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Does Emotional Appeal Work in Advertising? The Rationality Behind Using Emotional Appeal to Create Favorable Brand Attitude

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Abstract

The paper attempts to assimilate the current thinking on the use of emotional appeals in advertising, positioning and communication in order to build a favorable attitude towards a brand. It elucidates the areas where emotional appeals would work best, while pointing out the possible pitfalls in employing such a strategy across the board. Further, an attempt has been made to interpret the current body of knowledge on the subject and create a context for general application of emotional appeal in advertising. The paper identifies products and services for which emotional advertising appeals will be more suitable. It also elaborates the risk involved in using emotional appeals. Factors influencing effectiveness of emotional appeals are discussed in detail and guidelines are drawn for effective use of emotional appeals. The authors have suggested future direction of research in the area of use of advertising appeal and its influence on brand attitude formation.
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Does Emotional Appeal Work in Advertising?
The Rationality of Use of Emotional Appeal in Creating Favorable Brand Attitude
Does Emotional Appeal Work in Advertising?
The Rationality Behind Using Emotional Appeal
to Create Favorable Brand Attitude
Tapan K Panda*, Tapas K Panda** and Kamalesh Mishra***
The paper attempts to assimilate the current thinking on the use of emotional appeals in advertising,
positioning and communication in order to build a favorable attitude towards a brand. It elucidates the
areas where emotional appeals would work best, while pointing out the possible pitfalls in employing such
a strategy across the board. Further, an attempt has been made to interpret the current body of knowledge
on the subject and create a context for general application of emotional appeal in advertising. The paper
identifies products and services for which emotional advertising appeals will be more suitable. It also
elaborates the risk involved in using emotional appeals. Factors influencing effectiveness of emotional
appeals are discussed in detail and guidelines are drawn for effective use of emotional appeals. The
authors have suggested future direction of research in the area of use of advertising appeal and its influence
on brand attitude formation.
* Professor of Market ing and Director, Kotler Srinivasan Cente r for Research in Marketing, Great Lakes
Institute of Management, Chennai, India; and is the corresponding author. E-mail: tapanpanda@gmail.com
** Faculty Member, Mangalayatan University, Uttar Pradesh, E-mail: odiakid@gmail.com
** * Doctoral Scholar, Ravenshaw University, Katak, Odisha, India. E-mail: kamaleshmishra@gmail.com
Introduction
Advertising is a critical component of the marketing mix for any brand. Thus, an
understanding of effective advertising appeals for particular product or service types is
important to national and international brand promotion.
In advertising, brand recall always matters. It is the brand recall at the point of
purchase that guides the success or failure of a brand. In earlier advertising theories, it is
believed that undying support for brand recall was a conspiracy orchestrated by
manufacturers who believed more in functional messaging than in the power of emotional
bond that advertising can create for the brand leading to favorable associations.
In the seminal work on major influences of advertising on the attitude of customers,
researchers (Callahan, 1974) have highlighted a few critical issues related to emotional
responses to advertising. From that time onwards, many authors have worked in this area
and have found that advertising evaluations are deliberated by negative affects and
stimulated by positive effects. This also establishes the fact that liking/preference towards
an advertisement may lead to development of positive attitude towards a brand leading
© 2013 IUP. All Rights Reserved.
The IUP Journal of Brand Management, Vol. X, No. 2, 20138
to higher purchase intention. In various models of advertising effectiveness testing, brand
knowledge comes first and this leads to development of attitude and brand evaluation.
George and Berry (1981) proposed a model in which ‘primary affective reactions’ or ‘ad
evoked feelings play an important role. This plays the role of a gatekeeper on brand
information processing. Other authors have tested the role of evoked emotions and have
found that ad-evoked feelings have a direct influence on attitude towards the advertised
brand and purchase intention. They have also observed that they have indirect influence
thus having a mediating effect on consumer attitude towards the advertisements.
Wang et al. (2009) and Bulbul et al. (2010) have showed that different types of
executions on the basis of emotion on various copy platforms like humor, eroticism, fear
and love lead to different advertising evoked feelings and difference in the formation of
attitude towards (1) the advertisement and brand recognition; and (2) attitude towards
the brand and purchase intention.
So the key question is about the role that ad-evoked feelings play in the marketing
communication process, and whether their relative importance depends on the type of
emotional execution used.
A survey of literature of past couple of years indicates that the ability of television
advertising to persuade customers for buying is on a decline due to increase in media
clutter and fragmentation of media. To make advertising appeals more distinctive and
hence perhaps more persuasive, advertisers frequently use dramatic emotional
ad-messages designed to ‘shock the emotions and make the brain itch’ (Chaudhari, 2002).
It is observed that emotion-based high impact advertising executions are based on
evocating ad-sensuous appeals which lead to generation of strong positive emotions.
However, as a practice, it is also seen that advertisers use graphic and sensational negative
emotional appeals in advertising copy. These are seen in the cases of advertisements
against drug abuse, prostitution, child trafficking, life insurance and healthcare
institutions. Public service agencies in India also use negative emotions for appealing
against much social maladjustment.
Marketers of personal care products like perfumes, fashion, wine and foreign liquor and
high status-oriented products have always used emotional appeals in advertising, as it is
very difficult to prove product/brand rationality and premium-ness in pricing through
logical arguments whereby the buyer can be convinced to involve in a purchase process.
An appeal to emotions, which was a practice in fashion industry, has spread to other
industries as well.
We also see the use of emotional appeals in automobile advertising. Volkswagen has
positioned its brand Beetle with a retro of 1960s with attractive colors, and the company
has created an online radio station to develop and reinforce connection of music with the
brand. The short films made by BMW and Ford Fiesta are examples how consumer
generated content with emotional appeals not necessarily highlighting product/brand
features can help in building a brand. The interactive store created by Swatch helps the
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Does Emotional Appeal Work in Advertising?
The Rationality of Use of Emotional Appeal in Creating Favorable Brand Attitude
prospects to navigate inside the store and design their own personal store creak and
accessories as a part of their overall experience. One of the successful ‘attitude campaign
of Nike does not verbalize anything about the product or brand when it says ‘Just do it’.
It swiftly communicates the emotionally loaded message of achievement and courage
without highlighting the brand essence.
The world is not full of success stories only. There are failures also where emotional
advertising played havoc on the brand. Kodak could have done feature-based advertising
for its disposable camera where choices are on the basis of functionality. However,
emotional advertising (to draw it from its parent brand campaign which focuses on
moments and memories) did not work in favor of the brand. The rational appeal would
have worked in highlighting the value for money (the usability, disposability of the brand,
etc.), but an emotional appeal could not build this rationality with the brand.
Rational Versus Emotional Appeals
There has been an ongoing debate about rational and emotional appeals used in
advertising. These frameworks have been studied extensively in advertising and marketing
literature. The seminal work depicting differences in impact of different execution styles
based on rational and emotional appeals by Copeland (1924) posits that individual
customers buy products and services for either a rational or emotional reason. The idea
of rational advertising is based on the assumption that consumers process information
while making purchase decisions based on logical or/and utilitarian decisions. Such models
are based on the proposition that rational messages can change the receiver’s belief about
the advertised brand, and rely on the persuasive power of arguments put forth in
marketing communication to convince customers about buying the advertised brand.
Brand managers use product quality, economy, value or/and price performance phenomenon
for persuading customers towards a decision.
In contrast to this proposition, authors supporting emotional appeals have proposed
experiential consumption. The advertisements based on emotions make the consumer feel
good about the product by creating favorable brand associations. These brands work on
feelings for effectiveness. Emotional appeals attempt to stir up either negative or positive
emotions leading to purchase motivation (Franke et al., 1999). Use of execution platforms
like fear, guilt and shame appeals gets people to do things they should or they should not.
We have observed that marketing communicators also use positive emotional appeal like
love, patriotism, affection, nostalgia, humor, pride and joy for developing positive brand
attitude.
There are various viewpoints related to what constitutes emotion. Here we have
viewed emotions as a universal set of internal processes that are largely interconnected
and hardwired which arises when an event related to individual consumer’s consumption
takes place. There are many concerns shared across cultures; emotional experience has an
element of cross-cultural similarity. Research on the impact of emotion on brand attitude
has brought some universal consensus on evaluation of basic emotions like evaluation,
The IUP Journal of Brand Management, Vol. X, No. 2, 201310
potency and activity. It has also brought some specific emotions like anger, fear, love,
empathy and surprise to the forefront. Although recognition of many emotions across
culture looks robust, a significant difference exists in the way they impact consumption
choice. These differences can be attributed to systematic cultural variation.
A taxonomical analysis of basic emption posits that each of them possesses an
evolutionary survival value. This is associated with a changing and unique pattern of
autonomous nervous system activity and often accompanied by facial expressions. This is
acquired quite early in life through a socialization process. These basic emotions are
universal and often seen across demographical groups.
Emotion and reason have been defined as knowledge by acquaintance and knowledge
by description, respectively (Geuens and Pelsmacker, 1998a). According to Mahajan and
Wind (2002), ‘knowledge by acquaintance’ is immediate and direct subjective experience
which is known as ‘self-evident’. Quite contrast to this is the idea of ‘knowledge by
description’ which results from interpretation of sensory data and involves judgment about
phenomena. Knowledge of a physical object, such as a table, is not direct knowledge. This
knowledge is obtained through an awareness of the sense data that make up the
appearance of the table (Mattila, 1999).
Emotion has been proposed as a major component of the consumption experience. Our
experience as consumers encompasses both positive feelings (joy and love) and their
negative counterparts (sadness and disgust). These emotional dimensions of consumption
bear directly on our quality of life as people and citizens. There has been a growing interest
in understanding the role of emotion in persuasion appeals in the field of consumer
behavior. A plethora of this body of research has focused on developing a typology of
emotional responses that vary in both valence and arousal. One emotion can be
characterized by highly arousing positive response, whereas another may have milder
impact on consumer attitude, and another may have a negative impact.
Marketing research proves that positioning is a combination of cognitive and affective
components of attitude. While cognitive positioning depends on logical arguments or
‘reason why’ in favor of the product, a rational appeal focuses on consumer problem,
product benefits sought by consumers and how the features of the product/brands will help
in solving the customer problems and achieve the desired benefits. On the other extreme,
this also includes comparative advertising, which compares the feature of the product or
service utility with those of competitive brands.
In contrast to cognitive approaches, affective positioning aims at emotions and goes
to heart by focusing on emotions, feelings or drives associated with a product and brand.
This positioning can be done on the basis of joy, fear, sadness and happiness or desire of
bliss. While both cognitive and affective are important, the emotional positioning takes
the center stage.
There is hardly any agreement on the role and nature of emotions in advertising and
its impact on creating favorable brand attitude. Pure emotions or feelings have been
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Does Emotional Appeal Work in Advertising?
The Rationality of Use of Emotional Appeal in Creating Favorable Brand Attitude
postulated to have the potential to affect the thought process or influence thought process
or information processing through various states of mood; to become associated with the
brand, perhaps through classical conditioning (Gorn, 1982; and Homes and Crocker,
1987); to work by creating a positive attitude toward the ad, which then becomes
associated with or transferred to the brand (Batra and Michale, 1986), or enhances
information processing (Kroeber-Riel 1979; and Shimp, 1981); or to work by transforming
the use experience (Puto and Wells, 1984). Furthermore, there is lack of agreement on
whether emotion should be conceptualized along various dimensions such as pleasure,
arousal and dominance (Mehrabian and Russell, 1974) or as emotional categories or
specific types like joy, sadness, fear and so forth (Plutchik, 1980)
The Rationale for Emotional Appeals
There has been a lot of debate on the effectiveness of rational and emotional appeals on
consumers. Different terminologies are applied to explain the rationality or/and
emotionality of advertising in influencing brand purchase behavior. Aaker and Norris
(1982) found that informational appeals resulted in higher effectiveness ratings than
emotional appeals. Similarly, Golden and Johnson (1983) found that overall, thinking ads
provided more information than emotional ads, and were subsequently better liked and
resulted in higher purchase intentions. Coulson (1989) also found higher purchase
intentions for rational commercials than for mood commercials; and Holbrook (1978)
reported that factual content is more credible, resulting in more positive beliefs. Further,
a recent study examining retail services has suggested that rational appeals are superior
to emotional appeals for two different types of services (Stafford and Day, 1995). The
authors posit that rational, informative advertising appeals may help reduce some of the
uncertainty often associated with the purchase of services.
Other researchers have suggested that appeals generating an emotional response result
in more positive reactions (Goldberg and Gorn, 1987) and higher levels of recall (Choi
and Thorson, 1983). Geunes and Pelmacker (1998b) argued that emotional and
experiential appeals can help alleviate the abstract nature of service offerings. Perhaps the
point with ubiquitous agreement is that the effectiveness of the appeal depends on the
message modality (Liu and Stout, 1987) or the product type (Golden and Johnson, 1983;
Holbrook and Shaughnessy, 1989; Shavitt, 1990 and 1992; and Johar and Sirgy, 1991).
More specifically, researchers have posited that the appeal should ‘match’ the product type
(Albers-Miller and Stafford, 1999; Johar and Sirgy, 1991; Shavitt, 1990; and 1992). That
is, a more emotional (value-expressive) appeal should be used for a value-expressive
product and a more rational (utilitarian) appeal should be used for a utilitarian product
(Vaughan, 1980; Bruzzone, 1981; and Johar and Sirgy, 1991).
Emotional advertising has been shown to affect customers’ reactions to advertisements,
to enhance their attention and to affect brand attitudes. Researchers have separated a
factual message strategy from an evaluative one. An evaluative message strategy calls for
creating emotional or subjective impressions of intangible aspects of the product.
The IUP Journal of Brand Management, Vol. X, No. 2, 201312
Application of Emotional Appeals in Brand Building
Though in general, emotional appeals lead to a more favorable attitude towards the ad and
the brand, they cannot be used across the board. There are certain products, categories,
and cultures where they would be very effective, while being ineffective in other situations.
One of the commonplace uses of emotional advertising is in the buying of big-ticket
items. If customers are motivated to buy products based on emotions, they usually have
a reduced need for cognitive information during the pre-purchase stage. Though
advertising and marketing researchers have taken key interest in the use of pre-purchase
information, consumers are found to have no or little interest in obtaining and processing
pre-purchase information. This is equally valid for both buying of impulse and expensive
goods. It is easier to buy a consumer durable like a car or an i-pad on the basis of the
technology or operating system used in it than to read everything about the car or i-pad
in detail and then make a decision. So, affective buying behavior is found to be less
stressful than cognitive buying behavior.
Customer acquisition through emotional route also helps in reducing post-purchase
dissonance. If the product or brand matches up to the expectation, then the customer is
satisfied, but there is a condition of buyer’s remorse. As long as the brand purchase
provided emotional satisfaction, the customer is less likely to feel cognitive dissatisfaction.
Brand marketers use various affective comparatives to highlight the emotional value of the
brand. In the case of Apple campaign, one sees how the brand associates itself with all
change agents and people with a vision to change the world and links the brand as a
change agent. This helps them to differentiate their product proposition from otherwise
cluttered market players and also an emotional justification for charging a premium.
Mercedes Benz also uses a catch line ‘sometimes words can be hopelessly inadequate’. Both
these brands do not try to justify the rationality of premium that they charge, rather they
create an emotional bonding with their customers.
It is difficult to create a rational platform for buying a commodity. Commodity products
have very little to say for themselves. If the products are in a highly competitive and
matured market, cognitive argument or arguments based on rationality are not effective,
as it is very difficult to distinguish a product from another. They are all commodities. It
is the pure emotional association and bondage with the commodity that makes it unique
and different from the market place. Emotional appeals can help in lifting the commodity
from its level of sameness and position them differently in customer’s mind. Many a time,
it is difficult for customers to understand technically complex products. Brand evaluation
becomes more complex when customers find the technology and product features to be
too complex to comprehend. Among the most complex products or services to sell on
emotion are those based on high technology. Researchers are of the view that emotional
or affective approaches provide a motivation for purchase without getting into the
complex information processing and rational/logical cognitive arguments.
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Does Emotional Appeal Work in Advertising?
The Rationality of Use of Emotional Appeal in Creating Favorable Brand Attitude
There are products which are launched with planned obsolescence like software, chips,
automobiles and mobile phones. Affective approaches can bring continuity to the
relationship with customers. With cognitive benefits and product features changing
rapidly, there is a possibility of building tolerance with various versions of products by
using affective appeals. Many advertising campaigns of high technology products like Intel
and Apple use emotional appeal with a distinctive set of musical or color tunes, and
tonalities create a strong brand relationship by shifting the focus of consumers from
product/feature/version to dimensions of relationships. Affective advertising is used to
create an emotional link so that customers will continue to buy the product.
Service or attitude to serve customers comes from an orientation of affection and care
flowing from heart. So affective positioning is relevant in the context of service
positioning decisions. It is the ability of affective emotion to bundle a wide range of
product features and benefits that cannot be communicated as individual entities in
communicating value to end-customers. If the customer is first timer or novice, it is
possible to appeal to emotions and build a brand quicker than educating him on product
and consumption rationality; such an appeal to emotions helps in creating a favorable
attitude towards a service brand.
Advertising of services is based on a proposition that the service itself has to be made
concrete and direct benefit-oriented than a vague proposition. However, there is very
little evidence that service marketers need to emphasize facts over intangible information.
This tangibalization framework proposes that the advertiser should use more dimensions
of service quality in the message than use of emotional appeals. There is very little research
done on the role of emotions in service advertising. The fact is that real life advertisers
use emotional advertising to the optimum while advertising their services. Here exists a
substantial service research gaps in literature.
In addition to being intangible in nature, many services are interactive processes that
require the customer’s presence in the service production. The level of inseparability
between production and consumption process suggests that both employees and
consumers can be used in advertising many services. These relationship and emotional
connect will be helpful in establishing a brand. Promoting customer contact employees
in advertising of services has been recommended in the literature (Abernethy and Butler,
1993; and Cutler and Javalgi, 1993). The results from a content analysis of print
advertisements show that employees are indeed portrayed more in service advertisements
than for products. Advertisements of ICICI bank and Bharati AXN are examples of use
of emotion arising out of buyer-seller interactions at service consumption point for
creating a positive effect.
It is also argued that certain types of services are more suitable for affect-based
communication strategies. If a framework can be developed on the basis of search,
experience and credence qualities, it will help in understanding the relative effectiveness
of emotional appeals based on the type of service rendered.
The IUP Journal of Brand Management, Vol. X, No. 2, 201314
Customers use various search quality options for arriving at a purchase decision,
whereas experience qualities are something which get developed after purchase is being
made or during consumption. There is a third set of qualities called ‘credence qualities’
which are impossible to evaluate even after the purchase is made. Categories like car,
clothing, household goods including furniture are very high on search qualities, thus
making it easy to evaluate them before the purchase. An intangible cue strategy through
‘support claims’ should work for these product categories. Services high on experience
attributes are evaluated more subjectively. For services like restaurants, hotels and holiday
destinations, the hedonistic nature of the consumption experience makes emotional
appeals highly effective. There is a high incidence of use of advertising where the
advertising goal is to set a brand apart from its competitors by linking the brand with a
particular service experience while marketing services.
Factual information may be useful when consumers need to understand the service and
want to know what they are buying before making a purchase decision. It is not very clear
about how much factual or cognitive information service marketers share with their
customers while executing their advertising strategies. The findings from research
conducted by using content analysis do not build a clear picture on rational positioning
in service advertising. Some support the argument that service advertisements contain
more informational and factual cues than product advertisements (Moore and Haris,
1996), whereas other studies have found that service advertisements have fewer
informational cues than those promoting physical goods (Zinkhan et al., 1992; and Cutler
and Javalgi, 1993).
While developing positive post-exposure attitude, research proves that rational
appeals based on factual information have poor effectiveness compared to emotional
appeals. In the case of a service category, if a message is developed on the basis of pricing
information, it may not be effective in shaping customer expectations among consumers
with limited or no prior consumption experience. Research has proved that advertisements
mentioning rate or price information get highest recall rates in terms of information
content, but they have failed to generate positive feelings or attitudes towards the services
brands. Rate or price information bearing advertising is more effective while targeting
expert consumers who have the desired knowledge to judge and evaluate such information.
It is found that rational or cognitive appeals play a dominant role in advertising for
utilitarian products. Emotional advertising is used more heavily on products or brands
based on experiential services. The utilitarian service advertising consistently uses a large
number of rational appeals and experiential advertising creates a differential attitude by
either emotional advertising or a combination of rational and emotional advertising.
There is a set of goods called credence goods such as medical diagnosis and auto repair
where customers cannot evaluate even after experience about how the product was. This
is because trust plays a great role in such product categories, and here emotional appeals
play a major role than factual or rational appeals. Emotional appeals can help in ensuring
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Does Emotional Appeal Work in Advertising?
The Rationality of Use of Emotional Appeal in Creating Favorable Brand Attitude
that a familiar product remains within the consideration set of the customer while making
a purchase decision. Here the emotional connects with the brand or the product develops
to be a part of consumer’s biographical memory, making the brand information stronger
and easily accessible to the consumer while making purchase decisions. Popular brands like
Thums Up or Britannia are powerful brands due to such affective associations which is
difficult to replicate in unfamiliar product categories.
Emotional appeals help in strengthening brands because it adds another distinction to
the brand. If the brand has an affective association, it becomes a more powerful force in
holding customers. Discontinuous innovations require customers to change their current
behavior to adopt the innovation. For example, online buying requires substantial changes
in consumption behavior. As consumer’s affiliation to the old product or service may be
based on sound reasons, emotional appeals can be a way to break through this wall of
arguments and encourage modified consumption behavior.
Socially sensitive products (called unmentionable products like condoms, hygiene
products, and funeral services) are generally difficult to market. When the product or
category itself is difficult to position on the basis of rationality or by use of cognitive
appeals, marketers automatically choose to use emotional appeals for brand positioning.
A commercial for a condom brand shows more emotions than rationality of sex. If a
product is socially sensitive and unmentionable, the brand manager needs more than
words to encourage customers to be comfortable considering it.
Limitations of Emotional Advertising
Even as brand managers begin to understand the use of emotional advertising, several
limitations or pitfalls are worth noting. However, use of emotional appeals in brand
positioning is not devoid of its own pitfalls. The brand managers need to be very careful
while using emotional appeal for brand positioning.
There can be a dissonance between affective and cognitive messages. It is observed that
in some cases when the affective messages are created out of the context, the cognitive
arguments, including actual product experiences, may be undermined in strategy
development. Many brands suffer because the emotional appeals drive the traffic in, but
rationality of choice and consumption drives the traffic out in the long run.
Emotional advertising is very susceptible to differences in interpretation across
cultures. As in all cross-cultural marketing, defining where the global market ends and the
local market begins is a strategic challenge.
Earlier studies have indicated that appeal usage in different countries is influenced by
regional factors such as level of economic development, advertising expenditures,
regulation, and culture. A study of Japanese and Indian magazine ads (Singh, 2010) finds
that Japanese ads show greater use of rational appeals overall and in the illustrations, as
suggested by Japan’s cultural emphasis on uncertainty avoidance and its advertising
industry characteristics. Emotional appeals are more common than rational appeals in
The IUP Journal of Brand Management, Vol. X, No. 2, 201316
headlines, as suggested by Japan’s level of economic development and its cultural
characteristics of high-context communications, harmony-seeking, collectivism and high
power distance. Benefit-oriented headlines, especially, are rare in Japan, being found in less
than 4% of the ads sampled. Product type moderates the relative usage of appeals between
Japan and India, primarily in the use of illustrations. The general pattern is that India
emphasizes emotion more than the Japanese. The findings suggest guidelines for foreign
marketers to use in developing advertising that conforms to usual country practices.
A meta analysis of various experiments done to study the impact of emotional appeals
shows that ego focused on emotional appeals leads to more favorable attitude formation
for customers who are part of collectivist culture, while other focused appeals lead to more
favorable brand attitude formation for members of an individualistic culture. These
cultural differences in accessibility of types of emotions lead to differential levels of the
ability to recognize and experience these emotions, thereby affecting the overall
persuasion levels of the brand communication context.
Any positioning is based on the proposition that the dimensionality on which the
brand is to be positioned should be important to the customer and it should attempt to
show that the brand delivers better than others in terms of consumer expectations from
the product or brand. The message has to be credible to be believed. Even though
emotional appeals can be effective in reaching out to diverse, heterogeneous segments, it
is also more open to interpretation than rational appeals. Everyone cannot relate to the
humor and mood of the advertising in similar ways. The response to an emotionally
charged advertising may vary from person to person. An advertising campaign that sounds
hilarious may be shocking or baffling for another set of people. Most of the marketing
research has limitations of testing the cognitive impact of marketing and generally do not
study the affective dimensions of such positioning.
Emotional relationships can be very hard to manage because they are highly personal
and emotionally charged. When Linc Pen used Javed Akhtar as a profile in its advertising
campaign, there was a disjoint between the images of the Linc Pen and Javed Akhtar.
While some potential customers would be positively moved by the association, others
might find it a negative association. In the event of co-marketing or co-branding program
where the company tries to evoke emotions by such brand associations, brand managers
need to be careful while considering whether the level of emotional affect of one brand
that exists is compatible with the other and, if so, how much brand value transfer is
possible.
Many brand managers use negative emotions and individual differences in advertising
appeals. There is a big debate going on in the area of use of high impact negative emotional
appeals. This strategy is called ‘blunter is better’. Proponents of this strategy are of the
view that consumers will be more willing to confront serious issues that affect their life
and health. So high impact and negative emotion advertising is likely to generate more
responses. However, critics have warned that the use of fear inducing appeals or shock
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Does Emotional Appeal Work in Advertising?
The Rationality of Use of Emotional Appeal in Creating Favorable Brand Attitude
advertisements may produce excess level of anxiety that may pose a threat to the
psychological well-being of the customers. Past research done on the use of fear appeal also
suggests that when the intensity of fear is higher than normal threshold levels or severity,
the recipient of the message develops an ‘avoidance’ behavior that limits the persuasive
impact of the appeal. This avoidance response can be linked to development of a negative
attitude towards the advertisement and brand also.
The level of responses that individuals give to advertising messages with emotional
intensity may differ, and this level may also significantly influence the attitude formation.
Research has shown that individuals do differ widely in the intensity of their emotional
response to affect laden stimuli (Laskey et al., 1995; and Leach and McKerr, 1997). As this
research has proved, due to differences in magnitude of their affective response to
emotionally provocative appeals, many individuals experience intense emotional
discomfort when exposed to negative emotional appeals and others may show a milder
discomfort level. So responses to an emotionally charged copy may vary among individuals.
In a couple of experiments, where people are exposed to equal level of affect or emotion
producing stimuli, it is observed that some individuals consistently respond with high
levels of emotional intensity, while others have a moderate level of response to the same
set of stimuli. The emotional reactivity seems to generalize across both positive and
negative emotional domains. Some individuals supposedly experience their emotions with
greater intensity than others, and it may be more difficult for such individuals to tolerate
the experience of intense negative emotional stimulation. Hence, they tend to dislike
exposure to such stimulation
The relationship between emotional response and evaluation of advertising may be
confounded by other variables, including individual characteristics, such as sex, age and
innate predisposition to buy particular classes of goods; the content of the commercial;
and the viewer’s past history of exposure to advertising. Numerous studies have showed
that situational factors, measurement variables and respondent characteristics affect copy
test results (Leckenby and Joseph, 1983; and Stewart et al., 1985). According to McGuire
(1969), females are more susceptible than males to persuasion. Schlinger (1982) found that
sex, age and brand usage were significantly related to commercial ratings and that brand
usage had a stronger correlation with these ratings than either demographic or situational
variables. She specifically found that users of the advertised brand react more favorably
to the brand and to the commercial execution. She also found that women and older
viewers respond relatively more positively than men or younger viewers.
Research has revealed an association between attitude and usage in several consumer
product categories (Achenbaum, 1966). Current users of the brand tend to have positive
attitudes, whereas former users and those who have never tried the brand tend to have
mainly negative attitudes and neutral attitudes, respectively. Some studies have found that
emotional response is an individual response, not easily segmented by demographic
variables. Thus, demographic characteristics are not highly predictive of emotional
The IUP Journal of Brand Management, Vol. X, No. 2, 201318
responses. Other studies have found only minimal support for the claim that emotional
response will be more important than demographic characteristics in explaining
evaluations of the commercials.
The findings of these studies emphasize the complexity of emotional response, and
suggest that relatively broad categories of demographic characteristics, like age, sex and
brand usage only begin to scratch the surface of the intricate nature of individuals’
emotional response to advertising.
Conclusion and Future Direction of Research
There is an increasing awareness of the relative inefficiency of rational appeals in
advertising, brand positioning and communication. Several studies have found emotional
appeals to be superior in assisting the formation of favorable attitudes.
The emotional bond created by a brand is the most salient factor related to purchase,
and this principle holds true regardless of the country. The bond between a product’s
emotional impact on the consumer and brand equity is the key to unlocking global brand
success. It is proved through empirical evidence that consumers with an emotional
bondage with the brand are found to be less price-sensitive. If the brand continues
delivering emotional satisfaction to them, they will be willing to pay a premium. However,
excess use of emotional appeals brings risk to the health of the brand. It should be used
with basic understanding of how it influences the level of brand knowledge of customers.
Literature survey indicates that messages are becoming vaguer while the emotions are
becoming more vivid. Researchers are of the view that other than individual emotions,
social emotions are the blends of basic emotions and are often found to be culturally
specific as they are the culmination of social reactions acquired through socialization
process.
Use of emotional appeals and rational appeals may be viewed as two separate strategies
for developing positive brand attitude, but they have proved to be complementary in
nature. The brain appears to involve two functionally alternate ways of knowledge
recognition. This is through (1) knowledge by acquaintance; and (2) knowledge by
description. Knowledge by acquaintance based on emotional platform is the holistic and
synthetic integration of sensory data both from internal and external environment.
Knowledge by description (reason) is the sequential and analytical processing of
information based on how the recipient appraises the environment. Rational appeals in
advertising motivate consumers through information and logical arguments, whereas
emotional appeals rely on images and feelings to mold consumers’ perceptions of the
brand.
This brings us to our second point of introspection—Do different types of
advertisements bring different kinds of feelings? The review of literature brings to a
conclusion that non-emotional advertisements lead to least favorable affective reactions.
It is observed that target audience feel more cheerful and carefree as a result of their
19
Does Emotional Appeal Work in Advertising?
The Rationality of Use of Emotional Appeal in Creating Favorable Brand Attitude
exposure to non-emotional advertisements. But it is also observed that consumers feel less
interested, more insulted and more irritated as a result of exposure to non-emotional
advertisements. Advertisements with different levels of emotional content do not lead to
significantly different affective reactions. Affective or emotional appeals in general seem
to lead to more positive and affective reaction than non-emotional appeals, irrespective
of which types of emotional platform are used for execution of the advertising campaign.
Positive emotions like cheerfulness, happiness, interest and lack of irritation are always
associated with higher advertising and brand recognition. It is observed that advertisements
based on humor have higher recall and have the ability to develop greater ad-evoked
feelings. In contrast to this, in the case of advertisements on the basis of warmth, the
degree of ad-evoked feelings does not significantly influence advertisement and brand
recognition. Emotions explained above have the potential to enhance positive
impressions of the brand leading to an inclination to buy the brand. The same positive
feelings also lead to higher advertisement and brand recall. This clearly indicates that the
role of ad-evoked feelings in the marketing communication cannot be neglected. The
relevance and importance of these feelings largely depend on the emotional executions in
the advertisement. The emotional advertisements in general have the ability to create
more positive feelings towards the brand compared to rational appeals. Feelings of interest,
cheerfulness and lack of irritation seem to lead to positive and significant brand affect
leading to creation of brand attitude strategy. Affective reactions and emotional content
seem to be much more important than cognitive reactions in predicting the attitude
towards the ad.
Emotional advertising has a powerful role to play in brand positioning. It serves as an
additional layer of strategic bonding to the feature or benefit-based positioning. It should
be in the arsenal of every marketer, no matter what their product or service is. In fact, it
can be powerful in an industry where this approach has not been used extensively in the
past. In a world of information overload, rapid change and complexity, increased need to
build relationships with customers, and the growing availability of Web-based product and
service comparison data on any attribute from performance through style to price, affect
has never been more important.
There is a growing need to experiment in this area. If one is not already using affect,
how can one add it to one’s positioning? If one is using it, how one can increase the
affective appeal of one’s positioning? How can one make it more effective by avoiding the
pitfalls mentioned above? If one is overlooking affect, one may be missing out on an
opportunity to make a more powerful impact with one’s positioning and to forge deeper
and more enduring relationships with one’s customers. It is the affective, rather than the
cognitive part of appeal that has come to stay and win more hearts and minds, and this
is what companies need to do to create, manage and harvest emotional brand loyalty.
Future research should examine more carefully the extent to which emotionally
provocative advertising stimuli influence the attitudes of individuals. For example, it is
The IUP Journal of Brand Management, Vol. X, No. 2, 201320
still not clear whether the arousal of strong negative emotions actually diminishes the
recipient’s motivation to process the message and whether the lack of cognitive
elaboration reduces the strength of the attitude toward the advertisement. When exposed
to an affect-laden advertising appeal, high intensity subjects are likely to experience a
significantly heightened level of emotional arousal that may reduce the motivation for
cognitive elaboration, thus rendering such respondents less capable of reporting their true
attitudes.
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