Displaying Negative Emotions in Advertising: Do or Don’t?

EEG, Neuromarketing, Commercial

Displaying Negative Emotions in Advertising: Do or Don’t?

It’s a question asked frequently within the world of neuromarketing: are negative emotions in commercials always a bad thing?

Unfortunately, there’s not one simple answer to this question. In this blog, we’ll try to explain how our emotional brain works by showing you the neuro-data from a commercial that you may have seen before!

Breakfast with Rico Verhoeven

Do you remember the Zonnatura commercial in which an angry Rico Verhoeven shows up at the breakfast table. I’m wondering, how would you react to this? :) 

Before we go on with answering the main question in this blog, I would like to ask you to watch the Zonnatura commercial without the neuro-data and decide for yourself which moment you think evokes the most negative feelings.

Bring the neuro-data to the table

Okay, now watch the next video. What is shown underneath the commercial is the brain data we captured with EEG. When the orange line (we call this desire) rises this means we like wat we see, we feel happy. When it goes down, our brain experiences negative emotion.

First of all, we must mention that, in general this is a good commercial as evidenced by the brain data. Well done Zonnatura! But, of course there are always some points of improvements. Let’s first find out whether you guessed right.

And? Were you right? The brain doesn’t like it at all when Rico stares down at the boy who refuses to eat his breakfast. It doesn’t feel good! We experience a tiny bit of the poor kid’s fear ourselves while watching this!

We know that the orange metric positively correlates with buying behavior. So is it safe to say that this shot will hurt the sales of Zonnatura?

Not exactly.

We definitely feel bad during this shot and if it were not to be followed by happiness, this  for sure would impair the sales of Zonnatura. But, this negative emotion causes Rico’s smile - which rescues us from his anger - to feel like a real gift. In other words, the negative emotion enables the subsequent positive emotion to truly flourish. And that works!

What to do?

So, to answer the question we asked at the beginning of this blog: are negative emotions in commercials always a bad thing? No, certainly not. When this evokes a spike of positive emotion that wouldn’t be present in the absence of the preceding negative emotion: then please do so!

But, be careful with the length of time of these negative moments. In this commercial, Rico stares quite a long time. We would suggest to shorten this part a bit. Try to narrow negativity down to only the necessary. 

And more important: don’t ever use negative moments like this in stand-alone communication. Although this can be funny, you don’t want people to remember and associate this negative emotion with your brand.

Now let this be precisely where Zonnatura went wrong… Oops.

Rico Abri

Luckily it took only two weeks for them to realize this themselves. They replaced angry Rico with smiling Rico. All’s well that ends well.

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