Customers will reward brands that get them in the mood
Experiments show being in a good mood makes consumers likely to pay more, so reaching them in positive contexts could make marketing more effective.
Are you reading this with a nice cup of coffee on a happy Saturday morning? I hope so. Let’s find out why.
Mood for thought
It’s common practice in marketing to invest heavily in understanding your target. Who are they, what do they think, how do they behave? That way, of course, you can tailor your communications to resonate.
Another approach is to focus not on who we are talking to, but when we reach them. Choosing the moment can be even more important than crafting the message.
And there are many ways to target timings, through strategic channel selection and ad placement. But how often do you consider how your customer is feeling when they meet your brand? Because evidence would suggest that you should give mood more thought.
On the alert
Mood seems to impact awareness, with a positive mood making us more alert and likely to notice an ad.
One study that demonstrates this was carried out by Fred Bronner, a professor of advertising at the University of Amsterdam, in 2007. He asked 1,287 participants about their current mood. Then they were asked to flick through a newspaper and answer questions about what they remembered.
When Bronner split the data according to the readers’ mood, he noticed that those who were happy recalled 46% of ads. Those who were unhappy noticed just 26%.
So, if you want your audience to notice you, aim for moments of joy.
Research also shows that, when feeling upbeat, consumers are more optimistic about the value they’ll get from products. And less pessimistic about the opportunity cost of spending money.
Evidence for this phenomenon comes from a study by psychologists Dan King and Chris Janiszewski, marketing professors at the National University of Singapore and the University of Florida.
To explore the effect of mood on willingness to pay, they recruited 152 participants and began by asking them their current emotional state. Then they explored price sensitivity towards various hand lotions – some more, some less luxurious.
The researchers found that when the appearance of the product was improved, participants in a good mood were willing to pay almost double. However, for those in a bad mood, the same product enhancements had no significant effect on willingness to pay.
The study suggests that your customers may spend more on your product when feeling generally happy.
Excited – but why?
One other reason why mood really matters relates to excitement, rather than just happiness.
Evidence shows that, in the midst of excitement, we can easily attribute that feeling to something other than the actual stimulus. If you can make your brand that ‘other thing’, your customers will consider you exciting.
This dates back to a classic 1974 study by Donald Dutton and Arthur Aron, two British Columbia University psychologists, who ran one of the first experiments into what psychologists call ‘misattribution of arousal’.
For the study, they asked a female research assistant to approach 45 male visitors at one of two bridges over the Capilano River in North Vancouver.
One of the bridges was suspended 230ft over the river, and shaky under foot, with a tendency to tilt and sway. Crossing it was a hair-raising experience, generating a burst of adrenaline among even the bravest. This was the experimental bridge.
The other crossing point – the control bridge – was far tamer: a solid wooden bridge flanked with high handrails and positioned a mere 10ft above a rivulet.
The female researcher gave every man she stopped on the bridges a photo of a young woman. Participants were asked to write a brief story based on the image. The experiment ended with the researcher writing down her name and number and inviting respondents to call if they wanted to discuss the study.
The findings were intriguing. Dutton and Aron found that the men on the scary bridge wrote significantly more sexual content in their stories (+75%). And they were over three times more likely to contact the female researcher.
The psychologists argued that participants had misattributed the heightened emotions caused by the scary bridge, and mistaken their feelings of arousal for attraction to the researcher.
Reaching your customers when they’re feeling excited will encourage them to consider you exciting too.
What can you do?
As a marketer, then, it’s clearly worth reaching your audience when they’re happy. Of course, different things cheer people up, but there are some obvious ways to target good mood.
You could focus on activity, targeting fun or exciting leisure and entertainment moments such as cinema, theatre or theme parks, rather than the grind of the daily commute. You could look at content, either using your own creative to generate an uplift in mood, or placing ads alongside positive, humorous or daring content.
And, of course, you can pick your timings. Because people are more likely to be happy on a leisurely Saturday morning than at the start of a new working week.
So, enjoy your coffee now, and keep mood in mind.
Richard Shotton is founder of the consultancy Astroten and author of The Choice Factory, a book about applying behavioural science to advertising. He tweets at @rshotton.
Will Hanmer-Lloyd is head of strategy at Total Media.