why do functional products use emotional advertising?

If you think about the buy things every day you'll realise that most of them are functional products that you have no emotional connection with - milk, cheese, bread, petrol etc.

Likewise, the services you use are functional - gas, electric, internet, TV, banking etc. So why do the brands of so many functional products and services insist on advertising to us in a way that doesn't fit with what they are selling?

Let's look at what you want from a bank. For most, I imagine it's the basics done well; not to lose your money (very important!), to be helpful when you have a problem, offer you a half decent rate of interest, for the app to work well, among others no doubt. It's not an emotional 'engagement'. You need a bank account and they pretty much all do the same thing, so you pays your money and takes your choice.

With that in mind, this is the latest ad from NatWest.



Apart from the fact you could stick any logo on the end of the ad and it could be for one of 1000 companies, let alone any other UK bank, it's 95% emotional guff. When banks are all so similar, where's the real tangible messages to encourage someone to put their cash with NatWest over the likes of Barclays or HSBC?

Some types of products sit well with emotional advertising, as they are emotional purchases - the likes of perfume, car and clothes brands will all use a certain 'lifestyle' approach to make an impression. Brands know that you might buy one of these products with your heart more than your head because they say something about you as a person. But banking isn't one of them. A bank should be there when called upon, being in and out of your life as quick as possible with minimal fuss. Akin to a builder.

Before hiring a builder for your extension you need to establish a number of things; they have the experience to do the job, they can offer a price you believe is reasonable, they will adhere to all the legal regulations, they'll turn up on time every day etc. Yes, you will have a gut feeling about a certain company but there is no emotion involved in the purchase of their services.

And as most building companies don't tend to employ brand managers, their advertising will reflect the way their services are bought by customers. Past projects and references will be available, guarantees offered, all with the objective of reassurance.

So why are the likes of banks trying to use emotion to sell function? Is it bank marketing directors behaving like sheep and following the herd, or their agencies just being lazy and taking the money?

If you ask the man on the street, they'll say take a leaf taken out of the book of their local builder.


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