emotiona vs rational appeals

In general, we assume that people make decisions based on a rational thought process.  If we present the facts that our product is better and do it in an attention getting and creative way, they’ll be convinced to buy from us, rather than our competitors.  It’s the basic formula for all advertising.  Present your value proposition.  Support it with your competitive advantages.  And people will buy.

The problem is people rarely ever make rational choices, so the formula is irrelevant and worse completely ineffective.

In Predictably Irrational, Dan Airely provides a number of examples of how people make completely irrational decisions.

  • In a study, when contemplating the purchase of a $25 pen, the majority of subjects would drive to another store 15 minutes away to save $7.  When contemplating the purchase of a $455 suit, the majority of subjects would not drive to another store 15 minutes away to save $7.
  • In another study, when told that the drug cost $2.50 per dose, nearly all of the subjects reported pain relief. When told that the drug cost $0.10 per dose, only half of the subjects reported pain relief.
  • When a truffle was $0.15 and a Kiss was $0.01, 73% of subjects chose the truffle and 27% the Kiss.  When a truffle was $0.14 and a Kiss was free, 69% chose the kiss and 31% the truffle.

You get the idea.

People rarely make completely rational choices.  So if that’s the case, what is an effective way to appeal to them?  When given the choice between an emotion and rationality, I’d always put my money on appealing to people’s emotions.  People think with their hearts.  And their feelings fill their thoughts.

All great advertising makes people feel something.  Making a clear rational point is nice, but often irrelevant.

The next time, you’re working on a creative brief, in addition to your goals, ask yourself, “what do we want them to feel?”  You’ll be surprised how it will improve your creative.