By Victoria Cleveland, BS ’18
What has the advertising world learned from the growing field of “consumer insights”? Among many lessons, that consumers are not all that insightful about themselves.
“You can’t ask people how advertising affects them because they are unaware of how it affects them,” said Mark Truss, global director of brand intelligence at J. Walter Thompson. “It’s like asking someone how their left kidney feels.”
This helps to explain the raw power of the emotional appeal: why there are puppies on our packages of toilet paper, TV spots showing Lexus SUVs gifted for Christmas adorned with huge bows, and ads for laundry detergent that depict busy moms powering through daily chores.
“Facts don’t tend to sell us things,” Truss told his packed-house audience at the Lincoln Center campus. “Emotions tend to sell us more.”
Our thought processes stem from our initial emotional responses, not the other way around, said Truss, who appeared at Fordham courtesy of the Advertising Educational Foundation. This is why ads try, first and foremost, to appeal to our emotions.
But what exactly does it mean?
Truss explained that consumer insights represent the intersection of three things: findings from data, context from culture, and how brands and consumers behave. Insights result when people harness the power of all of these at once—a skill that Gabelli School students are learning to master.