Super Bowl Ads and The Wrong Kind Of Emotional Appeal

image credit: fastcocreate

When the Super Bowl aired, lots of us tuned in for the football but I’d guess just as many (or more) tuned in for the commercials. I did. Did you?

Commercials are some of the most concise storytelling we have today. And in those thirty or sixty seconds, brands have the opportunity to not just tell us, but show us why we need their product or service.

Some of those companies showed us that you’ll lose a puppy if you drink light beer.

Some told us (and thankfully didn’t show us) that superglue saves marriages.

Some of them made us wonder if America equates four-wheel drive with Manifest Destiny.

Some simply made us scratch our heads and laugh.

Some offered emotional appeals to make a play not for our intellects, but for our hearts.

Playing To Your Heart

We know that emotional connections sell products far better than intellectual arguments. But not all emotional appeals are created equal.

If you engage someone’s rational thinking, he or she will argue against your reasoning. But if you can engage someone’s emotions, it bypasses his or her rational thought and drastically increases likelihood that he or she will connect your product with a felt need.

Emotional appeals can make us want to call our families before we eat crispy, golden fried food. Sometimes they make us want to hug the people who’ve inspired and supported us through the toughest challenges. Maybe emotional appeals even try to show us that picking up our children in a new car will make everything better—though most of us won’t fall for quick fixes after a childhood of absentee parenting.

But sometimes, they do exactly what they don’t want to do: alienate their potential consumer base.

When you tug at the heartstrings of people, but then yank them at the last second, it won’t go well for you. People remember when you cuddle up to them but suckerpunch them just when they’re about to trust you.

You ruin any sort of connection with consumers when you force your will upon them, insisting that your product will calm their fears—fears that you just embedded into the forefront of their mind and heart.

A Lesson In Finesse

What can we learn from the good, the bad, and the far too ugly of Super Bowl commercials?

If you have a message or a product to share, or if you simply want people to understand your ideas, don’t push them into it. Gently pull the heartstrings so they feel what you feel, but respect them enough to offer your solution without smashing it in their faces.

When they do choose to take a step toward you, your product, or your service, they’ll go there willingly. They’ll be a whole lot more invested in what you have to say and offer.

Don’t force it; invite them into it.


Which Super Bowl commercial was the most powerful to you? Share your answer in the comments below.


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