Emotion has recently become very trendy. Every marketer who respects himself/herself has to include emotion at every advertising brief. I’m sure you have heard that “a brand should touch both the mind and the heart, both logic and emotion”. But here’s the big mistake. Emotion is of course very important. But this does not mean that we must separate it from ‘logic’.
Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio narrates the case of a man with a serious brain damage, that did not allow him to feel any emotion. This had many tragic consequences, but one of them was totally unexpected. He was slow in making decisions, often failing to decide between two equally good choices, such as what day to book for his next examination appointment. Without the ability to associate the choice with some emotion, it was realistically impossible for him to decide.
Emotion does not enrich our decisions, it is absolutely essential and often determines them. If we do not feel anything, it is more likely that we will not be able to make a decision about anything. However, all feelings are not equal. The usual problem with marketing is not to understand that feeling is important, but to deal with what feelings are most important in making decisions on a case by case basis. An important help in this comes from the work of the anthropologist Paul Ekman, who studied how emotions are expressed and perceived by various people, resulting in seven core feelings: Surprise, Happiness, Sadness, Fear, Anger, Contempt and Disgust. Without the ability to recognize these feelings in the faces of others, our life would have been very difficult.
You have probably noticed that beyond Hapiness and Surprise – which may be either positive or negative – all other emotions are negative. From an evolutionary point of view, however, this makes absolute sense. Primitive people (from the Ice Age mentioned in previous history) had to face different threats and even manage them differently. So, many different negative feelings were needed, but only one positive to express that something is good. For this reason, when we feel happy, our System 1 instinctively decides that this is a good choice. The worst, of course, for a marketer is not when people feel something negative about their brand, but when they feel nothing.