Emotional Marketing

Recorded on 2011-08-31

Last week while watching TV with my fiancé, I saw a Volkswagen ad start playing. I could instantly tell it was going to be good. It begins with a man leaving his house, jumping in his car, and driving away. Within a few seconds you can tell he is distraught. He’s shaking his head and sighing as he listens to sappy music. He drives to the countryside, gets out of the car and kicks at the dirt, clutching his head in his hands, frustrated.

At the end he returns to his home, flowers in hand. His wife answers the door, sees him looking apologetic as he holds up his fistful of wildflowers. Underneath his pleading smile, "Drive until you’re ready to talk." displays on the screen. She shuts the door on him, but instantly opens it back up with an affectionate, forgiving smile on her face.

Then, and only then, does the advertisement mention what product is being sold. "Golf" is displayed on the screen, followed by the VW logo.

Featuring the Product Without Data

"That commercial is genius!" I exclaimed to my fiancé. They didn’t tell me about the car’s fuel economy. They didn’t play up it’s German heritage or progressive styling. They painted me a picture and put me inside an experience; an experience I related to.

The first thing the poor man-in-the-wrong does after his apparent argument with his wife is jump in his car to cool off and to think. Subconsciously this ad tells us a few things without actually coming out and telling us:

  • The car is polished and comfortable. It is the man-haven he retreats to, to get away and do some self-reflection.
  • The car is economical. In these times of high gas prices, he isn’t concerned about driving out to the country. He just gets in and goes.
  • The car probably has a great sound system. More subtly, we get the feeling that the music we are listening to is the music he is listening to through his car’s sound system.

Sell The Emotion

Some of the commercials I enjoy the most paint an emotional story and show how their product or service was integral in the story. The product was the solution or an important vehicle used to arrive at that solution. The brand was able to make the product personal and create a subtle emotional link without forcing it upon me with stats and figures and awards. Some distinguishing characteristics of the product are integrated so subtly that you don’t even consciously realize it.

Emotions are powerful motivating factors in marketing. You are providing far more than a product or service. You are providing peace of mind, or increasing your customer’s comfort level, or making them look better in the eyes of their peers, or bringing back nostalgic memories, or making them more productive and allowing them more time with their families.

Your customers are not always looking for your product. Sometimes they are looking for the feeling your solution creates.

Here’s the commercial on YouTube so you can see it for yourself:

More of my Favourite Emotional Commercials

Google Search. This ad tells a story using only background sounds and Google search results pages. It takes us on a journey of love found abroad by an adventurous young man while showing us all the features and benefits of Google.

Apple FaceTime. The product is not about the technology or the future of communication, it is about how we communicate now.

Mad Men Kodak Slide Carousel. Don Draper introduces the emotional bond of the product by saying, "Nostalgia; it’s delicate, but potent."