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Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, once said, “Emotion is a compass that tells us what to do.” Quite simply, we move towards things that make us happy and away from things the cause us anxiety or fear.

While this innate ability at its most basic level keeps us alive, what I think is most interesting about this idea is when you apply it to advertising – especially when you consider what this means for brands and how they should market themselves. Essentially, if ads were more emotionally led could they tell us what to do? Could they tell us to eat more, travel more, buy more?

The idea that emotion plays an important role in advertising is, of course, hardly new. Giants in our industry, whether Les Binet and Peter Field or Robert Heath, have proven time and again that emotional advertising is more memorable, more effective, more profitable. Indeed, research consultancies like BrainJuicer, have developed entire advertising databases and methodologies on this approach.

And yet when you consider how most of us develop ads, it becomes quite apparent that we, as marketers, still believe that consumers are meant to navigate the world of brands through rationally based single-minded messages. It’s the proposition, and their corresponding benefits, that planners labour over, that creatives focus on, and that we collectively use to measure our work.

But if we believed that emotion served as a better tool for consumers to orient themselves then instead of asking, “What is the single most important thing we want to say?” maybe we’d ask “What is the single most important feeling we want to convey?” And instead of asking “What are the support points – essentially why can we say this?” Maybe we’d ask, “Why do we want people to feel this?”

So for the next brief you write, the next creative you review, the next ad you watch, I suggest you step back and consider whether you’ve managed to point consumers in the right direction. The 11.2 million consumers who responded to the Quaker spot below for example.

About Michelle Lee

Michelle Lee has written 8 post in this blog.

Senior Strategic Planner @ Saatchi & Saatchi