March 2020 (Vol. 60, Issue 1): CREATIVITY
The Effects of Communicating Passion in Advertising: How Messages Like “We Love What We Do!” Shape People’s Product and Brand Evaluations
Does the conveying of passion in advertising make customers rate their products and brands more highly? A team of researchers combining academics with practitioners have found evidence that there is indeed a positive relationship. Findings from Micael Dahlen (Stockholm School of Economics), Helge Thorbjørnsen (Norwegian School of Economics), Jonas Colliander and Sara Rosengren (Stockholm School of Economics), Alice Gemvik (AT Kearney) and Christian Thorwid (McKinsey and Company, Stockholm) suggest that, when a brand advertises that the company “loves” what it does, consumers believe that the company works harder and makes better quality products.
Dahlen and his coauthors also rationalized that since “passion can be transferred from leaders to employees in a management context,” that same emotional contagion would apply to the transfer of passion from a brand to consumers through advertising.
The study won the JAR’s annual recognition for excellence in creativity research, the Douglas C. West Advertising Creative Article award.
To reach their conclusions, the researchers conducted three studies testing consumers’ responses to print ads in three product categories (coffee, soft drinks and hand soap) in Sweden. In addition to passion in advertising signaling a better product, the studies showed a spillover effect between consumers and their brands. “The positive emotion the brand signals by stating its passion also seems to spill over to the consumer and his or her brand attitudes and purchase intentions,” the authors write.
Expanding on these findings:
- The brand’s advertised love for what it does functions as “soft” information to consumers, much in the same way the advertising-signal literature has found that advertising expense and advertising creativity do.
- Similar to these signals, the communicated passion leads consumers to infer that it is in the brand’s own interest to do a really good job.
- Whereas signaling is a cognitive process, passion can rub off emotionally, at least momentarily.
Among the limitations of their work, the authors pointed out that:
- By focusing on low-involvement products, the study constitutes a conservative test of the effects of brand passion.
- Future research could focus on products like cars, luxury clothes, entertainment services and cosmetics, for which consumer engagement and brand relationships typically are stronger. Communicating brand passion for these high-involvement products might be even more effective, as a result.
- The ads used in the study may have evoked other connotations. Future research could investigate which connotations, apart from passion, are evoked by ads—such as the ones used in the authors’ studies—and how these affect consumer responses.
- Future studies should investigate additional factors that could affect consumers’ responses, such as previous purchase behaviors, brand experience, the consumer-brand relationship, type of processing and other factors.