Emotional appeals


A closer relation between the study of emotion and the practitioners' world is the topic of appeals. Moriarty (1991) defines an appeal as "a message about a need that has the power to arouse innate or latent desires" (Moriarty 1991, p. 76). The same author cites eleven types of emotional appeals: excitement, fear (danger, personal embarrassment), family (love, protection), guilt, love (affection, romance), nostalgia, pleasure, (humor, happiness, joy), poignancy, pride, relief, and sorrow (grief, suffering) (Moriarty 1991 p. 78). Meanwhile, Hoyer and MacInnis (1997) mention that emotional appeals elicit emotions such as love, wanting, joy, hope, excitement, daring, fear, anger, shame, or rejection.

Of all the appeals that different authors enumerate, Burke and Edell (1989) categorized advertising feelings in three kinds: upbeat, warm and negative.


Possible appeals that occur in this category are joy, excitement and humor. The latter is one of the most popular techniques to enhance positive affect. Some data show that 42 percent of television commercials use some form of humor (Hoyer and MacInnis 1997). There are pros and cons for the use of humor in advertising. The advantages are that humor is likely to increase attention and memorability and also heighten the advertiser's credibility (Assael 1995). It also increases a positive attitude towards the ad and the brand (Hoyer and MacInnis 1997).

However, the humorous appeal can be risky. If humor dominates the ad's content, it may be miscomprehended and may not communicate the product benefits (Assael, 1995).

Weinberger and Gulas (1992), after reviewing the literature of humor and advertising, determined that humor does not appear to offer an advantage over non humor in persuasiveness, but it does enhance a positive attitude. They also found that related humor is superior than unrelated humor and that humorous ad copy is more adequate for low involvement products.



This kind of emotion is defined as "a positive, mild, short termed emotion involving physiological arousal and precipitated by experiencing directly or vicariously a love, family, or friendship relationship" (Aaker, Stayman and Hagerty 1986).

One of the first studies of the warmth construct was performed by Aaker, Stayman and Hagerty (1986). They found that warmth has a positive association with attitude toward the ad and purchase likelihood. Nevertheless, their results suggest that recall measures are not related to the use of a warmth appeal.

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Current theory suggests quite clearly that positive emotions are directly related to attitude toward the ad, but the relationship between negative emotions and attitude is less understood (Murry and Dacin 1996).

Frijda (1988) believes that "events that harm or threaten the individual's concerns lead to negative emotions; and emotions are elicited by novel or unexpected events" (Frijda 1988 p. 349). Murry and Dacin (1996) suggest that people are motivated to avoid or alleviate negative emotional states because the emotional feelings come from an event that damages a person's mental states. Therefore a negative emotion signals problems or risks that demand more cognitive processes to make a decision. This cognitive process increase indicates that a negative emotion fires off an analytical process to elucidate whether or not the event represents a risk to a person and the coping possibilities like fleeing or attacking.

One approach to negative emotions is the use of fear appeals. They attempt to create an emotional response of fear or anxiety. It is important to realize that this kind of appeal has to manage a delicate balancing act between too alarming a message and one with little or no anxiety. If the message is too threatening the defense mechanisms of the audience will be turned on and they will switch channels or attack the credibility of the situation presented. If the copy is too gentle the ad will be easily dismissed by the audience. It appears that this appeal works only when anxiety is moderate (Assael 1995).

Also, it is important to take into account that the appeal must propose an action that will reduce the anxiety and that at higher levels of involvement, low fear advances can be utilized because the consumer is already motivated to think about the product (Hoyer and MacInnis 1997).

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