Sweet seduction: How chocolate advertising taps into the consumers’ emotional operating system

Connecting with consumers in a human and emotional way is one of the biggest challenges marketers face today.

According to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s 2011 insolvency statistics, 20% of advertising campaigns produce no lift in brand value and, even worse, 20% actually produce a negative brand impact, whilst consuming millions of dollars!

So how do you know whether your campaign will connect with the hearts and minds of your target market and help your products succeed?

The solution lies in understanding the subconscious triggers of your marketing campaign and their congruence with the emotional operating system in your target audience’s brains.

The emotional operating system is the power centre of decision making in the human brain, through which all stimuli (advertisement, promotion, retail experience, product etc.) are filtered. It is where we determine what is noise, what is relevant and whether and how we want to react.

It consists of three major forces and in neurosciences these are known as “the big three” (as first introduced by German Neuromarketing Professor Dr. Haeusel and explained in my blog subconscious mechanisms at the point of sale).

  1. The Balance System (goal and purpose: security, sociability, avoidance of risk, stability).
  2. The Dominance System (goal and purpose: self-assertion, displacement of the competition, autonomy).
  3. The Stimulance System (goal and purpose: discovery of new things, variety, learning new skills).

So let’s take a look at three confectionary campaigns in terms of the subconscious triggers they are submitting and which elements of the emotional operating system they are activating as a consequence:

Cadbury’s Marvelous Creations

Cadbury’s Marvelous Creations advertisements take the viewer into a world of excitement, fun and playfulness. There is no end to the inventiveness of the chocolate chefs who enthusiastically concoct the Marvellous Creations block.

Unexpected ingredients (jelly bits, beanies and even popping candy) are dropped into a bowl of chocolate by chefs on trapezes, assisted by roller-skating helpers. All this culminates in the creation of an unusual looking block, wrapped in playful carnival, candy-like packaging.

This commercial taps right into the exact emotionality of the stimulance system of the emotional operating system in the brain which prefers manufacturer brands with a strong emphasis on lifestyle, experience, pleasure and playfulness.



Source: Campaign Brief.

Ferrero Rocher’s Golden Moments

When we look at Ferrero Rocher’s Golden Moments television commercial, it is packed with signals of status and exclusivity which originate from the dominance dimension of the brain.

The quality golden packaging of the product, the consistent tone of voice and the imagery i.e. divine festivities, heaven, golden moments, the gods, all underpin this message. Ferrero Rocher reach this emotional dimension of the brain with sophisticated ambience, highest quality product and very importantly, luxurious packaging.



Source: Ferrero.

Arnott’s Tim Tam’s Truly Madly Tim Tam

Arnott’s Tim Tam’s Truly, Madly Tim Tam Orchard TVC and experiential campaign communicates the “care” and “nature” cues of the Balance System firstly in the orchard setting and also in the hug a tree, propose to the tree, and kiss the tree messaging.

It shows social inclusion and warmth by writing people’s names on hearts, which hung from the trees. Altogether the exact emotionality of ease, care and cordiality which sit in the balance system of the brain.




Source: Truly Madly and Deeply Tim Tam.

All of these advertisements trigger quite contrary emotional worlds in consumers’ minds. So how can brands respond to this? The answer lies in relating the cues in advertisements to the emotional operating system in the target markets brain that correspond and executing to these propositions.

This achieves a subconsciously meaningful communication that will cut through the relevance detectors in the consumers mind, connect with consumers emotionally and more likely cause the response it is aiming for.

Katharina Kuehn is director of RDG Insights, a subsidiary of Retail Doctor Group, which provides retailers and brands with the missing link between understanding the real drivers of consumer behaviours and informing the strategic branding and operational implications at the point of sale. “Innovative consumer insights are vital to the development and implementation of a truly differentiated brand strategy. How we as humans interact with brands in a meaningful and loyal way underpins the growth and profitability of all businesses.”


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