After many years working in video, we’ve found that almost all effective video ads fit into one of three basic categories. They are either funny, beautiful, or make you cry. It may sound simple, but take a moment to think about your favorite commercial of all time. I bet it was funny, beautiful, or made you cry (or it may have checked multiple boxes, like one of my favorite ads).
The thing is, there are real psychological reasons why the most memorable and effective ads are funny, beautiful, or make you cry. In this episode of Death to the Corporate Video, Guy explains how he formed this theory, and Hope shares psychological research on the relationship between emotions and decision making and what that means for B2B marketers.
For anyone who wants to read more about the research linking emotions and decision making, we recommend these articles:
You can listen to the episode using the player embedded above, or you can read a full transcript below.
Guy Bauer: If everyone is saying nice stuff, it's not good enough to say nice things. And so what you need to do is elevate and the way you elevate is through beautiful, funny, make me cry.
Hope Morley: Hello, and welcome to Death to the Corporate Video, a podcast with tools and advice for, oh wait, sorry, one second. I just forgot our own tagline.
Guy Bauer: I don't know what it is.
Hope Morley: I do know what it is. I will do it now. Okay.
Let's try that again. Hello, and welcome to Death to the Corporate Video, a podcast with tools and advice for making B2B videos your prospects actually want to watch. There it is. I'm Hope Morley.
Guy Bauer: I'm Guy Bauer?
Hope Morley: Did I put a question mark on your teleprompter again?
On today's episode, we wanted to share with our listeners- Guy has been sharing with me over the past couple of months, a new theory that he's been developing about, like what makes effective advertising. If any of you who know Guy or have been listening to us regularly, you probably know that Guy has a lot of theories based on his many years of experience doing this. And I don't take anything at face value. So then I went and I did some research and I actually found some really fascinating stuff that backs up this theory. So I would like to open it up to Guy to share what his theory is on what makes effective advertising. And then I'll share some of the research that I did that found that this is not just one crackpot theory about what makes a good ad.
Guy Bauer: Well, I resent that I'm being called crackpot, but it wouldn't be far from the truth.
My theory is, and it's maybe after today's episode, once I hear your research, this will become a law. But the theory goes like this is that when you look at any of the most memorable ads that you remember in your life it could be a Super Bowl ad, could be just any advertising that you remember to this day and earmark as good will fit into one of three buckets. And, and it's not, a hundred percent of the time I say this it's 90% of the time, the memorable spot will fit into one of three buckets. Those three buckets are beautiful, funny, and make me cry. Some spots occupied more than one, but they have to occupy at least one of those buckets.
It's beautiful. Like visually just stunning mountains, Iceland, or crazy colors or like flower petals. Like there's something just very beautiful about it. Funny is funny. And then make me cry. That's pretty obvious. The spot makes you cry. So that's the theory. Most good stuff will fit into one of those three buckets.
And if you then do the corollary or whatever, then to make an interesting spot, that's memorable, you should be in one of those three buckets.
Hope Morley: There's been tons of research, especially over the past 20 years. on the relationship between emotions and decision-making, and this has actually become like very well-established in psychology.
That the way that people feel has a huge impact on what they find memorable, like you were saying, Having an emotional reaction to something encodes it into your brain. And it also affects the way that you make decisions. So like, we're talking about advertising here. We're not just trying to make a TV show that you remember the jokes from, like, we need you right then to go make a decision and buy a product based on what we're putting out into the world. Right?
I'm going to go into a couple of different examples of some studies of things that, psychologists have found here. So, but the biggest thing too, that I want to say, like before getting into any of this, cause some of it is going to sound like, well, you know, obviously if I am experiencing a big emotion, if it's funny and I'm laughing, that's going to be memorable. Right? Cause you have a big reaction, but most of the way our brains process emotions, it's done subconsciously you're not actually even aware of all these emotional reactions that you're having and you don't have to actively experience an emotion for it to be affecting your behavior. So like you don't have to actually laugh out loud or cry for like your brain to be processing in the background and saying like, this is funny.
You feel better. Go buy things. You know, when I talk about some of these specific examples that talk about feeling happy or feeling sad, like it doesn't have to be that you're sitting in like your office crying because of the way something made you feel it can be these little like subtle changes are really actually affecting your behavior in ways we don't always want to admit as people that they are, you know? Cause we, we like to think that we're rational, but studies have shown pretty conclusively that we're not as rational as we think we are.
Guy Bauer: Well, and, and kind of like the root of this theory is that, if you look at the universe on the universe's time like, like zoom out now and just think about the universe, the big bang happening. However many billions of years, right? It's billions of years, billions of years ago, the big bang and then where we are today. So think of the universe on that scale.
And now you have that scale now map out when humans moved from caves to houses and map out how long ago was it that humans moved out of their caves and in -
Hope Morley: relatively you mean like
Guy Bauer: when did language start relatively? On the scale of the universe that happened a millisecond ago on universe time, that just happened.
We just moved from caveman drawings to being on calls and using words like disparate that literally just happened in the wink of an eye, not even a wink and well, this then makes me think it was like, well, we're not too far off from our ancestors. And the proof I have in that is that we clap, like, what is that?
I have no idea. Like, it makes no sense, like, chimpanzees do that. Like, and then like we also laugh. What is that like babies laugh, and we cry. Babies cry pretty much like you don't have to teach a baby. Yeah. Like instantly crying and then like laughing. Those are like, so just basic, basic, basic, basic emotions, just like pleasure and pain.
Where I think we over-complicate things is thinking that this like veneer, we've put a skin, like if we're a cell phone, like we put a skin over our cell phone and that skin is using words like disparate and pretending that we're rational and this whole thing, just all of these skins and fake facades, we put on ourselves to appear in control and all that stuff when really.
We are still clapping. All the most intelligent people in the world, clap and laugh and cry, even though they're the most intelligent people like name any top economist and all that stuff. And they're still gonna like, like, it makes no sense. Like, why are you clapping? What is that? Like, you can't even stop from clapping, like little babies clap.
So the point is, is knowing all this now. Well, why are you over-complicating things? Just speak to the cave people. Will it be right all the time? Nope. 10% of the time, maybe there is a rational argument that needs to be made, or maybe the creative idea will fit outside of beautiful, funny, make me cry. But for 90% of the time, to be memorable.
And I think memorability, means more effective, then you should be in those three buckets. 90% of the time.
Hope Morley: The research proves what you're just saying. You're saying that everyone, how core emotions are to being a human of like being a baby or the smartest person in the world.
Everybody has these core emotions. There was one study I found that looked at people who had had, severe brain damage to the part of the brain where emotions are generated and processed. And they seem to function completely normally, but they struggled to make decisions like even the most basic decision of like, what do you want for breakfast, eggs or toast?
That was suddenly like really overwhelming to these people. And it would seem like the cognitive part of their brain, which is what we want to think that we're fully controlled by, it was undamaged. But without having the support of that emotional part of their brain, they can't function.
We're all driven by both isn't that like, can't pretend like the emotions are not affecting your decision-making. With B2B marketing and in particular, you know, a lot of people and a lot of the kind of, common knowledge or whatever you want to call it.
In B2B marketing is that this emotional piece, like, yeah, that's great for commercials that are on TV. Like they need to be funny and beautiful, but we're talking to rational people like we're talking to B2B decision makers. Right. So what I dug into a little bit here was like, okay, how are our feelings and emotions around work possibly affecting our decisions?
And so I found this really fascinating study and I'm going to link to all my sources in the show notes so you guys can all check my work. I was a psych major for one semester in college. So, you know, I kind of know what I'm talking about.
Guy Bauer: So you can trust this.
Hope Morley: This seems really obvious, but studies have shown that people who are feeling anxious are more likely to choose safer choices. So this is something that like Rory Sutherland talks a lot about in his books and his, his work is that when you're feeling anxious, which a lot of us feel anxious about work and work-related decisions. So if I'm given a big decision to make at work, that I need to choose a new cloud computing platform for our company, it's a huge multimillion dollar deal.
I'm going to be feeling anxious about it. And because of that anxiety, I'm going to be more likely to choose the safer choice, right. Because it will make me feel better in the moment. So when you're, especially when you're a challenger brand, so you're not the default choice, which is the safer choice is always the default, right?
It's nobody ever got fired for buying IBM. That's the safe choice that anxious people make. So if you're a challenger brand or you're a smaller brand, you need to actively overcome your prospect's anxiety. You have to make an effort to acknowledge the fact that their monkey brain is telling them, like, I don't want to make a risky decision right now. And part of the way you can do that is psychology has a term called, carry over of incidental emotion. So basically if you're in a good mood and you're feeling good, you're more likely to make optimistic decisions. And you're more likely to look at the future and not see the worst case scenario.
So there's an argument right there for doing things that are funnier and entertaining for people, because you're going to make them feel good about your brand and when they're feeling good, they don't realize necessarily consciously that you're like, oh, I feel a little bit better in my day. So I'm going to be optimistic about the future of choosing this brand, but it still can have that impact on them subconsciously.
Guy Bauer: The residual kind of subconscious. Yes, exactly. Here's the deal as I get older and older, we just went through our website again and we're splitting hairs on copy and, I'm happy with it. But like when you take a step back, it's like, oh, what company says they stink? Like everyone is saying how great they are and like on our website. And I think we're different, like we're a unique brand, but we don't say.
We stink, which we don't. So no one will say anything bad about themselves, even if they are bad, like Theranos, you know, Elizabeth Holmes, didn't say I'm a scam. Like this is all just a rip off. It doesn't work. Everyone says nice stuff.
If everyone is saying nice stuff, it's not good enough to say nice things. And so what you need to do is elevate and the way you elevate is through beautiful, funny, make me cry. If you look at Apple and everyone looks at Apple, but they really are masters of this is that they are literally the same tech products as everyone else.
They've just branded themselves. They've fooled you. Everyone has a disproportionate view, like a warp distorted view on Apple because they've done such an amazing job of making you have an emotional connection to them.
They've elevated themselves beyond features and benefits. And the thing is you can do that for your brand today now, and it's the way you do it. Stop competing, stop fighting over a little square of sand in the features and benefits game or the like wordsmithing of what you do game. No amount of wordsmithing, will change
the fact that you're not connecting with anyone, right? Like you have to go on a macro scale and the macro scale is emotion. That's how you can supersede all your competitor. That's not supersede. That's how you can circumvent change the game. Move. Just like totally just change the playing field. You have to have a totally different paradigm and that is emotion. And if you can do that, it's kind of like that realm of no amount of rearranging it will ruin it. Like there's no way to go wrong. When you can compete on the emotional level.
Hope Morley: Absolutely. And I found actually psychologists have looked at this. Can you overcome the carryover effect of emotions with just lots of cognitive facts. Like if you just give cold, hard features and benefits, do you overcome the emotional reaction and the emotional factor of decision-making? And the answer is no. Trying to overload people with those actual facts to help make their decisions.
It doesn't change the fact that we're still being driven by the emotional monkey brain in the back of our brain. It seems logical that you can overpower it, but the truth is you can't. So anytime that you're trying to fight against it, and you're thinking like we've got the best product, so we don't need to have any emotions in our advertising.
It's, you know, people aren't making the emotional decision. You're just fooling yourself. You're going to waste your time.
Guy Bauer: Yeah. I think Dell or HP just had a campaign where they hired Justin Long, who used to do the I'm a Mac, I'm a PC well they hired him kind of like how Sprint, who just Verizon took the sprint guy, you know, can you hear me now, guy? And then the flip side.
Hope Morley: He was the Verizon guy. Sprint took him.
Guy Bauer: Oh, I'm sorry. Okay. Can you hear me guy? Okay. They, anyway, they turned them to the other side. So HP or Dell or one of them just did that to the Justin Long I'm a Mac guy. And the commercials of course are trying to show you all the features and benefits of the PCs and they still, after years later, after all these research and everything about how apple plays in the emotion realm and not the features and benefits, they PC still, they did those spots in the most PC way.
Um, well, did you know that this HP has this camera and this. It's like, oh my gosh, you're not, you're misusing this dude. Like, you know, that's not what, how Apple does it. When the emotion stops the rational from creeping in, we all know that apple overcharges them. They do. I mean like, and we all know how rich they are profitable and all that yet we still line up because they've made the emotional connection. We've bonded with them. We know, I can't even see. What's funny is I'm trying to rationalize to you why, but there is no rational explanation.
Like using rational language to break down an emotional thing is actually just a fool's errand. Like it's impossible. You can't break it down. It just, I don't know why Apple works. Like, like, meaning I can't rationalize. Their emotional connection to me some way, somehow I just have that thing, that bond, and they did it through appealing to me as a human first and not just barking features and benefits, because guess what they knew, they knew that they could always be beat on the features and benefits.
And now more than ever in the global economy, you can be beat on features and benefits and price. I guarantee you. I guarantee you all of our clients. Now, when we do competitive analysis, I mean, it is unbelievable how there's parody, there's complete parody. It is now one of those video games that you played when you were a kid where I remember this Nintendo game 10 Yard Fight, like the game wasn't smart, meaning the only reason why you'd pick one team over another is just a different colored uniform, but they play exactly the same, well, businesses like that now, like there's, it's basically just a different color team, but everyone has parody. Yeah. I know that you've got this one thing, but they have something else.
Hope Morley: So one other point I want to make too, you know, we were talking about anxiety and making people feel good and then there'll be more likely to make optimistic decisions instead of safe decisions.
But, you know, the, the third piece of your theory is make me cry. Right. So it's beautiful, funny, make me cry. So I wanted to look a little bit, I was like, well, what about feeling sad? Right? Like, I would hate for us to do this whole episode with these three pillars. And then one of them, you know, like, like sadness sends us into a flurry of indecision or something like that. What I found was that some researchers had found that being sad, pushes us into this tendency that you want to change your circumstances. You want to stop feeling sad. You want to do something that makes you feel different and a big way that people do that is by seeking rewards.
So if you've ever heard of retail therapy, buying things makes us feel better when we're sad. So actually it's sadness drives you to buy things and to make decisions that are changing your circumstances, which could be buying a new product or something like it's in the back of your brain, that feeling sad is pushing you towards change.
Even more interestingly there, I actually found a study that contrasted people who had incidental anxiety and incidental sadness. And what they were looking at was they had gave them like hypothetical questions on gambling decisions and a job selection decisions. And they found that people who were feeling anxious, like I said earlier, had a tendency to favor low risk, low reward options.
But if you're feeling sad, you tended to favor a high risk high reward options. So if we apply that to our marketing, you can think about same as when people are feeling good and they're optimistic. And when you're feeling optimistic about the future, you're more willing to make those high risk, high reward decisions.
Sadness actually has the same effect on you.
Guy Bauer: When I think about sadness, I see that totally. Like Pixar movies. At the end of every Pixar movie you're crying or midway through you're crying. And why are you crying? And I think like when I break down why I'm crying, there's the, like when, what's his name?
Bing bong, and the guy in Inside Out, something like that. Her imaginary friend, Bing Bong, when Bing Bong sacrifices himself so that Joy can get out of the pit. That's one of the like, oh my gosh, like I’m a 40 year old man. And I'm like tearing up to this day. It is so emotional. Okay. But check this out.
Why am I crying? I'm crying because Bing Bong died, but like, why am I crying? One step deeper is I'm thankful. What he did was so beautiful, he sacrificed himself for her. So I'm not just crying because he died. I'm crying because it's so, because it's like beautiful. And then if I go one step deeper, I'm reminded of mortality and youth and -
Hope Morley: And like that you used to have imaginary friends and these parts of you that you've had to like let die to grow up. It's very emotional.
Guy Bauer: Right. But when I like take a step back at all the spots that make me cry, they all remind me of mortality. They remind me how lucky I am. And then they, what the, what I think the biggest thing, why I think they drive action, what the research says is that they remind you that life is short.
So don't do small things, do big things. That's exactly. I think that risk taking comes in because it moves you into this feeling of like, yeah. It's like, life is short. Like this is so beautiful that we have this time on earth and we only have a short amount of it. And so let's make the most of it.
So fuck it. Oh, sorry. I just cursed, so fuck it. Let's do the thing that let's do this and it moves you into this. Let's do this movement. So I think it's, it's so effective.
Hope Morley: One of my favorite commercials of all time actually plays on this. It's that Ikea lamp commercials directed by Spike Jonze with the gooseneck lamp that the whole spot is this lamp in somebody's house.
And then she goes and buys a new lamp and she puts the old one out on the curb and it starts raining and he looks all sad. Cause he was like, you know, it's a gooseneck lamp right that it's like, it looks so droopy and sad and it's raining and he wants to be inside where it's warm and then this guy comes out and he's like, are you feeling bad for this lamp right now?
Like, that's ridiculous. Like it's a lamp and also her new one's much better. I love that spot so much because it makes. Purposely makes you feel sad and it gets this whole emotion of like change and death and mortality. And it's just like, you're going through all these feelings and then someone just comes out and tells you that you're being ridiculous.
Cause you're anthropomorphizing a lamp. It just kind of like what Pixar does every day. But I love that one. It starts with sad and then it just like twists to funny right at the end.
Guy Bauer: And what you're getting at is if you can occupy multiple buckets, I call it like you get into Forrest Gump zone. Forrest Gump holds still to this day I haven't seen a movie like Forrest Gump, where you experienced every single emotion by the end of Forrest Gump.
When he's talking to Jenny. Oh my gosh. Like, you're just like, like you are, you have secreted every chemical and like every hormone, like you have experienced everything that humanity has to offer when you watch Forrest Gump. And that's because they, it just runs the gamut of what it means to be human.
I mean, it's one of the, just top five of all time in my mind anyway, but when you occupy multiple buckets, you can start getting into that imprint, like Forrest Gump left on all of us, where it's a absolute legendary movie classic, so memorable, you laugh, you cry in Forrest Gump, but you also feel other things.
And so the Spike Jonze spot gets into funny and make me cry. And then if you add beauty on top of that, which I'm sure it was beautiful, it's Spike Jonze, you know, that's where you have the trifecta. So the idea is you should always be in a minimum of one and guess what the kind of videos that fail all three?
Corporate videos! Stock videos of people walking through server rooms, the intersection in Tokyo, they fail all three. They're not beautiful. They're not funny. And they don't make you cry. Sometimes they make you cry because you spent so much money on them. They're so bad. They just make you cry.
Hope Morley: And when you see how ineffective it was.
Guy Bauer: Unfortunately you're not the audience, so that doesn't count. But yeah. And again, it's not universal. It doesn't work every time. But the point is, is in this game, I'd rather use something, a framework that works in 90% of the time, then, you know, then not, and like, you know, when you look at your creative, take a step back and just ask, is this beautiful?
Is it funny? Does it make me cry? If no on all three. Yes, you may be in the 10% exception, but there's got to be rationale there. If you don't have very specific rationale for why it's not one of those three buckets, you need to take a step back and get into one of those three buckets. This just comes after years and years and years of seeing the patterns and seeing other people's work and then seeing our work and, and kind of the effectiveness of it.
And to be clear, like you said. It's not like someone needs to cry physically cry. It's not like someone has to physically like, like laugh out loud. It just has to be in that realm. So it could be just a tongue in cheek thing where you're not laughing out loud to be funny. Right. Anything in that realm of.
You know, kind of funny. So it's like a very big bucket of funny, but there are all shades of gray in there. It doesn't need to be like a Doritos ad. It doesn't need to be crazy.
You know it to be in the funny it needs to be in the, you know, kind of quirky zone to be and make you cry. It doesn't need to be make you cry. And so there's all shades inside each of these buckets. And I would say the most dangerous bucket I would say is the beautiful bucket because, beautiful is like, yeah, well, this thing is beautiful.
You know, it may not actually be beautiful. So that where the beautiful bucket comes in is, is like, is the beauty of this thing value enough to keep me watching. So it, is it on the realm of seeing cherry blossoms in Tokyo or Japan or whatever, is it on the realm of you know, fireworks.
Hope Morley: Stock footage of a mountain can be beautiful, right?
Like it can be beautifully well shot. Right. But if you just plop that into a video with some voiceover about how people can achieve more with your product, you might look at that and be like, oh yeah, that's beautiful. But that's not really getting at the heart of what you're saying.
Guy Bauer: Correct. The idea itself needs to be beautiful. We just did a spot for a top four consulting company that shall not be named, we did a spot and it's a bunch of people in really nice looking rooms and areas in homes. And they're talking about transformation.
I feel like this spot does qualify for the beautiful thing, because the idea itself relies on the rooms and what they look like. Because the ideas around that with our clients transformation service, these people are not, having such a chaotic experience. So they have time to bake with their kids or read a book out, outside in the backyard, or do yoga.
We picked very idyllic scenes and scenarios that trigger an emotion that correspond with our client's key value prop, which is no chaos, easy. So beauty was not just like thrown in there to be beautiful. Beauty is at the core of the concept. That's what we're getting at. Like you can't just throw a mountain climber, you know, like success with our cloud solution and to someone out stretching their arms on top of a mountain that doesn't count unfortunately.
Hope Morley: Yeah. And so what you were talking about too, is that showing that beautiful, calm, serene scenarios, where you can read a book or do yoga, or spend time with your kids, that's overcoming that anxiety too, right? Like you're showing this future state where you can be out of, out of anxiety and into calm, good living your best life.
And that's beautiful.
Guy Bauer: Right. And beautiful. Is the, yeah, like I said, is the trickiest bucket because a lot of stuff, we're doing an engagement for an air purifier company right now. And oh my gosh. Like the market, the entire air purification market is consensus in the beautiful bucket. They don't make you cry and they don't make you laugh.
Like I, in our competitive analysis, we found no one in those other two buckets. So our strategy is we need to be in one of the other two buckets. We need to keep beautiful. Because air purifiers are a design product. They live in your house. So, there is reason for beauty. The spot needs to be beautiful, but we need to add on either funny or make me cry.
Same thing with, you know, in the mattress space, consensus in the mattress space is funny. That's 100% consensus in the bed in a box space is it's gotta be funny. But anyway, I digress, but the beauty is the trickiest thing because once consensus.
Well, actually, no, no. I'll take a step back. Here's the thing is anytime you have consensus around one of these buckets, so air purifier, consensus is beauty. Mattress is consensus is funny. Think about car insurance once what's consensus around car insurance. It's I would say 100% funny. I mean, now it's a game now.
All of them are funny. Yeah. Now once you have consensus around a bucket, now, you got to start moving into a different bucket again. It's kind of a game of whack-a-mole too, or try to add on, I would say in the insurance game now you've got to add on something else. Like you got to kind of stay with consensus and maybe slowly move over to, make me cry or beautiful.
But beauty is really tough because it's so subjective and it, I'm saying it, it's gotta be beauty on a core, like beauty on a level that is truly beautiful. Like if you were to just see a frame of this spot, someone would go like, wow, that's beautiful.
That's where it's gotta be.
Hope Morley: So to sum it all up, there's two main takeaways that I'd like to people to take away from this episode. One is take away this framework, make your advertising beautiful, funny, or make me cry. And stop denying the fact that your prospects are human, that people are human and that humans are driven by our emotions and that, so stop denying that and use it to your advantage.
And once you admit to yourself that, you know, we're not all driven by the cognitive facts all the time, then you can use that to make better marketing, to sell more stuff, to get a promotion, and your life will be so much better.
Guy Bauer: Yeah. You get a boat. Um, you ended up with them and just remember, like you, you. Just to keep in mind that you clap and just ask yourself, why do I clap? Why do I laugh? Why do I cry? These things are all very subconscious. You don't even understand why you do them instinctual things. Market to that side of your prospects.
The rational side. Yeah, it can be done, but it requires an immense amount of risk-taking and luck, right. I think it's way less risky to assume that 100% of your audience laughs, cries and claps that's to me a gimme like that's way more assured you know, like if there was a pie chart right now, or one of those, what are those charts where they put two pies together in the middle is the thing.
Hope Morley: Venn diagram.
Guy Bauer: It's like literally the Venn diagram is 100%. It's like the most humans that laugh, cry and clap.
Hope Morley: It's the most accurate buyer persona that you could ever possibly create,
Guy Bauer: Just market to the, to the cave person, brain. It's easier to do that. And you do that through emotion, and then once you have that base now there's always going to be that emotion, just like how we're all tied in to Apple. There's always going to be that emotion that overrides, or at least highly highly influences the prefrontal cortex, because that was the part of the brain that was spoken to first.
Hope Morley: Thanks for listening to today's episode of Death to the Corporate Video. If you have any feedback on the show or want to get in touch with us, you can find us across all the social media at Umault, or you can email the show at firstname.lastname@example.org and that's spelled U M A U L T.
Thanks for listening.
Guy Bauer: You're welcome.