As individuals, we have things we hold dearly, things we like that often stirs a positive emotional feeling. It could be the cartoon we watched while growing up that now brings a nostalgic feeling or the music from your favourite artist. Likewise, we have something that we don’t like and don’t want to get exposed to; it may be snakes or spiders, even the sight of these things in a photograph makes you cringe.
Often advertisers reach out to us based on our emotional attraction to things we like, a psychological attempt to make you engage with their advert based on the creative decisions they have made. It could be the cover music of an advert, like the 250th Lloyds Bank advertisement that made some people cry or the John Lewis advertisement featuring a dog who wants to jump on the trampoline or your favourite celebrity fronting a marketing campaign. These are all attempts to appeal to consumers’ emotion.
Banks, among other brands, also use this strategy to advertise their services; they embed emotional appeals in their advertisements in the form of the images they use, the copy and words on their advert and also the background music of their advertisements. Taking into consideration the utilitarian nature of financial services, it is often argued if banks need to appeal to consumers emotionally as they sell their services.
In my new book, Emotional Appeals in Advertising Banking Services, I explored how UK banks are using emotional appeals to reach out to their customers. The challenges in the banking industry have predominantly been the consumers’ attitude towards the brands, which has been shaped by the global financial crisis, the competition within the banks (possibilities of switching within seven days) and from Fintechs and Apps – only banks, these justify why need to make their brands more appealing and infusing emotions into their advertisements.
Often the creative designs were acknowledged, consumers like the beautiful advert of the father and his daughter laughing for the mortgage advertisement of the girl playing by the seaside and enjoying freedom, these messages of friendship, nurturing and companion are understood by the consumers, but apparently there is much more before they engage with the banks.
Based on this understanding, I proposed the filtration theory of emotional appeals which suggests a process whereby consumers engage with advertisements through a specific channel and conduits of emotional appeals and filters off the message, to deduce a meaningful conclusion, based on their individual preferences, ideologies, or experience. This is a unique and personal process, which is why two people can be exposed to the same advertisements, but have different emotional reactions to them. This may be caused by, e.g., the use of a specific colour or image. For example, an advertisement featuring a dog might evoke a negative emotional reaction, because the viewer was once bitten by a dog, whereas another viewer seeing the same advertisement may experience fond memories of growing up with a dog.
Though I believe emotional appeals is good for banks, there is need to communicate values, appealing to both the heart and the brain as one study suggested, emotional stimuli should be included in advertisements to serve an underlying purchase or usage motivation. This further supports the idea that ‘practitioners should consider the use of emotional appeals both for utilitarian and experiential services’.
Consumers need more than emotions to make a decision on their banking activities, challenging the banks to make an effort in providing quality and personalised services, develop innovative products, recognise and reward customers’ loyalty and thereby building the trust as with this in place, the associated meanings in the advertisements can, therefore, be transferred to the brand – when customers feel the banks are really looking after them, they feel loved, and then the associated meanings in the image of a mother hugging her child could be more efficiently transferred.
Simply exposing individuals to emotionally appealing advertisement influences attitude towards the brand and the advertisement may not be enough, the customers want to believe that what they see in the advertisement is what they will get with the banks. Managers need to make efforts to communicate trust and reliability through their advertisement strategies, highlighting the right values and ethics of the bank.
Dr Emmanuel Mogaji is a Lecturer in Advertising and Marketing Communications at the University of Greenwich. Emmanuel’s primary areas of interest are ABCDE of marketing communications which encompasses advertising, branding, communications, digital ethics. He has been researching UK banks advertising strategies for over 5 years and has published several peer-reviewed journal articles and presented his works in a large number of national and international conferences. His latest book, Emotional Appeals in Advertising Banking Services is published by Emerald.