Tears and laughter: how brands use emotional marketing

John Lewis has once again taken hold of the social media conversation with the release of its 2015 Christmas advert. Featuring a cover of Oasis’ Half The World Away by Norwegian singer Aurora, the response has generally been positive, although not without criticism or satire. The Guardian’s analysis is particularly amusing… #MoonHitler.

Nevertheless, putting aside any in depth review of this year’s advert, John Lewis have plumped for the same tactic as before. We as consumers can be hard for brands to crack, so they’ve had to become adept at tapping into the emotional part of our brains. We may try alternative brands when we see a deal or offer, but this isn’t usually enough for a long-term switch.

Appealing to our rationality, typically, only gets brands so far.

To secure that customer for the future, brands have to combine rational targeting with something far more intangible – our emotions. This is where John Lewis have worked wonders with its Christmas advertising. Despite the process now seeming pretty formulaic (quirky concept, well-known song, up-and-coming artist, big launch), each advert has drawn in consumers by the bucketload as they connect with the brand through emotion. In fact, as a result of the campaigns, generated revenue was £777 million in 2014 and £734 million in 2013.

Clearly it’s working.

However, it’s not all tears and tissues. Humour is an equally powerful method of emotional marketing. Aldi, by taking advantage of, and aiding, the decline of traditional supermarkets, continues to succeed. A large part of this can be attributed to its ‘Like Brands. Only Cheaper’ campaign which delivered a significant return on Aldi’s marketing investment.

The humour throughout raises awareness of Aldi’s value compared to well-known brands, including ‘Tea’:

And ‘Fish Fingers’:

With a special mention for this advert featuring former England manager Graham Taylor; so bad it’s borderline brilliant.

Aldi’s adverts have helped deliver its astonishing results, raising awareness in the minds of the public to become one of the most memorable of 2014. This creativity, combined with their successful strategy, has ensured their rightful place in the market, securing market share and customer headspace away from the traditional supermarkets.

Plenty of other strategies work in advertising, but the impact of emotional marketing done right cannot be doubted. As Disney-Pixar pointed out in Inside Out, joy and sadness are two of our most powerful and complex emotions. They influence and control so much of what we think, say and do, so brands looking to target them makes perfect sense.

And, just three weeks after John Lewis published its advert, Aldi released its own spoof version. Featuring the lovely lady from the ‘Tea’ advert, this just proves how on-the-ball the brand is, as well as the creative freedom it gives to its marketing team and supporting agencies.

This kind of response, from another marketing heavyweight, must have got the John Lewis team already thinking about 2016. Ahead of Christmas next year, John Lewis now has to ask itself, has it saturated its own concept, becoming self-aware and too mainstream to be effective? The rise of a new moniker, as pointed out by my friend Steve Pannett, could suggest so:

Until next year then.

Related posts on the use of humour in marketing include:

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Dad, digital marketeer at Tank PR, Derby County fan, film buff, book worm and husband. In that order, but don't tell the wife.