marketing professor at Northwestern University, conducted a study on consumer skepticism and found that ads that hired paid actors or celebrity endorsers were conceived as “deceptive.” Subliminal messaging perceived as attempts to tap into the consumer’s subconscious make the consumer feel tricked, and thus have a negative reaction towards the brand. Grayson’s study also showed that consumers positively perceived matching competitors’ price and high ratings from third-parties. 

Brands like Patagonia fuel their marketing with honesty by highlighting stories and experiences from actual consumers. Patagonia’s values to preserve and protect the environment communicate their motives and educate and inspire consumers to care. Yvon Chouinard, the Patagonia founder, made it clear that selling useful products was a priority. They even encourage consumers to have products repaired, which can hurt the company bottom-line, but shows that the products are made to last. 

Gone are the days when marketers could strike an emotional chord and expect instant results. Consumers do not want to be mislead, they want to know that the brand is advocating for the consumer. Instead of worrying about selling your brand, start proving to the consumer why your brand is worthy of purchase.