The Power of Emotional Storytelling in Movies, TV Shows, and Marketing Campaigns

Movies and TV shows possess a unique ability to evoke strong emotional responses from viewers. They’re meant to. The creators craft their stories in such a way that scenes have an underlying purpose — usually to tug at the emotions of the audience by making them feel. They submerge their audience into the story with relatable characters or situations and allow them to empathize, instilling powerful memories of those scenes which stay with people for years. That’s emotional storytelling.

This same concept can be used in marketing and advertising campaigns. Instead of creating indelible memories based on what’s seen on screen, however, marketers create ads and content that build emotional connections with users through storytelling techniques such as using visuals or music alongside relevant copywriting that speaks directly to their target audience’s needs and human emotions. This makes it more likely for viewers to remember the content even weeks later. With effective storytelling techniques, brands are able to connect emotionally with consumers and leave meaningful impressions that not only help drive sales but also maintain top-of-mind awareness and brand recognition for longer periods of time.

Human Emotions Dictate What’s Memorable 

Nike’s 2018 Dream Crazier campaign featuring Serena Williams is one recent ad that made a lasting impression on viewers due to its emotional depth and connection with the target audience. The commercial was powerful in its message of female empowerment and resilience, resonating deeply with many viewers who were moved by its inspiring call to action.

Another classic ad, albeit decades older, is Apple’s 1997 “Think Different” campaign. It featured famous cultural icons like Albert Einstein, Bob Dylan, and Martin Luther King, Jr. — each embodying values that would eventually define the brand forever: creativity, ingenuity, innovation. Years later, these memorable ads still evoke strong human emotions in audiences because they capture human experiences so effectively through creative visuals and storytelling.

But how can marketing and advertising campaigns reach deep into the human emotions that dictate what becomes memorable?

It’s essential to understand the target audience to evoke the desired emotions. Marketing collateral needs to be crafted strategically in a way that will most effectively connect with their intended viewers in the same way movie and TV show genres and subgenres cater to specific audience segments. This means understanding who the material is being marketed toward and that demographic’s expected emotional response to different messages or visuals. The marketing campaign’s key message needs to be tailored for each segment in order for it to resonate more deeply than a generic one-size-fits-all approach could ever do.

As a former executive assistant and acting coach for Mornell Studios, I understand the importance of analyzing scenes during coaching sessions — whether on TV shows or in movies. There should always be an understanding of the intention behind every action and dialogue choice performers make so that they can accurately convey human emotion. This same analytical process should take place for advertising and marketing:

  • What exactly does this narrative want its audience members to feel?
  • What type of connection are we trying to create between them and our product/service/brand?

Over my time coaching actors — and I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Emmy Award winners — I’ve given much thought to how best to convey human emotion through performance choices and dialogue. I know firsthand that by identifying these things early on in production, marketers can ensure they achieve maximum impact with their communication efforts instead of wasting time guessing how people might react once the ad is released.

Using Movie and TV Thought Processes in Marketing and Advertising

Aside from knowing the audience and crafting storytelling that resonates with them, there is much to learn from thought processes for movies and TV:

Analyze the Elements That Make Scenes Memorable

As an actor and acting coach, I understand all too well the importance of connecting with audiences emotionally through storytelling. Being able to analyze plot twists and character development provides powerful tools for crafting content that resonates in just the right way. Similarly, when creating marketing content, understanding these elements help tap into the viewer’s emotional needs and desires.

One way to do this when crafting ad content is to look for ways to make connections with the target audience. For example, use personal stories and anecdotes that are relevant to their lives — and use these in conjunction with elements like imagery or music (where applicable) that convey a strong sense of emotion.

I never underestimate the power of strong narrative devices like character development in successful campaigns. Surprise endings or unexpected shifts in tone are also hallmarks of great storytellers. Depending on the format and length of an ad, a character journey may not need to focus on any single protagonist, so to speak, but the storytelling could still use key points in a standard character arc. Highlighting struggles and triumphs, for instance, will help viewers connect with messaging on a personal level. This concept may seem more applicable to audiovisual content, but it can extend to anything with copy: lead magnets, email marketing, social media posts, and more!

Capture Human Emotion Effectively

Especially when creating TV or movie scenes, capturing subtle nuances of emotions requires creativity, intuition, and understanding of human experiences. Similarly, in marketing and advertising campaigns, effective messaging relies on an understanding of human behavior and leveraging emotional intelligence for maximum impact.

Consider conducting research on the demographics of your audience, as well as any current trends in popular culture that may be relevant for your campaign. Additionally, brainstorming with teams — like we did in our workshops at Mornell’s Youth program — can inspire different approaches to crafting messaging that resonates with viewers.

It’s worth noting that capturing human emotion both effectively and consistently is something technology alone cannot replicate. Technology can certainly assist, for example, by providing insight into analytics of what campaigns work or, with the help of recently trendy generative AI, even offering up suggestions to try. However, human emotion is uniquely human, and capturing it effectively is a distinctly human challenge.

Leveraging Advances in Technology

Speaking of the contributions of technology to marketing and advertising, there are many aspects and angles where technological tools can help with emotional storytelling. The above-mentioned ones can provide useful guidance: historical performance data and generative suggestions. To extend this direction further, brands can leverage social intelligence to perform audience sentiment analysis on social media platforms and gain a better understanding of their target segment’s mindset regarding specific topics and even concerning the brand itself.

Leveraging technology also extends beyond the creative and into the convenient. For example, finding new ways to target audiences on multiple platforms and devices can help maximize campaign reach.

There is a pitfall in technology use, however, that has recently become much easier for brands to stumble into. This concerns the use of generative AI to perform end-to-end marketing and advertising work. While it’s true that some formats of campaign messaging can be left entirely to an AI — think of Tweets or short CTAs — letting AI do the job from key messaging to execution without humans in the loop is irresponsible at best and extremely brand-damaging at worst.

Let this be a warning and a reinforcement that truly human and emotional storytelling for marketing and advertising can only be achieved consistently through a human approach. Technology can help, but don’t forget about human emotions — it’s these nuances that are best left up to us humans!

One more way technology can assist in the endeavor of marketing and advertising is through powerful platforms where data meets brand advocacy. Through all-in-one dashboards, companies can perform brand advocacy with massive scope and scale while also remaining consistent with key messaging throughout different audience touchpoints. But the platform needs to include a few key features:

  • The ability to successfully mine and leverage data for analytical and even predictive capabilities
  • The capacity to bolster marketing and advertising throughout a brand’s communication channels
  • The cutting edge advantage — through the use of emerging technologies like AI, for example — to optimize processes and improve sales through media activation

In order to create memorable and effective marketing and advertising campaigns, understanding the target audience’s needs and emotions is key. I’ve seen myself how thought processes meant for movies and TV can be utilized to build emotional connections with viewers through creative visuals, music, and copywriting that resonate with them on a personal level. 

Leveraging advances in technology such as AI or data analytics can help maximize campaign reach while remaining consistent with brand messaging throughout different touchpoints. Ultimately, though, it all comes down to human emotion — something only humans are capable of conveying effectively. This should remain firmly at the core of any successful campaign.

But where humans excel at emotions, technology excels at data. Myosin aims to bring both together to deliver emotional storytelling for brand advocacy. Contact us today to learn more.

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