HAS THE INDUSTRY FORGOTTEN THAT EMOTION IS THE TOOL, NOT THE OBJECTIVE? ROBERT MEIKLEJOHN, SENIOR STRATEGIST, LAYS OUT THE CASE FOR ONE OF BBH’S CORE MANTRAS

Product demonstrations with an emotional twist is one of BBH’s simplest mantras and also one of my personal favourites.

This mantra suggests a grounded and actionable vision of advertising. In many ways it’s the twin sister of “Information goes in through the heart”. Both are highly prescient John Hegarty originals that would go on to find scientific validation in the field of behavioural economics and our modern understanding of system one and two thinking.

Everyone in the advertising industry knows the power of emotion. By now we can quote the efficacy stats from memory – that emotional campaigns are twice as likely to be profitable as rational campaigns (IPA 2009) or that connecting emotionally with difference generates 52% more customer value (Magids, Zorfas & Leemon, HBR, 2015). 

Emotion is great. Emotion is human. And emotion is effective in advertising. Where we should get uncomfortable is when ads start pursuing emotion for its own sake. The worst misfires of the “brand purpose” era can usually be traced back to a jarring disconnect between a brand’s declared emotional benefit and the reality of what it sells or how it behaves (something we’ve written about before). 

It can be liberating to remind yourself that most advertising is ultimately trying to get people to buy a product. Emotion is the tool, not the objective. “Product demonstrations with an emotional twist” still allows for a world of creativity – light and dark, humour and pathos, but all in the pursuit of making the product the hero. In the modern world of research and instant consumer feedback, very few properly poor products actually reach the market. And when the product is good sometimes the worst thing you can do is add too much artifice. 

Here’s three great examples of BBH translating “Product demos with an emotional twist” into work that shows off  product in a creative and emotional way.


1. Audi Clowns. 

One of the biggest challenges faced by automotive brands is that the core benefits of the product don’t change that quickly. In the modern automotive market, there are very few “bad” products and differentiation is tougher than ever before. Many manufacturers use a specific product feature to tell a broader story about the brand. Usually, this is done in a fairly clunky way – a heroic AI assistant saving the day by spotting traffic jams or a slightly larger sunroof triggering an improbable emotional epiphany. 

2018 Audi commercial – Clowns

Image result for audi clowns


Audi wanted to demonstrate how its tech leadership makes its cars safer. Demonstrating safety features by showing a car navigating treacherous situations isn’t new. But showing other drivers as literal clowns rooted a demonstration of Audi’s safety features in an emotional truth that delivered a highly distinctive and effective piece of work.

2. Tesco Food Love Stories

Tesco’s colossal success has created new challenges for the brand. One of those was the idea that Tesco had simply become too big to actually care about the quality of its food as much as the public did. We needed to show that Tesco understood its customers and the role food played for them not just practically but also emotionally.

Tesco Food Love Stories | Birdie’s ‘Everybody Welcome’ Jerk Chicken

Image result for birdie everyone's welcome tesco

“Food Love Stories by Tesco” is a celebration of the meals research showed that customers loved to make and eat. Our creative gave an individual face and story to each recipe (David’s ‘Hot or Not’ curry and Birdie’s ‘Everybody Welcome’ jerk chicken). Every supermarket talks about the quality and variety of their food. And every supermarket churns out recipe content in some form or other. However, adding an emotional human lens allowed us to create a demonstration of our products that went beyond the rational and tapped directly into the emotional needs of our audience.

3. Google Chrome – The Web Is What You Make Of It

In 2012 Google was only partway to the software and web dominance of today. In an era where most couldn’t even define what a web browser was we needed to show how Chrome helped people to use the internet (and Google products) better. The key challenge was people didn’t feel inspired to change, so we showed them people who inspired change with their use of the web.

Google Chrome Dear Sophie

Image result for google chrome dear sophie

This approach shows the products as easy to use and well made but it also elevates them far beyond that. The story transforms functional services into something more akin to a personal diary or family heirloom in emotional terms. It was this inspirational and creative approach to products that helped Google establish itself as the undisputed leader of consumer web services. 

As we head into a new decade we face an increasingly complicated and compromised fragmented media landscape. We have more ways than ever before to show off our products and yet our industry seems less clear on the most effective ways to do so. 

In this world of growing channel and brand complexity the mantra of “product demonstrations with an emotional twist” is an increasingly valuable lens that helps us simplify our objectives, focus our briefs and create great, impactful work.