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To Produce Real Emotion, Fire On Multiple Triggers

You don’t have to literally produce emotions in order to activate the emotional brain and be persuasive. But it can be awfully powerful when you do.

The more you understand about the nuances involved in persuasion and influence the more you realize how challenging it is to hit all the right notes and really connect emotionally in an authentic way, especially in the ultra-condensed timeframe of a video spot.

This piece, directed by Michael Clarke for Freeride Entertainment and Leo Burnett Chicago on behalf of Samsung is especially successful on the metrics of emotional persuasion. It doesn’t hurt that Kenworthy himself is a ready-made bundle of persuasive triggers to begin with – authority, friendship, consistency and hope personified. He’s even got the word “worthy” in his name.

Samsung know what they have, here. They even call it “Letters of Influence.” And what’s admirable in particular about that title is that the influence being highlighted is a loop, a virtuous cycle between Kenworthy and his friends and fans and family.

Celebrity endorsements are something of a no-brainer for brands because they are an immediate and direct route to certain emotional triggers like Authority and Consistency. But success depends on who the celebrity is, and to what degree consumers can identify with them. It was only a short time ago that an out gay athlete would have been, if not untouchable, then at least controversial; a risky bet.

What’s especially successful about the Kenworthy spot, then, is the framing of his sexuality as yet another challenge to overcome in the pursuit of excellence and, indeed, authenticity. Samsung has done what was thought to be impossible: turning an avoided minority experience into something universal.

Advertising: Allstate Connects Using Contrast

Effective application of the Contrast Trigger from the Leo Burnett Agency, Chicago.

Allstate promotes quite ordinary, even mundane, claim handling features – filing ease, payment speed, personal attention – in a way that makes them sound unusually appealing by contrasting them to low expectations voiced by the featured customer’s cohorts.

Contrast is a powerful and simple way to move facts or features from the analytical part of the brain to the emotional part, where persuasion and decision-making take place. Contrast converts objective, passive data into subjective, favorable opinion…

The analytical, non-persuasive version:

“We pay claims quickly.”

Facts, features, and data points hit the analytical part of the brain, and without some trigger to send or redirect the message to the emotional brain, the information has little meaning.

The emotional trigger version:

“It took forever, right?” “No! I got paid right away.”

When information is placed in comparison or contrast with something else, it can be processed subjectively – by the emotional brain. It suddenly has meaning, and it’s persuasive. 

GEICO’s Masterful Use of the Consistency Trigger

What do camels, fishermen, scapegoats, free-range chickens and Dora the Explorer have in common?

They’re all the subjects of the current video ad campaign for GEICO Insurance, where people, animals, or fictional characters are shown engaging in, or being subjected to, apparently absurd behavior, but which turns out to perfectly congruent with who they are. A voice-over announcer concludes, for example:

“If you’re a free-range chicken, you roam free. It’s what you do. If you want to save 15% or more on car insurance, you switch to GEICO. It’s what you do.”

Launched in 2014, the campaign is a another in a series of satirical and sometimes outrageous TV spots designed to grab attention and entertain. But in the case of the “It’s what you do” campaign the Martin Agency, GEICO’s longtime advertising firm, is either intentionally or inadvertently pursuing the activation of a powerful emotional trigger. From the original book edition of The 7 Triggers to Yes:

People are slaves to consistency and conformity. Our internal guidance system compels us to be consistent with the way we see ourselves and the way we see our admired peers. From birth forward we create an internal databank recording emotional feelings based on beliefs and past performance.

The amygdala employs this past performance databank as an easy, safe, comfortable, non-thinking guide to make current decisions and to generate action… When we learn what others have done in the past, what they will be consistent with, we gain incredible power to persuade.

By depicting surprising and amusing scenarios of behavioral continuity, and then likening them to the viewer’s own neurological attachment to continuity and conformity – it’s what you do – the GEICO spots are all about activating the Consistency Trigger.
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