Action, emotion drama

Universally accepted truth about India is that we are emotional; emotions move us and brands that tap into emotions well turn up winners.

What is emotion? Hockenbury & Hockenbury describe it as: “An emotion is a complex psychological state that involves three distinct components: a subjective experience, a physiological response, and a behavioural or expressive response.” We do buy stuff based on fear, disgust, anger, surprise, happiness, and sadness.

Often we in India, to heighten the emotion, add a dash of drama. When does emotion take a backseat and drama take over? Look around and we will see that drama rules our narratives and often pushes emotions to the margin.

Currently on radio, Mr Modi is extorting everyone to give up the gas subsidy. He wants people to give up the gas subsidy because then he can give the connection to that household which uses wood as cooking medium, which creates pollution, who deserve his healing touch. The guy who is listening to this on TV (that is how it is scripted on radio) is so taken in by the PM’s speech that he is reminded of his mother cooking on wood fire and decides to give up the subsidy. The wife dutifully agrees and even declares how proud she is. The almost 2-minute long radio commercial is low on emotion and really high on drama. The ad leaves you with wood fire-triggered tear glands. Did the ad have to have so much of drama?

While at drama, the much berated AAP ad about virtues of ‘Hamara Arvind’ is a whole load of over-the-top drama. Here is a political party and an upstart political leader trying to build the feeling that he is different and does what he promises. What he ends up dishing is such a load of over-the-top drama that the audience is left wondering is he the one they voted for?

Staying with radio, there is one from Grofers, the mobile app that delivers goods to homes. The ad opens on a housewife berating her husband who has come late from office and in the process has not bought milk, eggs, bread, night cream, face wash, shampoo, and shaving cream. Why is she screaming her head off on the husband who possibly is working hard? Why so much drama for something as simple as order on app for delivery at home? The same brand also has a delightful radio spot about a pregnant wife’s craving for macaroni and the hubby’s clever solution to get it delivered. One brand, two ads; one which is emotional and endearing, the other dramatic and irritating.

Currently playing on radio in Delhi is a strange mishmash of an ad for a real estate brand. Real estate is a category that is transactional and does lean on drama in a big way to push its projects. This ad has the landlord telling his tenant’s son to behave as he lives in a rented house, and the father decides to buy a house using his son’s piggy bank. The landlord has a real dramatic evil laugh as he feels only a plastic home can be bought from money saved in a piggy bank. Home is the most expensive thing anyone buys, it is as big a decision as it gets in India, and it is life changing. For a real estate brand to reduce buying a home to a small drama is really over-the-top strategy.

Not everyone on radio is overly dramatic; some are on the button of emotion. The new Ola cabs campaign celebrating the success of Ola drivers is moving and motivating. To hear individual drivers narrate their stories on how their lives turned for the better is a sure recipe for being overly dramatic. Instead, what we get to hear are very moving stories of how grit and hard work won over everyday barriers of life.

Emotions have a huge power over behaviour. Happiness is felt, anxiety churns your stomach, sadness depresses you, brands tap these to create enduring tales. By being overly dramatic, we reduce the power of emotions to create a mood that is full of derision instead of engagement.

Should we always be so dramatic?


Original published here

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