We're up to our third post on brands and emotion.
Today's entry is on Disgust.
Disgust, like all six primary emotions, is one we all recognize immediately. Here's Scott McCloud's depiction of the face of Disgust, from his most highly recommended Understanding Comics.
The word that immediately comes to mind when we see this face?
And, Yuck! is something we want to make go away as quickly as possible!
From an evolutionary standpoint, it's safe to say that Disgust played an imporant role in enabling survival.
Simply put, eating rotten food is a very good way to live a shortened life.
Disgust lets us know we are very close to Death.
Notice the role of the nose in Disgust's facial expression.
Again, no accident.
That's because our sense of smell is deeply connected with Disgust.
Disgusting things smell bad. That's a warning. Disgust makes this clear: things that smell bad are likely to kill you.
In more ways than one. (Remember, in modern culture it's now possible to be "embarrassed to death.")
And, that's where brand marketing comes in.
Our current preoccupation with odors is not a modern trend. After all, perfume first appeared in civilizations about 4,000 years ago, undoubtedly to mask disgusting smells.
Sanitation technology, personal hygiene practices and refrigeration have all improved and become important elements in our battle with Disgust.
But, as an old graduate school professor of mine once reminded us: "where there's life, there's slime."
And slime, is Disgusting.
Therefore...Disgust is inevitable; unavoidable.
Ah, but we're not alone in our war with Disgust! We have allies!
Every product used to keep our various "environments" clean references Disgust in one way or another.
Some are subtle, tempered with humor.
Others, less so.
Here's a vintage ad that reflects a brand's early approach to helping us fight the social power of Disgust.
Disgust is one of the four "negative" emotions (Fear, Anger, Disgust, Sadness). If given a choice, we'd rather not experience them.
Brands want us to feel Disgust and then to experience their product as a Hero, a means of protection from this horrible emotion that so reminds us, albeit unconsciously, of death.
As we've seen, any product that frames itself within the primordial structure of the Victim, Villain, Hero story taps into one of the deepest, most meaningful (and ubiquitous) narratives in human civilization.
So, the next time you see something that makes you scrunch up your face and say, "Yuck!", remember that brands use Disgust to let you know that they're there to come to your rescue; that their Hero product will save you from the death that has just cast its unwelcome shadow on your workaday life!
Seen any great examples of Disgust marketing recently? How about sharing one.