Get Ready for a Holiday Season of Emotional Advertising

Kierstyn Schneck
November 24, 2020

2020. It’s created so many great memes, but there’s usually a running theme throughout them all: that we are uncertain about our future.

We all might be feeling a little more lost and uncertain this year, especially as we contemplate how very different our holidays will be, apart from family and loved ones. With such uncertainty—and let’s be honest, less awareness of what today’s date actually is—driving to flash sales or saving opportunities is not enough for today’s marketers as we head into a unique holiday shopping season. 

Emotional advertising lets you connect with your customers on a deeper level, to tap into their more fundamental needs and reinforce your brand positioning. In 2020, brands sank or swam based on this type of advertising as brand transparency and social responsibility climbed the ladder while consumers experienced a global pandemic, a social movement reborn, and a turbulent election cycle. 

We usually think of emotional advertising in terms of the four emotions (happiness, sadness, anger, fear), but it’s also important to consider Maslow’s hierarchy of fundamental needs. There are the basic necessities such as food, water, and shelter, which were threatened by the global pandemic due to shortages and increased unemployment. And then there are the more psychological needs: 

For those already using digital marketing, emotional connections with your audiences are that much easier to execute and measure by sentiment. Here are some examples to inspire you and think more critically about how your messaging might tap into our shared human experience. 

Etsy’s “Gift Like You Mean It”

This ad campaign taps into the need for belonging, to be with and connect with our loved ones during the holiday season. It also taps into our need for safety. During the pandemic, when we are socially distancing and may not be able to see those loved ones, Etsy is making that connection for us. 

LEGO’s “Rebuild the World”

There’s a real desire to explore, create and discover in this ad. To a 2020 audience, it offers inspiration and hope for our children while we wait to rebuild the real world. It also appeals to our need for self-fulfillment. 

John Lewis & Partners + Waitrose & Partners’ “Give a Little Love” 

This ad has a real sense of community, helping others, and acceptance during challenging times. It appeals to our need for self-esteem as well as our sense of belonging. 

OREO’s “Proud Parent”

Tying into larger social issues this year, this ad establishes a safe place and sense of belonging for people who identify as LGBTQ+.

Were you able to identify which needs each example played into? Don’t worry—the 2020 holiday season is just getting started. We hope these examples help inspire you now to use this moment to connect with your audiences on a deeper level.