Globalization is connected with all elements of our cultural, political and economic world. Global marketing of products and services creates mass marketing strategies which bring many products to all the peoples of the world. Global brands like Coca Cola, Mc Donald’s, Apple, Benetton, Toyota and many others are known not only in the country in which they are produced, but all over the world. Through globalization, national brands invade many countries, effecting and perhaps even altering their different traditions and sensibilities frequently through the use of emotions.
The merchandizing of many brands is based on emotions designed to produce feelings of warmth, satisfaction, and confidence. This warm human emotion is used as a marketing tool in which emotion is traded by various brands for increased dominance, money, and finally power. I would like to write about some of my reflections as we talked and tried to understand this subject during our class discussions.
I believe that emotions are the basic factor used by brands to keep current and potential customers closely linked to their products with the ultimate aim of turning a profit for the global corporations. Many people, in my observation, are not aware that their economic life is almost always based on their emotions. Basic emotions, like fear, disgust, sadness, happiness, anger and surprise create human expectations. These expectations and aversions are used on all scales – individual, community, and global scale – to try to make the case that certain products will make us happy and satisfy our deepest need if only we purchase the offered service or product.
Individual and Community (Family) Scale
Brands use their advertising to influence human feelings and thinking to create the conviction in the potential or present customers’ mind that presented products are better than the others. Brands use a highly specialized language to create climates of feeling and an “emotional psychological state of interest”. The technical term for this is emotional branding. This works both in short bursts of emotional impulses, but also creates long-term relationships between customers and brands. This “emotional branding” uses and changes our predispositions, the culture we grow up within, our social norms, even our ethical and religious values. Usually such emotional branding is presented in an idealized form – frequently a dream-state vision of people without any problems – people who, of course, use the brand’s products. As a result, a myth of a happy family is created and used to good effect by various brands. Here, an advertisement of the Uncle Ben’s Rice can be cited. In one of their ads, the whole family, smiling and joyful, welcome their son, who is coming back home after a long separation, and they offer him rice. And not just any rice, but Uncle Ben’s. The viewer is to be persuaded that all he needs to be happy is rice. A rice-based-happiness myth is created – a myth of a carefree, light-hearted person who has no serious troubles, who is joyful and comfortable with his fate.
The appeal here is on a familial level. Similarly, “This is your world,” was a catch phrase used many years ago to advertise a Renault 19 model. The assurance of safety in a difficult and complex modern world is promised by the following slogan of a Polish bank: “PKO – with you throughout your life.”
Nike promotes their products on a personal level with the slogan: “Just do it!” suggesting that it is possible to do anything and everything you want to do. It seems to say, “Don’t think about anything that people think or say. Follow your desire and just do it. Don’t think too much what you want to do, but just start to do it.” This way, the Nike brand suggests skipping the thinking part of life and leaps right to the emotion of freedom to do anything. On one hand, this can be good because freedom is good and promoting this emotion is a good thing. On the other hand, rationality is important too, especially when it comes to taking responsibility for one’s life. In either case, making money for Nike should not be the determining factor.
The best way to create the emotional connection between brand and customer is to establish a logo which can create in people very strong feelings. The brands that succeed have immediately recognizable brand logos to create in people a sense of trust and belief. Loss of this belief can destroy a company. A few months ago, Toyota lost its number one market position in car production and sales because their reputation of care for the safety of the individual and family was lost. A technological problem well publicized in the media destroyed Toyota’s reputation and tarnished, perhaps forever, the brand. To combat this, Toyota has invested a fortune in advertising to reclaim its leading position in the industry and re-establish this Japanese company as the worldwide number one producer and seller in its field. Trust is the one of the most needed elements in the emotional “relationship” between the companies (brands) and potential and present customers. Toyota must re-establish the belief that this giant corporation is more committed to the protection of the customer and the customer’s family than it is to its own bottom line.
The upside of this crisis for the consumer is the creation of the skeptical audience which might question what the real values of an individual brand might be.
Brands are very sensitive about this connection and deeply protective of emotional allegiance of its audience. In the book Anatomia telewizji w USA (Anatomy of Television in the US) by Jacek Fuksiewicz writes:
“A cigarette or a Coke gives not only a nice sensation of taste, but they are also obligatory accessories of social life, which guarantee acceptance among friends. A particular kind of soap, toothpaste, deodorant, or face cream – increases the temperature of feelings of the opposite sex partner, who might have been showing some symptoms of reluctance in the first part of the film. A car inspires respect among other people who are looking with admiration at the owner – it also gives the sense of power on the road. The whole family’s underwear, whiter than ever, thanks to the usage of washing powder of a particular kind, arouses admiration and recognition among the neighbours, who are now hurrying to the shop to buy it. Particular food products on the table evoke happiness and appreciation from the husband and children’s part”.
The place where the emotions and feelings are the strongest is the arena of the family. McDonald’s was one of the first brands to understand and exploit the fertile connection between peoples’ familial emotions and product branding. McDonald creates emotional portraits of families enjoying their time together around a fast food lunch to sell their less than nutritional products. Pictures of healthy families are used to sell – massively – food that in fact undercuts the health of the American – and now global – family with massive doses of salt, sugar and fat.
Perhaps the most successful marketer of family as sales-tool is the Walt Disney Corporation. Disney’s most basic image is the model joyous carefree family. They direct their message to children selling them the image that their lives should be happy, free and utterly enjoyable in every way. Disneyland is sold as “the happiest place on earth.” This positive emotion is designed to make children and their parents closer. As a loyal and happy costumers, they need to trust the brand and should know exactly what kind of experience to expect from Walt Disney’ hotels, parks and movies. This creates a special kind of connection which Disney Company uses to make their billions in profits. Behind the image of family entertainment stand thousands of people whose activities are often connected not with the art, but only with the money. There is a complex relationship behind this profit-motive/family-oriented industry. As Walt Disney said:
“I don’t make pictures just to make money. I make money to make more pictures.”
People need the symbols which identify them with themselves, community and society. Creating such susceptibility to particular images can, as a result, increase susceptibility to any human suggestions in general, and therefore, the broadcaster has considerably less problems with imposing given opinions and ideas upon large communities than in the case when the susceptibility to other influences is smaller. In such a way the spirit of the nation is manipulated. In such a way, thinking, the way of reaching the life truths and human mentality are changing.
Brands need to use our human emotions to differentiate products from one another even where there is very little actual difference among them. For example, many electronic brands use virtually identical electronic parts to produce their products and yet they still must be seen by the consumer as distinct, different from the others. The different logos of electronics companies address this issue. We have scores of the same product with different logos to create the impression of great differences. Many people not realize – or at least certainly could not tell you – what the differences are between Apple, Dell, Toshiba and other electronic computers. But many people can certainly differentiate between the corporate logos. Many brands use the same Intel processor in their computers which are the sold under many different competing logos placed on the computers. This logo is a factor that makes people more familiar, closer, and identifies them with product. Emotion, not rational experience wins in the battle for new clients. People don’t want to think about the product, but they want to feel it as a part of their emotional life. This kind of thinking and behavior eventually affects our society. Presidents are sold now just as products are sold.
Specific problems are raised by brand advertisements referring to religious and moral issues. In my opinion, the most reprehensible use of such marketing are those which sometimes adopt the religious motifs or use the images and characters from the religious sphere in order to sell particular products. It is particularly unacceptable when the religious symbols are treated as a cheap sales trick to attract customers to one’s product or service by ridiculing the symbol or approaching it in a disrespectful manner.
In the second case, attitudes and behaviour patterns are sometimes used which are at variance with the product advertised and promoted. The marketing of contraceptives and abortion pills is an extremely complex issue as is the marketing of pharmaceuticals in general. Advertising now sells medications with the same deceptive and imaginative images with which MacDonald’s sells hamburgers. In some cases, marketing is regulated by law and there are sanctions on the marketing of some products such as alcohol and tobacco products. Still, the marketplace is wide open in general and the shape of our lives is frequently dictated by images created largely to guarantee healthy profits for global corporations.
Today, many brands try to survive not only in their own country, but in many countries over all the continents in the world. Now we are the witnesses to marketing on a global scale. Brands sometimes seem to be nation-states as they invade countries and seek to dominate their economies. This raises questions the manipulative use of emotions in foreign countries. Does each country understand what is happening to its citizens as they become “branded”? Do the branders understand their effect on countries they brand?
On the on hand, the international marketplace is exactly that – a place where people of all kinds of cultural and social differences create the new possibilities for one another while at the same time beginning to share common cultural reference points. And perhaps brand competition in such a market will create products that are more trustworthy and even cheaper through the creation of consumers who get attached to brands that can deliver what they promise. But the image will always be prime and the emotional connection to the image essential and problematic.
Nike invested a lot of money in Tiger Woods’ career as the number one golfer in the world. Woods, presented as an exemplary father, husband and golfer, was an ideal example of how to connect the simple good life with sport and business. For many Americans, Tiger Woods was a happy man without any problems. This image was worth millions of dollars to Nike in spite of its falsity. Then, in a single day, reality intruded on manufactured image. The media savaged the image. The very positive emotion connected with Tiger Wood and his sponsor Nike disappeared. What happened next? Nike, as Tiger Woods strategic sponsor, created a new advertising campaign to salvage their carefully created image. Tiger said sorry to everyone whom he disappointed and Nike set about rebuilding its valuable brand. We can see how a brand, like Nike, can manipulate emotions. As they created and sold the image of the husband, sportsmen and hard workingman, they began to rework the image to create – from the disgraced man – the image of the penitent man who learns from his mistakes. And the American people followed every twist and turn in the story they were marketing. And the emotions served to link people to the brand and the character the brand was selling.
When we use our emotions in conversation, they affect how we behave. When they are used in advertising, they affect what we buy and what we do not buy. They have this effect on every scale – personal, communal and global. The primacy of feeling dictates a great deal of the global economy. Brands are scared of losing their audience not only in their own countries, but across the world. Flaws in Chinese goods undermine the American market for China and the world. Since we are all interconnected now, no company can afford to lose trust – which is a fragile reality. In human life, if you lose trust in someone, you need a time to recover. We can work on trusting someone for many years and lose that trust in a few seconds. We need to be careful with our trust which is really the commodity that is being bought and sold in the global marketplace by corporations with a financial stake in our emotions.
An awareness of the manipulation of our emotions is a necessary filter we need to bring to the global marketplace. The consuming world needs to become more active in the face of the massive pressure brought to bear on it by corporations with vast resources to manipulate our emotions. Brands and businesses always will be interested in profits. That’s what they are there for. Still, perhaps their need for greater bonding with consumers will force them to a higher level of truth. Perhaps brands will become more trustworthy simply because they can’t afford not to be if they don’t wish to lose their audience in a world where a product flaw can be announced in all parts of the world instantaneously destroying years, decades of carefully cultivated images.
As individuals are responsive to corporate manipulation of emotion, perhaps corporations are equally dependent on the feelings of consumers. I find it interesting, how much the powerful companies and brands are dependent on such a very delicate and sensitive part of the human life: emotions.
 Paul du Gay. (1997). Production of Culture / Cultures of Production. SAGE Publications. London.
 Jerzy Fuksiewicz (1973). Anatomia telewizji w USA (The Anatomy of Television in the USA), Atlas Press, Warsaw, Poland, p. 76.
 Edward Jay Epstein. (2005). The Big Picture. Money and Power in Hollywood. New York, p. 245.