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Recently, while watching the news (or more likely, my dirty little secret, Buzzr) I was reminded why marketers sometimes get a bad reputation. Ads for nearly every major car dealership were parading through my television touting their Memorial Day sale. Getting a great deal on a new car is hardly the main reason anyone would give their lives in battle for their country.

Come on people. We can do better.

Then there are the ads for Dads and Grads. They’re not as opportunistic as the Memorial Day nonsense, but they can get a little ridiculous. A couple of weeks ago we spoke about how Mother’s Day can help you move product as well as build a brand, but we didn’t talk about how far you should go to do that.

No one believes more than I that strong brands have to evoke emotion. There is a difference between evoking emotion and exploiting emotional triggers. We would never counsel clients to do the latter. McDonald’s in the U.K. got into trouble recently around this issue when it featured a storyline of a little boy who is reminded of his deceased father because of the brand. The Brits were not “Lovin’ It.”

There is a difference between evoking emotion and exploiting emotional triggers. Better marketing requires the former, not the latter.

It’s a fine, fine line to be certain, but here are some questions to ask yourself along the way that may help gauge where your marketing is on the spectrum and how to calibrate it into an acceptable zone.

Can any brand stir the same emotion in the market? If so, it’s likely that not only is your creative edging toward exploitation, but it’s also not sufficiently differentiated from your competitors to do you any good.

Is there a negative, underlying emotion to the creative? For example, do you celebrate your love for your father because you now realize what a rotten child you’ve been all your life? If that’s the case, back off.

Does the emotional current of the brand sync with your brand’s overall emotional connections? If your brand is a serious, no-nonsense one and you are suddenly extolling the wild abandon with which college and high school grads celebrate each spring, your creative is probably out of sync.

Are you dialing up the heat? If your messaging suggests that making the wrong choice with regard to a purchase is materially wrong with dire emotional consequences down the road, that dial needs to go back down.

Just some random thoughts on creating better marketing for the approaching June advertising season. Congratulations to all the Dads and Grads. More importantly, for anyone who has lost someone in combat, may the weekend still offer you some solace and peace.

— Douglas Spencer

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