To say this ad campaign is emotionally charged is an understatement, and extremely strategic on this multibillion-dollar brand’s part. Any savvy marketer knows emotional connection is more important than customer satisfaction. It’s emotional marketing at its finest.
Here’s why emotions are crucial in brand publishing:
Studies show emotionally charged events create powerful memories that cause us to act, with content that elicits strong positive or negative feelings twice as likely to be shared and drive brand loyalty than content that evokes a weak emotional response.
Since Nike published the Kaepernick video on Instagram, along with gaining a surge of nearly 170,000 new followers, it’s become the second most-liked video on their account. Not to mention, Nike’s stock hitting an all-time high (not before it took a slight dip, however). The success of Nike’s recent deal with Kaepernick goes to show that content virality is anything but luck—it’s strategically based on targeting consumers’ emotions.
To take a page out of Nike’s marketing playbook, first you have to understand the Valence-Arousal-Dominance (VAD) model and how it affects engagement behavior.
To distinguish one emotion from another, psychologists often use three concepts: valence, arousal and dominance.
- Valence is the positivity or negativity of an emotion (i.e. happiness or fear)
- Arousal is how calming or exciting something is (anger is related to high arousal; sadness is low arousal)
- Dominance can range from submission to feeling in control (fear is low dominance, admiration or inspiration is high dominance)
Harvard Business Review examined research that suggests content virality is determined by where emotions fall within the VAD model. For example, the study found that social sharing is very connected to content where the consumer feels happy and more in control, such as with feelings of inspiration or admiration. (Cue the Nike Kaepernick content copy: “Don’t ask if your dreams are crazy. Ask if they’re crazy enough.”)
On the other hand, the study showed that when a piece of content paired high arousal with low dominance (ex: anger and feeling less in control), consumers were more likely to comment than share the post. Valence seemingly didn’t matter, with viral content being both positive and negative.
An example of a high arousal, low dominance, low valence viral video that didn’t resonate with its audience is Pepsi’s infamous Kendall Jenner ad. To go viral and gain brand loyalty, you have to strike the right emotional combinations for your audience.
Once you understand the Valence-Arousal-Dominance (VAD) model and the emotions that motivate your audience, your brand can create effective emotional brand publishing campaigns that drive value. Take for example, how and why people buy new gym shoes.
Style, performance, durability—each of these factors align with specific emotions that will resonate with different consumers. It’s said that Americans make 80 percent of our decisions based on emotion, and only 20 percent based on objectivity and rationality. If your brand is going to have any chance at breaking through the content clutter in today’s highly oversaturated content market, adding an emotional and human element is critical.
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