A couple of days ago, I introduced the topic of brands and emotion. In that post, I listed the six basic human emotions: fear, anger, disgust, sadness, surprise and joy.
Each of the six emotions is immediately recognizable in the human face. This is one of the miracles of evolution. As social animals, we have developed the ability to express and perceive emotional states as a foundation of the communication required for social interaction. I'll use the wonderful illustrations of each emotion from Scott McCloud's very highly recommended Understanding Comics to demonstrate just how instantaneous our emotional perception is.
We know that all brands strive to engage customers through storytelling and that emotions are at the heart of all great stories.
Let's take a look at each of the emotions to explore how brand marketers use them to form deeper connections between customers and products.
First is fear.
Why is fear first?
Because the ability to perceive, react to and warn others of danger is crucial to survival. Our neurophysiological reactions to fear include a wide array of hormonal and muscular activities, all designed to enable our "fight or flight" responses.
Physiologically and psychologically, fear instantly prepares us for action.
And, more than anything, brand marketers want to cause action.
Think about it. You're sitting on your couch, "watching" television, while simultaneously doing any of the ten other things we typically do when the TV is on.
Suddenly, "Attention homeowners!" blares at you.
First, your brain experiences the sound of the words and you look up at the TV from your iPad.
Go ahead, try not to.
Hard, isn't it?
Then, in an instant, your brain, now bathed in a cocktail of adrenaline and other glucocorticoids, initiates a suite of stress responses. Heartrate, blood pressure, respiration, muscle tension and other funtions all increase as the bodily system snaps into action.
Meanwhile, because we're all well-conditioned members of our 21st century culture/economy, you're ready to hear the message that the alarm prepared you for: "Call now!"
As our culture has become more sophisticated and complex, the number of things that elicit fear has increased.
It's no longer necessary to see a tiger in the jungle to experience fear. Physical fears have been supplemented by fear of everything from bedbugs to hair loss.
Today, we even fear losing our lady to a man who smells different.
(Wait, maybe we always feared that!)
What the Old Spice ad shows us is that brand marketers are now very sophisticated in their ability to use fear, but in clever, 21st century ways. Ironically half-mocking our insecurities doesn't matter to our brains; they respond first and make sense later. ("Look down! Back up!")
And that is one of the great lessons of emotional marketing: despite our logical, marketing saturated defenses, our body/brain systems respond emotionally to conditions designed to elicit those emotions. Nowadays, we're fond of calling this "neuromarketing," as if there's any other kind!
While fear may be classified as a "negative" emotion (that is, one we'd prefer not to experience...except when we're in a horror movie or on a theme park ride...hey, wait a minute...), its powerful "action potentiation," whether elicited in a tongue-in cheek way ("sadly...he's not me...") or more directly ("every 30 seconds someone dies of a heart attack") makes it a powerful piece in the brand marketer's toolkit.
So, seen any good fear-based marketing recently?
Next up: Anger!