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Brands & Emotional Appeal: APCON & Co Must Be More Responsible



There are two sides to the structure of marketing communication, taking from the stand-point of brand support for improved market performance. The process of strategic planning for Brand Development through appropriate brand profiling and positioning, will always require the scientific indication of agreed strategic position with respect to its strategic direction and thrust, based on either of Rational or Emotional value-anchor.

Whereas the alternatives as stated above are definite in function, but sure guide so far as they are professionally understood and are properly engaged. Whereas the one speaks to ‘nothingness’ in concrete terms, the other speaks to actuals of sight and sound; emotional standpoint is the take-off point and guide unto emotional engagement for that offering which value is not tangible. On the other hand, profiling brand-value along rational proposition rests on physical attributes. It assumes a descriptive pattern that accentuates on actual touch, sight and feel.

At this stage of engagement, these two elements are of critical importance when it comes to option of application, because the strategic and creative teams’ decision is based on the concerned brand’s nature. Characteristic of rational reasoning, the considerations must bother on physical attributes of shape, size, colour and presence. On the flip side, the emotional route is a must option when the brand of concern is of ‘tangible’ value proposition, if at least one of its characteristics is any of qualifiers stated above. Therefore, if the focus is on a brand in leisure and tours (intangible value offer), for an example, the Brand Support approach should assume a strategic approach different from that applicable for a brand in mouth wash product category (tangible value offer).

Fundamentally, however, Emotional and Rational brand-support approach options (profiling and positioning) cooperate at the point of strategic planning, because essentially a brand is wrapped in both elements for persuasive target consumer engagement.  We must always note that ‘destination’ Consumer Purchase is based on persuasive engagement, which is the start-point for the buying decision-making process.  On the one hand, core brand values are demonstrated in the attributes of the sensory perception of touch/feel, sight, smell and taste, whereas the peripheral benefits of that same brand can be identifiable in the value sub-set of emotional appeal. Hence, it is imperative for brand development and communication process to play up both aspects of any brand, to effectively and efficiently engage the target market.

An aspect of a brand’s emotional engagement is building and maintaining interpersonal relationship, such as a mother and child relationship.  The psychological ingredients of such relationship are manageable variables which effectiveness depends on how well they are ‘controlled’.  So far as the strategic planning team can make that connection, in relation to the given brand, the power of emotion in engaging the target market is practically enormous. So, we find brands especially in the baby care, food and households categories, almost always sold on the basis of mother-child emotional relationship. Some brands in the beauty segment and Over-The- Counter (OTC) pharmaceutical product category have also told their brand stories based on emotional appeal.

Extensions of emotional connect for brand positioning and brand-consumer engagement is even demonstrated in alcoholic drink market, where the power of Feel is sold as a promise. Such experience or brand promise is in most cases ascribed to brand-specific consumer experience linked to emotional feel. In most cases, however, such promises are only individually verifiable (subjective). Therefore, whereas such emotional promise is made in bold terms, testimony to its actualisation is most often not universally true. Characteristic of emotions, the experience is personal, but brands are sold based on such premise(s).

Unfortunately, however, Emotional Appeal as a strategic tool in brand positioning has been grossly abused as we have come to notice. Perhaps due to intellectual/professional laziness, a good number of brands have either been misled into making false promises or position as liars, only because their handlers have wrongly engaged the elements of ‘emotional appeal’.  To a large extent, however, one would hold the institutional gate-keepers responsible for this grave act of deceit or misrepresentation, and  worse still, for exposing the consumer to such ‘danger’ of false promise(s). We know the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), and the National Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) should be instrumental in the consideration of  brands’ promises and positioning statements, but if what we see at the market place is anything to go by, we are constrained to point accusing fingers at these two bodies for the dangers consumers are exposed to, consequent upon advertising messages and their implications (not excluding the activities of unregistered advertising service providers).

How do you explain a situation where a local market brand will keep running around making claims to the effect that its brand of fruit juice is of 100 per cent natural fruit without additives and No Sugar, when we know such claim/promise cannot be true? Funny enough, mere tasting such products exposes the ridiculous nature of such claims! Some consumers, especially the aspirational users among them, have believed such advert messages, to the extent that they would rather believe it is their taste buds that needs  a re-orientation to appreciate the ‘wonderful nature’ of such brands falsely promoted, not that the claim is false in any way.   

Some mouth-wash products have gone as far as using models costumed in medical practitioners’ kits, to sell their offer, when we know the ethical instruction forbids such act because of its implications on believability.  Most powder milk brands now say “Drink…And Be Strong”  (as brand promise)whereas its properties and functional ingredients do not support such claims.

How can anyone explain the connection between food seasoning and mother-daughter familiarity, as a brand promise? As a brand with physical attributes and characteristics, its promise must be physically defined and established before the introduction of emotional appeal, if it must make that connection to drive home its value-essence or promise.  What we find in these instances is the evidence of intellectual laziness, leading to inability to articulate the brands’ predominant and unique selling point(s) for meaningful marketing communication, and that takes us to the issue of professional conduct and responsibility.

The strategic and creative process is critical of the derivative reasoning, so much so that circumventing the process automatically throws up inadequacies such as some of those listed above, including false claims and false promises. Because Emotional appeal is manifestly elusive to the not-so-discerning consumer, advertising service providers of gross professional incompetence hide behind it to project brands, as the easy way out. In other words, it takes the deep-rooted professional to properly profile a brand for appropriate Positioning and value proposition.

Ultimately, the responsibility falls on institutional gate-keepers and brand owners, some of which we have mentioned above, to protect brands and consumers from abuse by incompetent advertising service providers, by ensuring compliance and adherence to professional standards. We at MC& A DIGEST have always made the case for professionalism and compliance to industry standards because we are certain the consequences of compromises are grave in all directions. Unfortunately, as we are wont to always say, even among in-house brand watchers, incompetence and corruption have permeated established rules, leading to deliberate disregard.

Primarily, brands suffer because at the right time, consumers will react to false promises and deceptive presentation. Most brands that have failed were driven to collapse by such subtle but steady standard compromise which damaging effect crept in and piled up till breaking point.  The general claim is that consumers in this market are largely not discerning, but there is a limit to everything.

Stakeholders in advertising practice and in particular, institutional regulators must live up to their responsibility for the good of all.



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