I have recently noticed a banner on a blog run by a fellow marketer. You can see it on your left now.
Each word on the banner carries an enormous power, and all of them together — a powerful emotional message. We are told that this will happen — “4,500 kids will die today.” We are not called to click on the banner, but most of us will. The message is too powerful for us to ignore it.
When we click on the banner we land on a website of charity: water — a “non-profit bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations.” It’s a great cause, and I am fully supportive of what they do. But I have a problem with that little 125×125 banner.
The approach used while creating the banner isn’t new. Talking of a campaign against abortion in his Effective Advertising: Understanding When, How, and Why Advertising Works (2004) Gerard J. Tellis wrote that images which “arose strong feelings of horror and guilt among viewers” were used in it “to win immediate converts to the cause” (p. 150).
But is such approach effective? It depends on what your end goal is.
Describing the emotional component of such tactic in his The Marketing Power of Emotion (2003) John O’Shaughnessy wrote:
Negative emotions like guilt and shame exercise greater hold that positive emotions like pride because they tend to impose themselves on the mind as they are less optional emotions that (say) joy. (p. 101)
Then he also added an important observation:
…the emotion of guilt can serve as a substitute for action as an indirect way of satisfying perceived obligations to take action without actually doing so [underlining mine].
This is problem #1 with that banner — its creators certainly don’t want the emotion itself to “serve as a substitute” of the action (be it creating awareness of the problem among others, donating to the cause, etc).
Problem #2, in my opinion, is that the wording as it is now sounds like a death sentence. While it is still likely produce the desired action, it conveys a meaning of hopelessness, on the one hand; and on the other hand, when I click it, decide to participate, and even do something, a bitter aftertaste doesn’t go away.
This same organization has a 300×250 pixels banner, which looks somewhat better (having a clear call to action on it):
But the message could still use improvement. Changing the wording into “Help prevent 4,500 child deaths every day” would have been more effective, in my opinion.
What do you think (and feel)?