Came across some great data on WARC.com* about the power of brands telling stories that combine emotional "sizzle" and product "sausage".
Here are some of the highlights from the article,"Should My Advertising Stimulate an Emotional Response?", based on Milward Brown's extensive testing database. We end the post with a few ads to illustrate the key points.
* A goldmine of case studies on brands and advertising. Get a free trial here (then you have to pay).
As the authors say, "Sadly for advertisers, brands and advertising are not particularly important to people". We care about their favorite sports team, pop star or charity. The brand of pasta sauce or pet food we buy is really not that big a deal.
This impacts on how we consumer advertising, as the article explains: "We usually watch TV to be entertained rather than to actively “learn” about brands, so the chance of remembering ads is generally low." [By the way, this is why warning bells should go off the minute anyone in your team says your job is to "edcuate" consumers about your brand or how to use it.]
The relatively low importance of brands also applies when making buying decisions: "A typical purchase decision for a consumer is trivial. They take the minimum possible time which may be only one or two seconds."
2. The importance of "memory structure"
So how do people choose what to buy, given we do this in a matter of seconds? As the article says, "They try to make the best possible choice, calling upon their memories of, and associations with, the brands being reviewed."
These memories and associations create "memory structure", a topic that I've posted on several times this year.
But how do we create memory structure?
This is where the power of emotional "sizzle" comes in. "Emotionally charged ads are more memorable" suggests the article. In a context of paying little attention to ads, ones that grab us eomotionally and involve us are more likely to be remembered.
Milward Brown back this up with data, using "enjoyment" as a proxy for positive emotion. The data shows that "The ads that evoke the least positive response (i.e. are disliked) are more memorable than those in the middle ground, and those which elicit positive emotions become progressively more memorable."
Since we started the brandgym we've been asking "Where's the Sausage?". In our view, many brands have focus so much on emotional sizzle that they forget about the product or service.
Cue trumpet roll and The Milward Brown data: "Looking at the sales effectiveness, the most successful ads pursue a combined strategy of emotional appeal with rational messages."
So, sizzle and sausage combined sell more.
The more technical explanation for this, based in neuroscience, is that "The brain needs input from three networks to form a representation of an object or concept."
- Knowledge = WHAT = e.g. shape, colors, material properties
- Experience = HOW = how we use it, the object’s function
- Emotion = WHY = feelings (e.g., good/bad, attraction/disgust, satisfaction/ frustration).
5. Tell me a story
The final point is one I'm really interested in: the power of story telling. Here's what the authors say about how we watch TV: "We are not in a deliberate learning mode, we want to be entertained, so advertising is largely processed as narrative. It is the narrative that is likely to stick in the memory."
In conclusion, brand communication should try to tell a product story in an emotionally engaging way, because Story x Sausage x Sizzle = Sales.
Here are a few good examples of this.
John West Salmon: click below, or watch here.
Felix catfood: click below, or watch here.
The Stella Artois story here