Why it's time for brands to abandon negative messaging

We investigate why marketers needs to tune into positive psychology for better engagement


Tips to tapping positivity

Langley offers a few tips for marketers to instead engage positive emotions, for better messaging cut through. One advertising example she highlights positioned consumers as joining the 87 per cent of people who are non-smokers. The ambition was to pull people away from thinking themselves as smokers and towards thinking of themselves as non-smokers.

“Another example was Tiffany's, which was the first brand to have a same gender couple advertised for an engagement ring or a wedding ring," Langley says. "When you see people pull towards the positive, it changes how we show up, it changes our views.

“It ends up making us feel inspired and want to do something to change.”

Langley says marketers should message in a way that draws people towards a positive emotion. This includes not only the words, but also any music and imagery.

“Positive emotion like inspiration will draw me to want more of it. There’s been some amazing research around people's likelihood of setting goals based on positive language," she says.

“Rather than saying ‘I want to lose 10kg by Christmas, which might be a very smart goal according to the acronym, we're a lot less likely to achieve it. This is opposed to I want to feel my best and have increased vitality and be able to run around after my children. Framing goal setting around the positive is connecting me to who I want to be, not who I don’t want to be.

“The positive language will attach to the person I aspire to be, as opposed to just a behaviour that might be nice."

Langley points out a lot of marketing is about changing behaviour. "If we could just change the narrative into a bit more positive language, I think people would just get so much more cut through," she says.

"I think about simple things. For example, before the vote on gay marriage, the sort of stories that would tip people over were the positive, real-life examples of two people loving each other for 25 years and finally being able to recognised that fact, as opposed to the fear of God will punish you.

“Inspiring people towards the positive, the inspiring stories, the uplifting stories, they are what resonate and change behaviours. If we could change the narrative, we would get the shift in society we're looking for.”

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