Eliciting Emotions through Content

/ Under "Content & Strategy" /

Some time earlier, I attended a talk by Forethought about measuring emotions in Advertising. Introducing the quantitative approach for identifying and measuring the impact of discrete emotions; what they call ‘prophecy feelings’ – which you may read about more in a short case study here. Results are mapped to a scale that’s pretty similar to the plutchik wheel of emotions.

The 9 core emotions identified are – Shame, Surprise, Happiness, Love, Pride, Contentment,Anger, Sadness & Anxiety. While some brands need to raise certain core emotions, some should aim to eliminate the emotions as well.

How to elicit the emotions as accurately as possible – even before any audience testing?

While emotions may be subjective, we shouldn’t ignore how genres – especially narrative genres – could elicit emotions. It’s hard to deny that a tragedy story wouldn’t make you feel sad, and that a hard rock music wouldn’t cause any forms of anxiety or anger. These genres draw upon specific features from music, imagery, plot devices, etc.

For instance, specific musical features are highly associated with particular emotions. Fast tempo shows happiness or excitement while slow tempo may be associated with sadness. Major key are more oftenly associated with positive emotion while minor tonality is associated with sadness or mystery. Loudness of sound may be perceived as anger. Consistent rhythm may be associated with peace.

When all different features together for our senses, integrating genre cues into our communications could draw us closer to the emotions we intend to elicit. That’s one key advantage to using content that entertains people and speak their voices, through the mix of cinematography (framing, lighting, etc), music (as illustrated earlier), editing (rhythm of cuts), narrative development, dialogues & so forth. What’s more powerful is that as viewers project themselves as the character, they tend to feel how we want the character to feel.

About The Author


Guest author Sim Li Fen (Miki) is a comms & creative planner relatively new in the advertising industry & a good friend of Easy Productions. Loves writing about comms strategy, behavioural theories, game theories, storytelling & definitely random ramblings. Very curious too.