The new theme is about honesty, authenticity and truth, separating the fake from the real. The campaign moves away from “A Diamond is Forever” which was used by De Beers from 1947, to the new, “Real is Rare. Real is a Diamond” theme. It is a thoroughly emotional campaign at every level and leverages storytelling in both traditional and digital media.
In some ways diamonds symbolise the dilemma of leading products and brands with regard to Millennials. Although very familiar with them, the proposition is that younger generations have different motivations and brand relationships and campaigns must adapt accordingly.
So, how can brand campaigns today leverage the interplay of attention, memory and emotion to influence people’s choices?
The purpose of advertising is to drive brand choice
We know that brands exist in people’s minds as associative memory structures. These are networks of thoughts, feelings, images, associations, colours, sounds, symbols and memories. Branding acts as a heuristic, a shortcut enabling people to draw quickly on this large body of associations and knowledge to facilitate choice.
Brand communications play an important part in capturing attention to either reinforce or disrupt this mental network, as well as helping to create new ideas and memories or adding strength to those that already exist.
How does emotion capture attention?
The amount of information we are exposed to vastly exceeds our ability to process it.
We can think of attention as the set of processes that enhance our perceptions and processing of some information over others. Like a spotlight, attention helps us focus on some stimuli in preference to others. It works in two ways: by helping us to filter information “top-down” depending on things we are interested in or motivate us; and “bottom-up” based on the perceptual properties of the information itself, like movement or colour, novelty or surprise.
In capturing attention, emotional stimuli take priority over neutral stimuli – we notice an angry or happy face quicker than a neutral face.
Emotional content creates attention engagement at an automatic level initially: sustained engagement reflects both the impact of these initial emotional stimuli (attention salience) and relevance to an individual’s personal goals and motivations (memory salience). Linking the two together should produce enduring benefits to brand communications.
But context is key. If I am busy doing something on my phone or computer like banking or shopping, I am less likely to pay attention to emotional stimuli than if I am doing something that doesn’t require so much cognitive effort. Alternatively, when watching TV, I may be in the ideal state to pay attention to emotional stimuli.
So, emotional content that is attention-grabbing and relevant can help an ad to achieve sustained engagement, but this can be reduced if other tasks are taking place at the same time.
There is also some evidence that attention to emotional stimuli reduces the resources available for cognitive processing. In advertising this means that we may pay less attention to the branding, messages or persuasive elements of an ad if we are focused on the story.
Emotion-based advertising can be highly effective but must work within a strong and consistent brand framework.
- Brands need to have a range of distinctive iconography or assets that are consistent, engaging and understood so that they reinforce the stories and emotional stimuli in advertising.
- Ensure that emotion-based advertising links the brand through association with the cues – needs, functions, situations, sounds, sights or smells – that are most relevant in the key moments.
- Effective use of emotion means having stories that are relevant to people’s motivations and goals, so that they associate the brand with the things that matter most to them.