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Emotion sells. But apparently not in the same way in each country

Emotion sells. But apparently not in the same way in each country

New research confirms how brand’s ‘emotional palettes’ vary between brands and across different countries

By Roger Darashah, Co-founder and Director, LatAm Intersect PR

It’s no secret that emotion sells. A glance at any advertising – the images, the phrasing, even the colour palette – are all designed to solicit the type of emotion most likely to lead to the desired call to action.  Whether the latter is based on envy, indulgence or a sense of indignation, brands will calibrate their assets accordingly.

New research from empathy optimization specialists, Delta Analytics, suggests that businesses – knowingly or otherwise – are significantly altering their ‘emotional palette’ according to country and language.  An analysis of the retail banking sector perfectly illustrates this point.

The most common emotion associated with the US’s top 9 banks on the latter’s owned assets (Websites) is ‘happiness’ accounting for – on average – 32% of the most popular emotions expressed on the sites. This compares to Brazil and Mexico where ‘anticipation’ is by far the dominant emotion expressed by the countries’ leading banks (accounting for 79% and 54% respectively of the emotions expressed), and in the UK, where 38% of the emotions expressed are related to ‘fear’. 

The data has been generated by analysing each bank’s official Website domain as well as sub-domains officially linked to the same. It is not based on ‘mediated’ press or social media analytics – which would also reflect journalists’ and commentators’ opinions – but each banks’ wholly-owned and managed online assets. In effect, a direct and unadulterated view on how each bank perceives itself and wishes to be perceived.  

When we analyse the individual brands, brands’ distinct approaches become even more evident.  For instance, in Brazil, while online content from banks such as Citibank Brazil and BTG Pactual dominated by the emotion of ‘anticipation’ (each accounting for 94.5% of the key emotions expressed on their respective sites), Brazil’s seventh largest bank offers a distinctly more diverse emotional palette including high levels of ‘fear’ (31.3%) and ‘surprise (18.2%); see right:

Mexico’s seventh largest bank offers a more extreme binary of emotions, with ‘fear’ making up almost two-thirds (62.5%) and ‘happiness’ counting for just over one-third (37%); see right.  

Since banks’ have full control of these assets, the distinctions are quite remarkable; and – if indeed, brand managers are aware of them – reflect a concerted effort to distinguish the brands.  

When analysing brands which operate in different markets, the emotional picture becomes even more nuanced.  

The predominant emotions across Santander’s owned, online assets vary radically between Mexico and Brazil – dominated by ‘surprise’ and ‘anticipation’ respectively’ – and the UK’s combination of ‘fear’, ‘anticipation’.

The above insights are far beyond anecdotal, and made up of thousands of geographically and linguistically-specific data points for each brand.  In common with the physical world, online emotions are not defined by individual words or phrases, but the overall impression given, collectively by the content or messaging; so, such analysis really represents an insight into a brand’s emotional soul – intentionally or otherwise. 

Owned assets represent a brand’s ‘shop window’ on the World; a reflection of their ‘best selves’.  My first question would be: are they even aware of the emotional temperature they are – literally – emitting every day?  

The second question is whether or how they are using such emotional palettes to their best advantage? Given the resources invested in most other forms of publicity – from advertising to corporate imagery – why wouldn’t the content of online assets be subject to similar scrutiny and, ultimately, optimisation? 

Emotion can be used to differentiate, to convey a consistent thread or to trigger a particular call to action.  This type of data can help teams of copywriters and content developers to adhere to a particular ‘emotional palette’ in their materials, to maintain the integrity of the brand or its distinction with respect to competitors.  

With content teams increasingly working remotely and, in many cases, internationally, a monthly emotional tracker can offer a vital and objective insight into the emotions they are creating and conveying, in addition to those of the competition.

My final thought is specific to the financial services sector; in common with other regulated industries such as pharmaceutics and healthcare, vendors are specifically discouraged – and in some cases, prohibited – from basing their sales propositions around emotions such as ‘anxiety’ or ‘fear’.   

In these instances, emotional temperatures are not merely a question of branding, they can be used to demonstrate regulatory compliance; and the right to operate. 

Perhaps the issue of emotions should be given more attention, after all? 

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