Negative Emotional Appeals in Advertising


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Negative appeals in advertisements challenges the theories established by practitioners and academics on the grounds that negative emotional applications have a place in advertising. The main driver for delving into the importance of negative emotions, as a means of advertising, has to do with examining the prevailing sentiments of how to effectively sway consumers (Cotte & Ritchie, 2005). Since the marketplace in very dynamic and under constant change, it is rather relevant to review existing advertising strategies. Providing additional research and a different research perspective can facilitate changes in social policies relative to advertisements (Cotte & Ritchie). Given this background, Cotte and Ritchie posit the following positions; they have “[identified] three broad views of consumers that appear to guide advertisers when they develop ads: 1) a ‘desensitized consumer’ who pays little attention to advertising; 2) a ‘sophisticated consumer’ who is conscious of advertisers; and 3) a ‘tribal consumer’ who is driven by a fundamental need to be accepted as part of a larger group”.

To clarify the uniqueness between positive and negative advertisement, the authors offer the normative that a marketer’s use of positive messages tend to make the consumer relish the ad and subsequently buy the product. Conversely, a negative ad evokes an unfavorable set of emotions that elicits the consumer to make a purchasing decision to solve the problem established by the negative advertisement (Cotte & Ritchie).

Marketers elect to explore negative emotional advertisement research because they realize that on a daily basis, most consumers are under constant attack and bombardment of thousands of ads to the degree that they have become immune to the vast advertisement information. Getting consumers attention is becoming an enormous challenge because of the multiple sources of advertisements; such television, magazines, news media, and the Internet. With so many communications channels and information overload, consumers’ attention span is becoming slim to none.

Under these circumstances, consumers in the desensitized category can be motivated by negative ads because; as shared by Cotte and Ritchie, ‘fear works. It makes you sit up…fear works, in my mind, to jolt someone to make them at least, remember it’. In the arena of the sophisticated consumer; buyers have become so savvy and intellectual that they cannot be manipulated by slick advertisements. Researchers’ respondents articulated that ‘as a viewer, they know it [when something’s real]. They know when something’s fake and when something’s not’. Consequently, negative emotional ads are appealing because this set of consumers is being challenged to understand an emotionally charged ad. However, the downside relative to leveraging an emotionally negative ad on the savvy consumer is such that the advertiser may inflict irreversible damage (Cotte & Ritchie). Finally, as a societal norm, there is a group of consumers whose purchasing instinct and decision is fostered by that of the tribal consumer. In this situation, Cotte and Ritchie discovered that ‘people are all tribal…there is a certain tribalness in there when people say, ‘I want to be,’ ‘I want to identify myself as part of something, ‘and yet it’s something that I buy’. Given this mental model, such consumers are captivated by negative ads that are ripe with guilty emotions (Cotte & Ritchie).

Dr. Johnny D. Magwood
Northeast Utilities Service Company
V.P. Customer Experience & Chief Customer Officer; Northeast Utilities Service Company. J. D. Power Smart Grid Advisory Council; Chairman- Housing Authority Baltimore City; Next Generation Utilities Advisory Board; Utility Knowledge Customer Service Council; CS Advisory Council; Magistrate Judge Seletion Committee. Marketing Executive Council; Mechanical Engineer - The Johns Hopkins University; MBA - Loyola University of Maryland; DBA - University of Phoenix; Doctoral dissertation; Mergers and Acquisition: The Role of Corporate Executives' Relationships with Stakeholders


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