Emotion-based advertising: marketing at the time of Covid-19

Emotion-based advertising: marketing at the time of Covid-19

The fight against Covid-19 continues, in the Italian context, using new communication channels, such as that of advertising spots.


Explanatory advertising message is the case of the Barilla brand spot which turns out to be a hymn to Italy that resists. In the commercial, one immediately notices how the Barilla product takes on a secondary role, being present in a few fragments relating to the companies that resist and produce, despite the state of emergency.

In the foreground, on the other hand, is Italy with its artistic and cultural heritage, with flashmobs on the balconies during the quarantine, with health workers on the front lines and the “most at risk” job categories. It is a commercial that moves and that is fascinating all Italy. The Barilla case, in fact, can be traced back to a prototype example of “emotional advertising” (Eckler & Bolls, 2011). It is a very powerful marketing and communication strategy, because it is based on messages usually built with images that evoke strong emotional states, such as fear, anger, passion … (Eckler & Bolls, 2011). In these commercials, not much product information is provided, but the image is preferred to communication on the product. Taking advantage of the visual aspect, the advertiser reaches the sales goals first: that’s why marketing based on emotional communication becomes a real revolution. Indeed, from a study conducted on the perception of emotional advertising (Chan, 1996), the results show that emotional advertising increases sales and brand trust.

Advertising message But in addition to images, what other elements contribute to creating an advertisement based on emotional communication? Other elements may be the background music and the choice of a recognizable voice in the common imagination. In the case of music, scientific literature offers studies with conflicting results, in which favorable or unfavorable positions of the importance of music as a “trigger” of emotion are highlighted. A study that summarizes the two positions demonstrates how music itself activates emotional physiological responses (arousal), but must be combined with other factors and must be carefully chosen through pilot studies, monitoring emotional changes in a small sample of people (Morris & Boone, 1998). The choice of the song from the Barilla 2020 spot, for example, is not accidental, as it is Hymne by the composer Vangelis. Already from the title of the chosen song there is a clear reference to the intent of the spot that can only be understood at the end, that is to thank Italy that is fighting. The melody is also accompanied by the narrative voice of Sophia Loren, a well-known person on the media scene. The choice of the opinion leader and the rhetorical strategy of the narrative also aim to build a multi-sensorial effect (Di Fuccio et al., 2016). The strength, in fact, of this form of communication is precisely the great opportunity it offers to “tell” the brand, to transform the spot into pure suggestion and entertainment, wanting to move away from purely commercial objectives, even if only apparently (Buffo, 2017) . The narration entrusted to well-known personalities on the media scene, together with images and music, aim to generate a sense of “identification” that retains and generates purchasing behavior. In fact, all of us recognize ourselves in the Barilla advertising narrative: