hfa Insights, News & Awards


At hfa, we're always making headlines (and not just the kind that go into ads). Here you can read more about our latest news, strategic insights we've published and awards we've won.

The Brand Marketing Mistake You're Probably Making — And How To Fix It

We've all seen it, and most brands and marketing firms are guilty of contributing to it at some point: direct, fact-based messaging, considered the "safe" approach — when actually, it's the opposite.

Data continues to prove that emotionally evocative brand marketing outperforms marketing focused on rational benefits — regardless of whether the emotion is positive or negative. In fact, in one study, ads causing negative emotions were still twice as likely to succeed as those causing no emotional reaction.

Moreover, the MOST effective ads contain the FEWEST (or zero) rational appeals. Studies draw this same conclusion:

  • Even in categories typically considered rational
  • Even for B2B marketing
  • Even in recessions

Joy-Inducing Numbers
Emotional appeals are almost twice as likely to drive large profit increases as rational ones. In fact, in an analysis of 880 ad campaigns, emotional campaigns beat rational ones on every single measure:

  • Sales
  • Market share
  • Profit
  • Penetration
  • Loyalty
  • Price sensitivity

The Reason Emotions Rule
Whether we realize it or not, almost ALL our decisions are made emotionally, then rationalized afterwards. It comes down to the way our brains work.

The human brain has two systems. System 1, our "original" brain, is instinctive, intuitive and emotional. It has the equivalent of about 11 million bits of computing power.

System 2, the more rational part of our brain, is only about 100,000 years old. This is the part of the brain that does the cognitive heavy lifting, yet it has the equivalent of only about 50 bits of computing power.

When you do the math, it's no wonder we live our lives based on emotion; we have 220,000 times as much FEELING power as thinking power.

Admittedly, emotional appeals tend to feel "riskier" than rational appeals, but the benefits are also far greater. Marketers who dare to prioritize emotional over functional benefits are those most likely to achieve success.

This video appealed to Ohioans' emotions by showing a shared passion for the places and traditions that make their home state unique, including a variety of popular organizations that use Medical Mutual insurance. Notice that the content includes no rational benefits, which could have detracted from its emotional impact.


Appel, M. (2009). Emotional Advertising Is More Effective Than Rational Appeals: Why You Need to Incorporate Emotional Messaging Into Your Marketing Communications. New York. American Association of Advertising Agencies.

Edwards, H. (2016, July). The 4 Emotions that Make the Best Emotional Ads [DATA]. Retrieved from http://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2015/11/09/emotional-ads

Should My Advertising Stimulate An Emotional Response? (2009). Millward Brown.

Whiteside, Stephen. (2015, March). Proctor & Gamble research validates emotional marketing. Warc.