Emotions beat facts

I was just reading this interesting article about the ways in which emotions trump facts

“…people are not automatons. People are flesh and blood, heart and soul, and we aren’t moved by numbers alone. We live on stories. We thrive on emotion. We want to laugh, to cry, to rage. So if the political establishment wants to prevent a slide to ever increasing extremes it needs to learn the lesson that Brexit has taught us so starkly: learn to speak to people’s hearts as well as their heads. Otherwise, we may find ourselves headed for some very dark political times indeed.”

So far so understandable, but the tricky thing is that emotions are ever-shifting, subjective, personal and hard to nail down. We can always try to tug at the heartstrings to exactly the right extent, but how many times has ‘touching’ come off as mawkish or sentimental? How often has ‘thrilling’ fallen short and instead become dull? And I’ve lost count of the myriad times ‘funny’ has ironically been more like its opposite.

Emotional persuasion is taking more of a risk: presenting facts is a fairly simple and straightforward process, but emotions carry baggage. Many of us don’t like to feel as if we’re being manipulated into some kind of reaction, particularly if the intention behind it is to sell soap powder or cars. Huge companies spending large sums of money to employ ‘experts’ in an attempt to make us cry/sympathise/worry in order that they might make large profits are not the most likeable entities.

Then again, when it’s done well you don’t really notice the blueprint beneath. Or at least the effect works well enough for you to forgive any manipulation. Then you’re left with an experience that allows the irrational to supersede the rational and a communication that hits harder and becomes far more memorable.

What are the tacts behind this? These Levi’s jeans are a bit roomier? I have a feeling very few people left with that new piece of information, and if they did I don’t think it’s what made them seek out the trousers. But I’ll bet thousands asked their friends if they’d seen that Levi’s ad where they run through the walls:

The facts: John Lewis sells stuff that people might like. Is that really going to get you to visit one of their shops? Of course not. But a little story about what that stuff might mean to someone, a story that has you blinking back tears? Perfect.

Kmart ships stuff. So do loads of other shops. Big deal. Then again, if you make that point in a very funny way you can jump to the front of the shops-that-ship queue.

Clearly emotion trumps logic, but in my experience we rarely get explicit about that during the brief or creative review. It’s kind of left unsaid or assumed that the work we produce will elicit an emotional reaction. Perhaps a more deliberate approach would leave us with more hits than misses.