What is it about TV that makes it such a strong platform for advertising and persuasion? In our first part of this series about driving web engagement through TV, we introduced the concept of Brand Response Marketing and the reasons many advertisers must pursue it. This week we're unpacking the science behind brand building through TV, and the science of response marketing. How else can we justify just why so many direct response campaigns actually work and sell big?
When it comes to direct response marketing, persuasion is key. Persuasion is as much of an art as it is a science, and understanding people is the key to being good at it. There are two psychological ways of understanding persuasion that are integral to direct response; the central and the peripheral routes to persuasion. In the central route, the recipient of the ad is influenced by the content and content alone; these consumers are looking for facts, testimonials and visual evidence of what the product promises to do. DRTV campaigns usually go down this route, where the spot attempts to showcase the many different ways a product works, and typically features many customer testimonials to back these claims up.
On the other hand, the peripheral route to persuasion takes a more emotional angle, where the person is influenced by other components in the advertisement, or 'cues', as we will go through later on. This can be as simple as the actors used in the commercial, the colors of the visuals, or even the music. A brand response campaign focused more on brand recall and storytelling will take this path to persuasion, where there is a lot more focus on creative content, storyline and the overall aesthetic behind the spot.
Advertisers aim to provoke a reaction from the audience; a feeling, a thought, and an experience. Establishing an emotional connection with a product seen on TV is key to driving consumers to a website or a store to make a purchase. They know that appealing to the human in us is key, especially when it comes to brand response. A study by the University of South Carolina showed that 31% of surveyed ads that were successful–meaning they generated sales– contained emotional content, versus the 16% of successful ads that had 'logical' content; where the ad simply explains the product and does not elicit an emotional response.
American psychologist Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs teaches us that all humans crave five basic needs for which they are constantly searching; physiological needs, safety needs, belongingness and love needs, esteem needs and self-actualization. If advertisers play on one of these needs as a tool to highlight the importance of their product, chances are they will be more likely to score a purchase with the consumer and establish a connection with them.
For example, it is not uncommon to see brands relying on incorporating feelings of love and friendship in a brand response ad's rhetoric and plot. This is the easiest way to get customers engaged with the product and brand itself, because it relates to our belongingness and love needs; we see that product as something that will get us closer to that specific need in our life, so we pursue it and buy it. If not, we will at least associate that product's brand image to this human need.
While positive and warm ads do have a track record of success, we must also highlight the power of what we call 'Pessimism Bias' in marketing. This concept relates to our natural instincts inclined to avoid any negative events in our lives. Our tendency to always be on the lookout for these negative events constitutes the Pessimism Bias, which happens to essentially be the foundation above which direct response marketing is built.
Commercials that highlight the oh-so-terrible scenarios before a product is introduced into someone's life as the Holy Grail get a lot of attention and response. This is what makes DRTV prevalent still; we naturally have a reflex stemming from the right side of our brain–where the feeling of pessimism is contained–to avoid that situation by buying a product. Advertisers can also use this indirectly in brand response marketing too, including emotionally-charged ads where the storyline begins negative and then picks up once the 'solution' a.k.a the product is in the picture.
Of course, there is a limit to how negative an ad's plot line could be before it can be criticized or even pulled from broadcast. The Telecaster Committee of Canada reviews ads around the country to ensure they adhere to their guidelines and the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards. For instance, an advertisement which shows an individual being set on fire or killed, even for humorous purposes, is not acceptable under the code and may result in the ad having to be removed from TV. Hence, pessimism bias, while effective, should still be approached with an ethical standard in mind.
It is noteworthy to point the science behind video advertising, in particular. Online and off, videos are an extremely powerful way of generating interest and engagement with a consumer group. Nearly 70% of consumers prefer watching a video over reading a product's description, which verifies the popularity of video content. Science also shows that our brains are more receptive to imagery when it comes to memory; we remember only 10% of written content three days later versus 65% of an image or a video.
This is of course influenced by videos' ability to tell a story and hold attention spans (the good ones) through factors we call 'cues'. These include colors, music, video direction and even the way an ad is edited. Cues trigger reactions from us, and when positive, these feelings become attached to the brand, increasing brand recall rates. Therefore, it's a no brainer why ads on TV can be so captivating and successful.
Psychologically speaking, as a medium, TV has us in our most comfortable mental state. We are more receptive offline than we are online and this is a fact we can all testify for. Watching television has been an activity done in the presence of loved ones, or one's own company to unwind, de-stress and distract ourselves from other engagements for a few hours, or even minutes.
So when we watch TV, we listen carefully, engage deeply and remember details a lot more– we can't skip live television ads as they are being shown, in the same way we can scroll past an online ad. This our brain engaged with the ads we're being shown.
This discussion of the psychology behind direct and brand response marketing aims to prove that applying psychology concepts to your response marketing strategy can be beneficial. Researching your audience is key as a marketer and identifying different sectors' habits and emotional responses to certain cues that drive their decisions also helps. That way, colors, music, design, and other factors in your creative can be mapped out accordingly to produce the best content that will make your brand more memorable to your audience.
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