The Marketing Power Of Positivity

People have always loved a good story. However, good stories have been few and far between in recent months. Sensational, salacious and shocking headlines have dominated the news cycle as of late, and although such stories can drive views and garner eyeballs for news publishers, audiences are rapidly approaching a breaking point. Their growing desire to turn away from negativity represents a boon to marketers, whose power to connect with audiences is at its greatest when tapping into positive, inspiring messages that unite humanity rather than divide it. 

Say goodbye to “edgy”

For years, “being edgy” was an aspiration widely peppered throughout brand strategy documents. After all, much like a negative headline, “edgy” gets noticed—for better or worse. That was certainly the idea behind campaigns like “The Axe Effect,” in which one whiff of Axe body spray caused women to mindlessly fling themselves upon the wearer. 



Such tactics simply don’t resonate with today’s consumers. They do not want the brands in their lives to further fan the flames of negativity or division. Even the Axe brand, after years of notoriety, has recognized the necessity and benefit of pivoting its brand for good, via its "Is It OK for Guys?" campaign, which seeks to break down stereotypes around "toxic masculinity" rather than further fueling such harmful images. 

Finding a platform for positivity

This societal shift toward positivity has been the underlying thread running through many of Facebook’s headlines this year. At the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting in February, Keith Weed, CMO of Unilever (yep, the Axe brand parent) famously put pressure on digital platforms to create brand-suitable environments free of divisive and hate-filled content. “Unilever will not invest in platforms or environments that do not protect our children or which create division in society, and promote anger or hate,” he said. “We will prioritize investing only in responsible platforms that are committed to creating a positive impact in society.” 

Of course, Facebook was already well aware of the growing backlash against the negativity. In January, Facebook announced that it would begin to de-prioritize publisher and brand content in favor of content posted by and deeply engaged with a user’s family and friends. The results of this algorithm shift has hit many news outlets hard in terms of distribution, but lifestyle and entertainment publications haven’t experienced traffic declines as severe. Why? Engagement with lifestyle and entertainment content tends to be more dispersed and friendly due to the positive nature of the content. 

The marketing power of positivity

The shift toward positive messaging among brands is being driven by societal forces, but the benefits are not new. The power of positive, inspirational messaging in marketing is well documented. Research has shown that inspiring stories cause an increase in oxytocin (a hormone associated with human bonding), as well as feelings of empathy. In short, people respond both physically and psychologically to powerful, positive messaging.  With that in mind, it's no wonder that ads like Budweiser's "Puppy Love," which features a puppy and a Clydesdale with an unbreakable bond, rank at the top of the list of most-beloved Super Bowl spots of all time.

In today’s cluttered digital landscape, positivity represents the best way for marketers to engage audiences and build brand affinity. The sweetest and most inspiring stories aren’t always the most viral, talked-about news of the day, but they are the ones that leave a lasting impression. It’s time for marketers to embrace their power as storytellers — and to ensure the stories they’re telling are good ones.

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