Saturday, May 23, 2015

Advertising and Excitation Transfer

Emotions are said to have a cognitive basis.

Whenever we notice an upwelling of sensation within ourselves, we name the feeling based on how we interpret our surroundings at that very moment. It is is our cognitive interpretation of the actions or stimuli we see before us that leads us to give a name to that felt sensation, be it joy, anger, regret, love or any other named emotion.

So, over the years, each of us learns through experience to associate events, places, people and things with feelings.


These upwellings of sensation vary in intensity and duration. Indeed, the felt sensations often continue within us after the immediate event or stimulus that triggered them.

This continuance of certain feelings over time is the basis for what psychologists call Excitation Transfer Theory. An emotional response triggered by one event or stimulus can carry over to an immediately following event or stimulus. In this way, the emotions aroused by an initial event or stimulus become associated with an immediately following event or stimulus.

Here we see this notion applied in advertising.

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So the narrative of the dog's loyalty produced an upwelling of sensations likely interpreted as a form of sympathy. We are surprised by the ending, and in this moment of realization concerning organ donation, our continuing feelings of sympathy are transferred to our intentions toward organ donation.

This is an example of excitation transfer theory. It underscores the importance of emotional response in admirable advertising.

Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

How To Sell Automobiles Today

Longer, lower, wider, more powerful... these are among history's most common selling ideas for automobiles.  Bigger and bolder was once the road to success.

The world is changing rapidly, and what we want from cars is becoming vastly different. Above all, we want security in an increasingly challenging environment. Security is obviously about safety. It is also about reliability and convenience.

Now Volvo has added health.

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Everyone who drives in polluted urban environments will appreciate this product advantage. And, on the open road, there are increasing concerns about airborne factors including even the bacteria we may breathe.

Notice the communication approach. It is all about the product feature. Indeed, the product feature has been given a brand-focused metaphorical name.


Going into the future, this is how to sell cars. No user imagery, no hype needed. As consumers, in challenging times, we know relevance when we see it.

Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, March 9, 2015

To Be Made To Think Is To Agree

When someone challenges you to take a test, you generally take them up on it. Just look at all the tests people are sharing on Facebook these days.

Let's say you are asked to watch closely to see if any street scene passers by are noticing a new model of a car parked by the sidewalk. You would mostly likely try it.


Students who have taken my Psychology of Advertising classes easily recognize this technique as an example of the Elaboration Likelihood Model of persuasion.  To persuade in a memorable manner, messages must garner attention, hold attention, and invite the audience to think. Thinking is called "elaboration" in this conceptual model, hence the theory's name. 

So now, take the test.
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The results of effective elaboration messages have been shown to be longer lasting attitude change as well as attitudes that are more resistant to competing messages. You have been thinking about the new Skoda Fabia.

Advertising scholars will remember a classic 1972 VW Beetle commercial that also used this "attention test" idea.
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Both the Skoda and VW commercials are quite admirable. Think about them.

Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Data Driven Creativity?

Daylight Savings Time begins today. It's time to think about "data driven creativity."

In this era of big data, algorithms, and automated advertising, it is important to remember that customers don't respond so much to details. They don't really care about analytics driven digital adjustments to color, size, features, and media environment driven tailoring for specific audiences. Truly, in that approach you risk "averaging your way to average."

Customers care about ideas. That is how humans think and feel.

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The great irony about ideas, is that the more they are parsed, analyzed, and rationalized, the less they become.

So, when someone proposes an analytics driven approach to your communication plan, be sure to step back. Look for the big idea, one that will capture the imagination of customers. Ideas are important. We cannot think without them, they are the very medium of thought and emotion.

Remember my advice. Ideas too heavily scrutinized can become ideas sadly vaporized.

Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Clucking Bunny

The days are getting longer. Indeed, in the United States, this coming Saturday night we "spring" our clocks ahead for daylight savings time.

Of course, springtime is a traditional time of renewal. And, eggs and rabbits are the twin folkloristic symbols of the season.


Legend has it, for those who have been on their best behavior during this season, an "Osterhase" will bring them brightly colored eggs as gifts.

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This commercial, titled "Clucking Bunny" was created in the early 1980s by the wonderful creative department at Young & Rubicam in New York.

Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Brand Archetype Assessor

The concept of brand archetype is well established as a managerial tool. It is a productive way of placing brand personalities and brand communication in a cultural context.

There are many alternative models of archetype structures that help brand planners think about alternative archetypes.

However, what is needed is a productive means of assessing brand archetypes and placing them in a competitive context.

Here is my Brand Archetype Assessor. It will help you accomplish that goal.


You see that the cardinal dimensions are rational versus emotional and active versus passive. There is a vast amount of scholarly literature supporting these as key dimensions.

Then, within the cardinal directions, you will notice the sub-dimensions of productive versus creative and mindful versus playful.

I've illustrated these major dimensions with brand exemplars. Let me know if you have questions, and I am also available to make presentations on this and other topics.

 Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Brand Personality and Success

Advertising statesman Emerson Foote said, "No one would ever use advertising if they could meet all their customers face to face."

His insight points to the fact that people look first to their personal information sources, rather than media sources.

Theory Basis

Not only do people look first to personal information sources, as social beings we draw upon our person perception skills to give meaning to the entire world around us. Dark skies are threatening, sunshine is friendly. The babbling brook bespeaks a happy attitude.

We call this phenomenon "anthropomorphism," the attribution of human characteristics, traits, and motives to entities and forces in the world around us.

Of course, brands, products, services, and organizations are commonly seen this way. Indeed, a brand without a personality is not very interesting.

Lessons from the Classics


King Arthur Flour is the oldest continuously operating company in the United States. Although founded in 1790, the company did not choose King Arthur as its brand name until 1890 when an owner attended a performance of the musical King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Although a seemingly implausible means of selecting a brand name, with no apparent connection to flour, the kingly imagery of the Arthur legend presumably lends to the brand a sense of leadership, integrity and good times in days of old. Today, the highly informative King Arthur Flour website begins with this logo prominently positioned so as to welcome your visit.


The logo is prominent on the package. Notice also the action oriented call out. It leads you to a side panel that welcomes you into the community of bakers. Integrated Marketing Communication and Content Management is nothing new to this centuries old company. Indeed, these practices are really now new, just the terminology used by people who are "relatively" new to the business.

Underwood Deviled Ham is actually the oldest continuously marketed trade marked food brand in the United States. When it comes to food preparation, deviling means seasonings play a major role giving the food a spicy taste. So, for this brand we see a clear connection between the devilish imagery and the sought after taste experience of the brand.


Indeed, this classic print ad from 1911 demonstrates some devilishly good copywriting. The visual is wonderfully in tune with the personality of the brand. Were the brand to begin reinvesting in advertising, this print ad gives productive direction concerning content and personality.


Turning to brand personality in contemporary advertising, MetLife stands out as one of the strongest brand personalities. In the early 1980's the company began searching for a new creative direction to replace the traditional problem-solution case studies that typify insurance company advertising. At Y&R in New York, senior copywriter George Watts proposed a campaign based on the Peanuts cartoon characters. Snoopy was to play the leading role, of course.


The customer insight is all about brand personality. No one wants to talk to an insurance agent. So, with Snoopy as the spokesperson the brand immediately became a friend. Snoopy is possibly the most highly effective door opener. But going beyond personality, the scenarios and cast of characters allow for charming narratives to explain otherwise complicated and boring insurance products and procedures.

This customer insight leads directly to my typology for evaluating and managing brand personality.

Eighmey's Brand Personality Success Grid

Human behavior comes down to the concepts of thinking, feeling, and doing. What we choose to do is supported by what we think and feel.

These elemental concepts provide the framework for a model or typology for evaluating the performance of brand personalities as they directly compete in the marketplace. Importantly, this allows us to evaluate brand personalities in their competitive frames.


Turning to the Brand Personality Success Grid, you can see how MetLife's brand personality relationship with customers is based on high levels of feeling and more extensive narrative content about the brand. In contrast, Geico's stance is to ask customers to concentrate on a simple fact about speed of transaction.

Now, all four of these brands are mounting successful advertising campaigns. The point is to recognize the basis of the continuing relationships with their customers when it comes to thinking and feeling. My typology suggests that to support long run relationships more of both is better.

What does my Brand Personality Success Grid look like for the brands in your product category?

  Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.