Media Coverage

March 29th, 2018

Marketing Dive — Brands can take emotional appeals to millennials too far

Marketing Dive — Brands can take emotional appeals to millennials too far


Erica Sweeney


Dive Brief:

  • Millennials want brands to stand for something beyond sentimentality, but may not be as receptive to ads that suggest they be part of the solution to problems or embody the brand’s values, according to new Ace Metrix research provided to Marketing Dive.
  • The study identified three categories of ads including “heartfelt,” which simply tell a resonant story, “smart heart ads” that communicate a brand’s values or some of its social good and “smart heart with a conscience ads” that take a step further in appealing to personal conscience and encouraging actions like volunteering.
  • Heartfelt ads are inspiring and heartwarming, bringing emotion to the center, but their message is not always fully internalized by viewers and elicits fewer “conscience emotions.” Dove’s #RealMoms received the highest score in this category. Smart heart ads that focus on values performed the best among the segment. P&G’s #LikeAGirl campaign received the highest score in the category. Smart heart with a conscience ads, reflecting how consumers can live up to a brand’s values, received the lowest ratings.

Dive Insight:

It’s become an oft-repeated industry adage that young consumers like millennials and Gen Zers want brands to deliver more emotionally-compelling and even politically-driven stories that step beyond pure product advertising. About two-thirds of consumers report it’s important for brands to take a public stance on immigration, civil rights, race relations and other issues, according to Sprout Social research. However, the new Ace Metrix findings underscore that, while appeals to emotion are valued, spurring consumers to take action directly might be less effective.

Ads in the smart heart category were most appealing to millennials because they featured real people and conveyed a brand’s values or highlighted their philanthropic efforts, per Ace Metrix. Consumers found the ads in this category to be more inspiring and empathetic. In contrast, millennials felt less of a connection with smart heart with a conscience ads, which led to a reduced purchasing intent. The ads still had an emotional connection, but millennial consumers might have perceived them as too preachy or judgmental.

Millennial consumers are also largely driven by experience and authenticity, and they care about the brands that they associate with. Marketers should focus on more cause- or experience-driven campaigns, rather than overtly sentimental themes, in trying to create resonance.

Read the article on MarketingDive.


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