Soft Drinks, Soft Sell – Emotional Engagement & the Chinese Consumer

Over the next few months we’ll be blogging a special series revealing the findings from AsiaEmotion, a pan-Asia study on everyday advertising in the region’s key markets. AsiaEmotion recorded emotional response to ads directly and scientifically using nViso’s breakthrough 3D Facial Imaging technology and so is about how people actually felt as they watched, not what they said they felt after the event.
The study, completed earlier this year with leading Asian research agency Cimigo, covered 150 typical consumers in each of China, India, Vietnam, Hong Kong, & Indonesia across 75 recent and typical day-to-day commercials in high ad spend categories covering: Noodles, Shampoo, Telecom, Beer, CSD, Growing Up/Health Food Milks. The key regional takeouts can be found at 9 Essentials for Advertising in Asia on the AsiaEmotion website.
Today we’ll compare a couple of soft drink ads from China, promoting iconic brands Coke and Sprite. Click the links to view the ads and some top line analysis – Coca-Cola and Sprite.

In reviewing the findings, we see Emotional Build varies with ‘story coherence’. Both ads evoke reasonable levels of reaction (except the second half of the Sprite ad) compared to purely ‘functional’ ads and the story approaches help to build engagement.Yet, the Coca-Cola ad is easier to follow in narrative terms, and the product is an integral part of an entertaining story.
The Sprite ad attempts to link product and ‘story’, but the connections are more tenuous requiring some cognitive effort for people to ‘get it’. The earlier and direct introduction of product in the Sprite ad interrupts emotional build.
Moreover, for Sprite, the story seems to take a back seat to introducing aspirational imagery (rock band, sports star) but these features and images alone don’t seem to be sufficient to interest (especially in the middle of the ad)

Details Matter!

In the Coca-Cola ad there are several instances, as pinpointed in the still below, where good acting and gesture constitute“Linchpin Moments” that positively change the emotional tone.China CSD 1

With Sprite the scene with the basketball star drinking Sprite and spraying water/Sprite also changes the emotional tone, but less positively

China CSD 2

The Key Lesson is that Coca-Cola’s TVC works as it is a simple but well acted, entertaining story which engages consumers and draws them along. The branding and product shots are clear, but not intrusive. This results in high levels of positive response maintained during the branding.

China CSD 3

Sprite suffers because the “idea” presented (a surprise sports star found at a rock concert) is not developed in a way that intrigues, and more attention seems to have been given to product and ‘aspirational’ imagery than to narrative.

China CSD 4

Coca-Cola – the Emotional Profile
As the chart below summarises, the Coke ad is emotionally well structured and successfully integrates branding and product shots into a visual story about a young couple meeting at a bus stop.

The initial antics of the young man and the wary reaction of the woman grow Surprise rapidly. As the young woman warms to him, and she smiles, Happiness builds very rapidly and is maintained throughout.

China CSD 5

The use of the Coke bottle as part of the story and the positioning of Coca-Cola as the symbolic “communication link” between the two brings the brand into the ad without being intrusive or disrupting the visual narrative. As the story unfolds positive reaction is maintained (and grows among females as the ‘love story’ aspect blossoms).

Sprite – the Emotional Profile
TVC built around a rock band scene where a celebrity basketball player is spotted in audience and induced to come on stage and join the band. Presumably aimed at younger audience, the ad did evoke somewhat better reactions among that demographic, yet still does not seem to engage. Nevertheless although reaction is slow at first, positive reaction starts to build.
However, when the star is asked on stage and drinks Sprite amidst a scene showing a spray of water we see a major drop in Happiness, followed by a Surprise peak

China CSD 6

The ensuing band on stage scenes (warming up etc.) appear to be slow and the rise in Sadness indicates a less engaged mood among the audience.

Take Out – In comparing the two ads there’s a case to argue that relying on (a) celebrity and (b) perceived ‘audience relevant/lifestyle’ imagery is likely to be less effective than quality narrative. This indicates that brands need to invest as much in the creative idea and story as in the ‘stars’ and production values. The Coca-Cola ad achieves this by ensuring the engaging storyline also contains a relevant role for the brand itself.
In our next blog we’ll move to Indonesia and the telecom category – but for now if you would like any more information please contact Alastair Gordon or David McCallum. Or visit the Asia Emotion website


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