ANA: Brands Seek Emotional/Rational Balance

Balancing rational and emotional brand appeals is becoming an increasingly common theme among marketers, as evidenced by a new brand management survey from the Association of National Advertisers (ANA).


While one brand management consultant recently asserted that too many brands are overemphasizing emotion and entertainment at the expense of anchoring advertising/marketing messages in rational benefits (see "Domino's Illustrates Power of Rational Appeals"), brand managers polled by the ANA saw things quite differently.

In fact, 62% of these executives, who were surveyed online between February and May, reported that they feel that their brands are more focused on rational/functional benefits, while 38% assess their approaches as more emotionally oriented.



Still, the debate seems to be more a matter of degree than a disagreement about the basic need for balancing the two approaches, with only a slightly smaller percentage of survey respondents leaning toward the more-emotion camp than those leaning toward the more-rational side.

One reason that the topic is getting more attention, and that more emotional appeals may be seen in the months ahead, is that the recovering economy may be making consumers less intent on focusing strictly on short-term value and more open to longer-term benefits or aspirations that lend themselves to more visceral messaging, noted ANA President/CEO Bob Liodice.

Digital media's ability to connect with consumers on a personal, emotional level is another major reason that finding the right balance in a brand's overall marketing is top-of-mind for many marketers.

Web sites were most-cited (82%) as a touchpoint for building emotional connections with consumers -- not surprising, points out Liodice, as more and more brands go beyond product information/ ordering to offer communities. Other key touchpoints include the sales force (66%), CRM (64%), television (55%) and call centers/ telemarketing (52%).

What constitutes an emotional connection with a consumer, from brand managers' perspective? Customers telling others about a brand by direct word-of-mouth was cited by 78%, and consumers expressing the feeling that the values of a brand are similar to their own was also cited by 78%. Nearly as many (75%) feel that consumers expressing that "using a brand makes me feel good" is a connection, while 61% cited customers telling others about a brand through blogging or other online channels.

However, most respondents reported using somewhat traditional metrics to gauge success in communicating the emotional benefits of a brand. Advertising tracking and brand equity scores were each cited by 75%, followed by copy testing (54%).

Newer metrics are also used by some, but were given less weight. These include the number of fans on a social media site (36%) and the number of consumers providing email addresses to a brand (21%).

2 comments about "ANA: Brands Seek Emotional/Rational Balance ".
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  1. Paul Conner from Emotive Analytics, May 19, 2010 at 8:17 a.m.

    While I can certainly understand the distinction between appeals and consumer responses that are MORE emotional (i.e., focus on resultant "feelings" or "less tangible" imagery or do not promote analytical thinking) or MORE rational (i.e., focus on "features" or "tangible" attributes or promote consumers' logical, analytical thinking), what is reported in this article illustrates that marketers continue to see rational and emotional appeals as mutually exclusive or "either/or." The fact is that, unless there is 'disconnecting' physiological damage in the brain, emotions are always 'informing' rational thinking. Emotions tell us whether what we are thinking rationally (about what to do) will be to our advantage or not. Rational appeals always have resulting emotional responses, albeit with different emotional intensities, and there is a bit of "rationality" in emotional appeals (explore Michael Pham's work on The Logic of Feeling). The main point is ... don't think of marketing appeals as "rational OR emotional." Much stronger appeals will result when rationality AND emotionality are planned together and are consistent in driving the targeted consumer behavior.

  2. Pam Alvord from Kilgannon, May 19, 2010 at 8:46 a.m.

    I agree wholeheartedly with Paul's comments. It is so easy as marketers to slip into the mindset of "if we just tell them all about our great product/service, surely they will buy." Well crafted, rational points can help close the sale, but without emotion, what protects a brand from their competitions' next rational claim?

    My mantra? Emotion motivates. Reason justifies.


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