Friday, April 10

Switching Hitters: Left Brain Or Right?

Understanding psychology is great fun for advertisers and marketers. So much fun that there has always been ample discussion whether purchasing decisions are made with the left brain (rational) or right brain (emotional).

It's even more fun to discover that there is so much discussion in this topical area that, depending on the day, the same sources are really arguing among themselves. And, each time they do, they benefit from the coverage. Case in point.

The Case For The Left Brain.

Last year, Branding Strategy published a post by Jack Trout, which makes the case for rational advertising over emotional advertising. In it, they cite Mark Penn's book, Microtrends, that stresses "the rational side of people is far more powerful in many areas of life than the purely emotional side."

The post then goes on to cite TiVo, the current leader in digital video recorders (DVRs), which had just examined the commercial viewing habits of some 20,000 TiVo-equipped households, including which ad campaigns are fast-forwarded past by the lowest percentage of viewers. The results, they concluded, weigh heavily in favor of rational arguments.

Of course, Branding Strategy revised this thinking later in the year, suggesting the opposite was true in 12 Causes of Bad Brand Advertising. Brad VanAuken cited Harding’s 1996 study of buyers in ten corporations that "demonstrated that corporate buyers overwhelmingly rely on personal and emotional reasons over rational ones in their purchase choice."

That's okay. TiVo changed its position too.

The Case For The Right Brain.

TiVo, working with Innerscope Research, a biometric research firm, released a new study that suggests the opposite.

In a live study of 55 national ads, TiVo and Innerscope found that TV viewers are 25 percent more likely to fast-forward through ads with low emotional engagement than those with high emotional engagement. The data suggests that ads that are more emotionally engaging are more likely to be viewed in their entirety even in a time-shifted environment.

“We’re measuring emotions because emotions matter,” says Carl Marci, CEO of Innerscope Research, in a related article. "The science is very clear that emotions are prime determinants of behavior."

The study was originally conducted in late 2008, and then compared live biometric monitoring of emotional engagement with scores from TiVo's Stop||Watch(TM) ratings service, which collects anonymous, second-by-second audience research data from 100,000 TiVo subscribers. When the two metrics were compared, the emotional engagement of Innerscope's viewers correctly predicted whether, and how many, viewers would elect to fast forward at any given moment.

Our Take On The Brain.

We don't pick sides. For all the studies, it seems obvious that people are people, and different people react differently to different things.

Some people are predisposed to making emotional purchasing decisions based on personal trends (the shiny object afflicted) or because they want to help others (chronic solution providers). Others are predisposed to making rational purchasing decisions based on price point (bottom liners) or a logical presentation of facts (analytically enabled). Most people are some degree of two (assuming they aren't polar opposites).

Most advertising has a tendency to target one trait extremely well — e.g., children's cold medicine — or some pairing of the two — e.g., a cheap and trendy app. Of course, the very best advertising, which you don't see very often, hits all four equally.

If you still want to keep it simple, emotional vs. logical advertising, there is one broad-based solution. Emotional communication most often attracts interest while rational communication closes the deal or at least prevents buyer's remorse. And if you don't believe it, then wait for the next study that reveals whatever the opposite of whatever today's study says.

As for which advertisements do most consumers really fast forward? They fast forward on the very first bad commercial, and all those that are unfortunate to follow it during the break. No study needed.


Jay Ehret on 4/11/09, 6:27 AM said...

The varying conclusions just confirm that people use both sides of their brain in making decisions. People buy emotionally, but need need to be able to justify the purchase rationally. People don't want to spend too much money on a product and then have to admit their friends that the purchase was purely emotional.

Rich on 4/11/09, 12:35 PM said...

Exactly Jay,

Form a broader perspective, I think it illustrates that world isn't so easy to categorize in black in white, right or left.

Sometimes I wonder, as communication moves forward, whether the industry is just forgetting what we already know. Toyota's "Oh What A Feeling" campaign, for example, had very little to do with capturing new buyers as much as it had to do with making recent buyers feel good about the purchase so they would tell their friends.

All my best,


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