A man nearly killed a Popeye’s worker over sold-out chicken sandwich…

Even though it may sound like something out of a 90s comedy, this is not a joke.

Popeye’s famous chicken sandwich recently catapulted the franchise to the top of headlines when it launched on August 12th.

This virality made for a highly-sought-after sandwich and thousands of frustrated consumers once the menu item went “out of stock” just a couple weeks after it launched.

Popeyes is an American fast-food franchise with roots in New Orleans, Louisiana.

For a national restaurant chain whose posts barely crossed 400 “likes” prior to the release of the chicken sandwich, its no surprise they were unprepared to meet the high demand.

This new sandwich saw the unveiling “tweet” get upwards of 31,000 likes plus countless retweets. By the end of the month of August, the product was completely out of stock.

Ultimately, this goes to show the effectiveness of emotional marketing.

Emotional Marketing

Emotional marketing refers to marketing efforts that use emotion to make an audience recall, and share their experience in great detail. It typically taps into a single emotion to elicit a consumer response. In other words, emotional marketing is the most powerful form of subliminal seduction. It involves tapping into the subconscious mind and emotional vulnerability of end-users.

By creating a sensual ad that tugged at the taste buds of its audience, Popeye’s has managed to use emotional marketing as a tool for unprecedented success.

So good was their marketing that when a Houston man was told the restaurant had run out of the mouth-watering specialty, he pulled a gun on the staff!

Let’s dive deeper into the costs of emotional marketing, and the risks companies undertake when they effectively get inside the minds of consumers.

This is an example which takes center stage today, as we seek to establish some of the downsides of emotional marketing. Take a look:

1) People may overreact.

Did you know that your gut reaction can generate an autopilot response in less than three seconds?

In other words, we all judge gangbangers and murders until we’re in a situation where a loved one’s life is being threatened.

Of course, that’s an extreme example. But have you ever considered how difficult it is to change a habit?

The Difficulties of Reversing Emotional Marketing

Try brushing your teeth with the opposite hand, or learning to be fluent in a new language.

Now imagine that the habit you’re trying to change is threatening your survival.

Imagine being stranded in a foreign country where the only language they speak is the language you’ve just begun learning. This experience would create massive stress in the short-run, but you’d learn the language much faster because your survival instincts will devote more resources toward learning to communicate effectively in the culture. This stress-response is further heightened when a person has no money and is stranded in a foreign country.

Just Google POW stories, and you’ll see how quickly the mind adapts in extremely stressful environments.

We react similarly when it comes to food, water, and shelter. When you hear someone say they’re getting “hangry” they’re referring to this survival impulse.

As human beings, we all have impulsive tendencies. It’s human nature.

However, some impulses are more pronounced in specific individuals and circumstances than they are in others. That explains why some only experience disappointment, while others are ready to kill someone when they can no longer buy a product or service.

2) Emotional marketing touches at the core of human emotions.

This makes it very powerful and very dangerous in the wrong hands.

Effective emotional marketing creates a strong desire for the product or service at hand. When the company can no longer deliver the product, they’re tasked with reversing a new habit or belief – and emotional marketing is equally hard to undo as it is to do in the first place.

When the customer feels “betrayed,” it can hit in a nerve.

That customer may have been marketed to and re-marketed to, and completely seduced by the advertisement with the intent to purchase the product as soon as they are able to.

A disappointing outcome can lead to heat-of-the-moment reactions, outbursts, and unpredictable counter-measures, such as the one above.  

3) Inappropriate context can result in severe backlash.

Even the perfect emotional ad can get generate the wrong kind of buzz with the wrong place and timing.

Case in point, the Nationwide “Make Safe Happen” campaign which aired before and after feel-good ads during the 2015 Super Bowl.

Following on the heels of a touching puppy ad, this ad showcased the dangers of preventable accidents.

It had a child highlight the milestones he couldn’t achieve because he died in an accident and “couldn’t grow up.”

Most emotional marketing has one goal, to “break the viewing pattern.” This series of commercials accomplished just that but in the worst of ways.

The Super Bowl is the most televised event of the year, most years. In 2015, we saw the most televised Super Bowl in history with approximately 114,442,000 viewers.

This campaign thwarted the positive flow of emotions that so many Americans were experiencing and created fear and animosity in viewers.

The placement of these depressing ads was particularly unhelpful.

The Cost of Emotional Marketing

One of the problems of the ad was that it aired during a celebratory event.

Similar to the Popeye’s chicken sandwich scenario, consumers were abruptly met with a depressing message after experiencing extreme positive emotions.

This is never a good way to seduce customers. It creates the chemical equivalent of a high and then the sensation of withdrawals within a short window.

Customers may still purchase the product, and remember the ad, but they won’t be as pleasant or predictable in the long-run.

Nationwide’s campaign went against the emotional wave of the day, leading to some hard feelings about the company.

They got both context and tonality wrong, and the result was an unrelenting Twitter backlash, scathing reviews, and memes across the web. 

4) Some ads can come off as threats.

Fear can be a good motivator, but it does no good when it comes to winning an audience’s trust.

Rather, fear should be the precursor to a positive solution, one that you provide. That’s what wins trust in the long run.

This is something the pharmaceutical company Novartis is learning the hard way.

Its heart disease ad, which depicts a guy blissfully reading a newspaper while his living room floods, is meant to showcase the urgency of seeking medical treatment.

That it did, however, many cardiologists took issue with the campaign branding heart disease as something “terrifying” and “shameful.”

In fact, several marketers likened it to a subtle threat. It pushed the audience toward buying heart disease drugs out of fear.

Threats don’t earn trust, but they create a sense of powerlessness in the consumer.

Similar to North Korean citizens, it becomes harder to determine if there is genuine loyalty in the relationship. Maybe consumers are just terrified and looking for a way out.

The bottom line

Emotional advertising proves a double-edged sword.

When pulled off right, it is the most effective strategy to reel in those conversions.

On the flip side, it can also be the reason people don’t trust you or refuse to take your brand seriously.

It’s best to turn to an experienced professional to ensure that your emotional marketing efforts yield the best results.