Hey marketers! …whatever you do, get emotional

April 2, 2019

It will only get more emotional

As digital marketing and marketing technology are receiving more and more of the CMO’s budget, brands have to find new ways to attract and keep customers. It’s not enough to use old media models for new media outlets. 

The key to breaking through the bombardment of ads and messages to reach your customers is to make an emotional connection; by finding and expressing your distinct WHY; by giving your customers visceral brand experiences rather than simply giving them information.

Microsoft is one of the world’s most successful brands, but they’ve built their brand by gaining market share for their operating system and creating a vast network of acquisitions and partnerships rather than creating an emotional connection to their customers. Some companies are big enough to do this, but most companies, including probably yours, need customers who connect with your values and vision.

Apple is one of the biggest companies in the world, but they started as a niche provider, with only about ten percent of the personal computer market. They therefore relied on being different, and still do, despite their phenomenal growth.

Microsoft vs. Apple

Compare this recent ad for Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 to Apple’s ad for the iPhone XR.

Microsoft focuses on the product. Its ad shows you the device and what it can do. In contrast, Apple doesn’t show the iPhone at all, except at the end for five seconds, almost as an afterthought. Instead their ad shows crowds of people in brightly coloured jumpsuits running and jumping through a bleak urban environment.

What is Apple doing here? The HoloLens 2 ad is more practical and, I think, more impressive. It shows an augmented reality device that can present useful information in your field of view to aid in tasks such as motorcycle repair, surgery, and theatre set design.

Whereas the Apple ad doesn’t even reference its capabilities, except for the tag: Make room for colour. There’s nothing about battery life or the cameras. It end with the words: Liquid Retina display, but does Apple expect us to know what that is?

While these are not comparable products, they both represent technological innovation. But while the Microsoft ad is the more practical and impressive, it presents the HoloLens as only a tool. If it doesn’t work as well as advertised, or if a competitor makes a better augmented reality device, customers will switch.

Apple, on the other hand, doesn’t present the iPhone as a tool, but as a medium. Whereas the HoloLens is the brush, the iPhone is the canvas. Microsoft creates tools to help us work better. Apple creates collaborative devices that let us express ourselves.

Microsoft is all about work. No one is smiling in the HoloLens commercial. And how many of us can identify with a motorcycle repairman, or a surgeon, or a set designer?

Apple is all about play. The lyrics say: ‘Have some fun… Run away from the hum drum…’ And the crowd represents all of us.

Apple uses this style in nearly all their advertising, from Macbooks to iPods, iPads, and iPhones. In the beginning their emotive ads stood out. But the world has caught up, and now this style can be seen in everything from Dove soap to Audi.


Beyond creativity

Emotive ads aren’t just about being creative. After all, plenty of practical, informational ads, like Microsoft’s, are creative. It’s about expressing your values, purpose and vision. Emotive ads may be spotlighting one product, but they are really about selling the company as a whole.

So this year I challenge you to make considered choices about what you stand for and what you do. Many brands are focusing on CSR and are becoming the vanguard as we question our trust in big businesses. You have an unprecedented opportunity to stand up and stand out.

What are you doing emotionally to make that happen?

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Darren Taylor

MD & Head of Strategy and Research

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