Marketing… Marketing…What on earth is marketing? (Part C)

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For the last two months, we have been exploring the complicated and deeply cultural phenomenon of marketing, with a special focus on its application in our field. Different professional fields call for different marketing, different means and different rhetoric, so what works in one field may be disastrous in another, with some fields (funeral homes, for example) being defiant to any kind of classy advertisement, other than a simple (and rather unimaginative) statement of services.
The aim of this article is to examine how emotions can work in marketing and if the use of such emotions can be misconstrued, seen as a cheap ploy and, ultimately, backfire.

The power of emotions

Go down memory lane and try to see in your mind’s eye the advertisement that has stayed with the longest. Perhaps it’s one from your childhood that filled you with the impatience that Christmas is coming or it may be one that later in life came to remind you of how bonds transform themselves and people’s lives. As your mind (and soul) search and find the advertisement, I am positive that you are almost hearing the music and right now experiencing the emotion. The reason for that is as human beings, with a soul and a mind, we tend to ‘feel’ our way through life. Whatever we experience is affected by feelings and translated into feelings. Emotional advertisements manage to do exactly that in a very simple way. There is no direct marketing, there is very little mention of the product or the service; in fact these come at the end, if at all. The main issue is the story.

In the Budweiser ad for the Super Bowl commercial 2014 (www.youtube.com/watch?v=7p_3lITiK_Q&t=2s), which actually turned out to become a franchise with a spin off advertisement, the core issue is the idea of ‘buddies’ (part of Budweiser) and the strange connection between a horse and a puppy.

In the next advertisement (www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWeKtqWc2EA&t=9s) we get to see the amazing puppy (which incidentally has not grown a bit) in a new adventure and his friends the horses, supporting and saving him. All the building blocks of these short films are noble, highflying, going beyond the idea of selling beer to people (who may have no love for dogs or horses). Emotions are the foundations of who we are and what we believe. Anything that targets our emotions and does so successfully makes a long-lasting impression that will be hard to forget. In fact, I bet you are still humming the song from that unforgettable ad of your childhood as you are reading these lines.

One of the cornerstones of emotional marketing is the ability to devise a clever story and a twist of phrase that will inspire and place the focus on a higher ideal (in the Budweiser ad it’s buddies and friendship) that is connected to the services the company provides. Emotional marketing manages to generate warmth, happiness, pride and perhaps a few laughs as well. If you are thinking, though, that it’s an easy alternative, try looking at the bigger picture more carefully. Emotional awareness is very important. Negative emotions are also emotions but if the message comes across as smug, arrogant, cynical or elitist, its effect will be off-putting and not at all what we desired. It is important to remember that companies derive positivity (positive publicity, sales, more likes, public endorsement) when they make people experience positivity. These advertisements become truly empowering when they are subtle, well-modulated, clever and classy.

A wide range of emotions

Over the years, emotional marketing has worked well for all major companies. From ‘Every little helps’ of TESCO to ‘Taste the feeling’ by Coca Cola, companies have managed to put feelings into words in what seems like the most poetic side of marketing. Especially ‘Taste the feeling’ (since feelings cannot be tasted) through the metaphoric language used manages to create a feeling of synaesthesia (a curious feeling that one’s senses have been mingled).

Emotional marketing does not play with complicated emotions. On the contrary, it works on very simple pairs such as sad (conflict) Vs happy (resolution) and magically the resolution is because of the advertised product or company but this is barely mentioned, allowing our brain to make connections and deeper associations. To confess my own pet advertisement in 40 something years I have not managed to say the phrase 100% in Greek, without also humming ‘παγωτό Αγνό’, funnily enough ΑΓΝΟ has been closed for a 100 years now! The messages of those ads can make people shed a tear (watch the Greek commercial www.youtube.com/watch?v=puc3xGTkHEQ) or laugh as we recongise stereotypes or local versions of international trends as in Vodaphone’s advertisement made for the Greek market (www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWz-GnM7w9k) which aims to make us laugh rather than cry.

So far, my examples have been positive. Anger and bitterness, fear and the need to prevent people from terrible things happening are also valid emotions. Unfortunately, emotional marketing tends to go a bit sour when it is used in this way, mainly because it stops being classy and all you need to do to be convinced is to look at telemarketing advertisements in which all horrors will descent on us, unless we buy their product. There are many reasons why emotional marketing does not work well with fear. First of all, a clever audience will question the vested interests of the person who is protecting the public from ‘all horrors’. Quite right, this person is the one who stands to gain if the audience buys the other product or other type of service. Therefore, the advertisement loses its emotional hue and becomes downright manipulative, easy to figure out, not at all deep and definitely not classy. Secondly, this urgency to action many sound patronising, smug and unappealing to a public who will probably feel that they are being put down (along with their choices) by the very same people who want to attract them as customers. Attention-grabbing as they may be, advertisements that try to instill fear rarely manage to gain any popularity.

Do FLS need emotional marketing?

While planning this article, I had the chance to discuss it with a friend and colleague who was rather skeptical. Her opinion was that all the examples we had discussed were product of expensive marketing departments and these campaigns the pride of marketing executives who have built their portfolios around them. How can foreign language schools compete with that? The argument is absolutely correct. FLS do not use TV ads (and I am afraid that any effort so far has been unimaginative and has failed to put forward the essence of who we are and what we do, mainly because TV time is so expensive). TV ads are all about sound and music. They have moving pictures which, these days, manage to move feelings even faster than words. This is where we need to go back to the previous two articles of these series and see how we can adapt this great tool in a smaller version. We surely don’t have the budget that Budweiser has but we are not aiming to target the international audiences that this company needs to target. Therefore, we need to study examples of emotional campaigns and create our own with the aid of cameras and modern technology. Our YouTube channel and our website, our school celebration and our annual party will provide the audience and the moment of pride for our students and their parents.

Emotional marketing gives the opportunity to our target audience to experience positivity through us. By celebrating and highlighting the higher values with which we want our school to be associated, (Look at ‘Find your greatness’ by Nike www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYP9AGtLvRg&t=161s) we show our audience who we are and what we stand for. Secondly, emotional marketing gives us a chance to draw on our history, the people we have helped over the years, our success stories, the fact that our school is still here (while so many others aren’t). This type of emotional marketing (look at ΑΒ Βασιλόπουλος, Μια μικρή ευχή με μεγάλη ιστορία, www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3dgLU-ngng) doesn’t really feel like marketing. There is no request for a purchase, on the contrary the firm advertises what it has given to the public and why (in hidden, silent consequence) it deserves to be supported by customers.


Emotional marketing can create magic moments for our school. From a flyer to an inspiring video, from an album with heart-melting captions to a series of photos on a wall, emotional marketing can help us promote without advertising. The more we generate pride and positivity, the more these feelings come back to us. If we opt for fear or empty warnings, we sacrifice celebrating who we are in order to talk about those who simply aren’t ….us! Is it worth it?
A joyous 2018 and a restful time to all! •

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