Story Telling – The Art of Emotional Marketing

If you’ve been on social media today there’s probably one thing that’s dominating your feed – The John Lewis Christmas Advert.

In case you haven’t seen it, it goes a little something like this:


A little girl is looking through a telescope where she spots a man on the moon. He seems a bit lonely, but when she tries to contact him he doesn’t respond because he can’t see her. She decides to send him a present, on a balloon (very Up), which is a telescope so he can see her back.

As per every John Lewis Christmas advert it plays on your heart strings. You feel sorry for the lonely old man on the moon and you coo over the kind little girl trying to show him she’s there.

You feel happy and joyful when he can finally see her little face, smiling and waving to him from the Earth.

Not One Product in Sight

It’s an advert you instantly remember and one you’ll know is for John Lewis within the first 5 seconds of it starting.

It’s for this reason that the John Lewis Christmas campaigns are so special and so fascinating – because at no point in this advert does it feature any products for sale, nor a single bit of information on the company being advertised.

At no point in the advert does it try and sell you something.

The majority of Christmas adverts on TV will talk about price and what to buy this Christmas. Toy stores will talk about the latest action figure available, shops stocking a multitude of items may talk about delivery or prices, clothing brands may show you what the trends are for this years Christmas party.

But John Lewis mentions nothing of these.  We know nothing about what John Lewis has on sale this Christmas. We don’t know anything about opening times, delivery information or any deals they may have running over the festive season.

So why is it then that the John Lewis Christmas campaign is arguably one of the most successful advertising campaigns of the decade, and is responsible for them racking up some £734 million in the 5 weeks up to the 28th of December 2014?

Two words : Story Telling.

It’s an Emotional Rollercoaster

Humans love stories. They’re powerful and capture the imagination. Each part of a story allows you to feel an emotion. Be it happy, sad, anxious, excitement… the list is endless. And when it comes to consumer behaviour, emotion is key.

To get into the geekiness of things, here’s why emotional marketing works:

We may think of ourselves as logical beings, but actually we’re emotional and base the majority of our decisions on emotion. When thinking about a brand or a product, we’re most likely to evaluate it based on a feeling towards it rather than any information about it.

So for example, if I was to show you a picture of a logo of an animal and ask you to donate £2 a month, you’d probably decline because all you’ve remembered is that it’s a dog charity that wants £2 a month.

If I was to show you a picture of a dog, looking incredibly sad, lonely and showing obvious signs of abuse, you feel sad for the dog, anger towards how it got into that situation and a feeling of needing to help.

When you find out for a little sum of money you can help get dogs, like this one, out of these horrible situations you are likely to donate. Why? Because donating has made you feel better about the situation, it has made you feel pro active and that you’re playing a part in giving these animals a better life.

Therefore, creating an emotional response to an advert has a far bigger influence on consumer behaviour than that of an advert simply showing products.

So when John Lewis plays out a story (be it Monty the Penguin in his quest for love, the little boy excited to give his parents the Christmas gift he’s bought them or in 2015, the man on the moon lonely at Christmas), it’s the emotional rollercoaster we go through in those 2 minutes that has made John Lewis’ Christmas sales rocket year after year.

So when you’re watching the adverts on TV this year, have a think about the ones you remember.

Do you remember it for the information, or because of an emotion its made you feel?

Then look at your own marketing campaign: Does it connect emotionally with your customers? Or are you basing your advertising on boring business logic?

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