Making memories: why tapping into emotions in advertising drives sales

Jun - 2020


Emotion is one of the most powerful tools brands can use to command audience attention and improve memorability, which can lead to an increase in campaign effectiveness and long-term brand health.


Emotion has been widely recognised as one of the most powerful creative strategies that brands can use to increase the effectiveness of an advertising campaign. Nike’s ‘Dream Crazy’ ad campaign, starring Colin Kaepernick, Always’ ‘Like a Girl’ campaign, and Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ campaign are recent examples of best -in-class emotive campaigns that not only captured the attention of audiences around the world, but also drove a significant spike in brand sales.


Using emotive advertising to drive purchases

When it comes to making a purchase, people are not as logical or rational as they think. According to Harvard Professor Gerald Zaltman: “Emotion is what really drives purchasing behaviour.” People are driven by feelings, so to drive memorability and memory encoding, consumers must be engaged and impassioned by their interaction with your company.

From a marketing standpoint, selling the features and benefits of a product is important, but it’s also critical to sell the lifestyle and feeling owning the product will bring.    


Building empathy to influence choice

Emotional involvement campaigns are defined by the Godfathers of effectiveness, Les Binet and Peter Field, as: ”Those that touch the emotions or feelings of consumers.” For many brands, the “intention is to transfer these emotions to the brand, and consequently, build empathy in the consumer-brand relationship. Through empathy, [advertisers] seek to influence choice.”

In the report Marketing in the Era of Accountability, Les Binet and Peter Field demonstrated that emotions make advertising work much harder: “One of the widely accepted advantages of emotionally-based campaigns is their strong impact on memory foundation. It is likely the greater ability of emotional communications to form durable memories of the brand in the minds of consumers, plays a major role in their commercial success.” It is for this reason that emotive campaigns are particularly effective for brand building and driving long-term growth. Binet and Field concluded: “Communication models that use emotional appeal are more likely to yield stronger business results, including notably bigger profit gains, over rationally-based models.”


Using emotion in advertising during COVID-19

The COVID-19 global pandemic has sparked discussion around the most effective way to connect with audiences during this time of upheaval. Findings from advertising research group System1 and historic insights from the IPA Effectiveness Databank reaffirm the power of empathising with audiences, and making creative choices to strike the right emotional notes.

One of the questions System1 sought to answer was whether pre-existing advertising was still effective in this climate, or if brands needed to develop new creative. Results showed there was “little difference in the performance of pre-lockdown ads versus ads that ran during the pandemic.” However, new tactical ads, created specifically for the pandemic, that expressed humour, generosity and humanity, delivered the strongest performance, proving that emotive creative is relevant now more than ever.


Read the full IPA report, commenting on the power of using emotive advertising during the current global pandemic, here


For more information on the power of emotive advertising, visit:,are%20incapable%20of%20making%20decisions.