By Amanda Sellers

How do you create a movement? Change a paradigm? Build brand loyalty? Or even just sell more product? At Spectrum, we believe you need to appeal both emotionally and rationally to consumers in order to drive behavioral change… and the science agrees!

While one size never fits all, there are always several keys to successfully executing campaigns that appeal to both rational and emotional thinking. We’ve seen these techniques work for clients across industries, including those with more complex decision making structures like pharma. The first one is pretty easy…


Thinking about rational decision-making in relation to your own brand can feel mundane. However, brands that make rational arguments a part of their brand story go beyond a list of rationalized benefits. 

In many cases, they activate the science behind their brand.

For example, can you relate to wearing shoes that just don’t quite fit but look great? For women, remember the way heels make your feet ache to the point you take them off; and for men, how standing and moving all day is literally a pain in the back? If you can’t remember immediately, check out this video and it will all come rushing back.

Vionic is connecting the acute emotion of foot pain due to inappropriate shoe choice – whether cute or cool – to the science of how to avoid this pain through the proper orthopedic support (without the orthopedic look). On the Vionic site, you’ll see a seal of acceptance from the American Podiatric Medical Association, a panel of experts involved in product development, along with a clinically-proven technology. It’s a campaign that resonates with a memorable moment in life that no one wants to repeat, and the company is serving up a science-based solution for consumers.

But what if you’re in pharma, where science is an assumed part of the conversation? Increasingly, marketers are realizing they’re leaving opportunities on the table when they don’t reframe the rationale to make the greatest impact.

Coupling scientific stories with emotional elements can breathe new life into your brand, driving connection with consumers in a way that feels genuine and compelling.

Michelle Gross, who leads Spectrum’s pharma practice, points to PhRMA’s recently released Go Boldly campaign as a great example of using science and emotion to shift reputation in the pharmaceutical industry. 

It’s no secret that the industry has been talking about the rational and emotional benefits of drug therapies as a part of the pricing conversation over the past few years. But somewhere along the way, PhRMA realized that the message was falling flat. Their new campaign shines a spotlight on all of the innovative work being done in drug discovery by not only sharing stories from patients, but also incorporating stories of the researchers and scientists who are responsible for the future of life-saving medicines.

In a recent talk at ExL Pharma, PhRMA’s VP of Public Affairs discussed how the campaign was originally designed with ads featuring just patients. However, in testing, those ads were seen as too emotional. After adding researchers’ perspectives with the same tone and feel, the campaign seemed to strike the right balance. 

Our takeaway from these case studies is that rationale can play a key role—even in a highly emotional campaign like Go Boldly—in providing credibility and perspective, or even highlighting a new point of view. And, while we might go round and round on the details of how and why it works, I like to think that it’s all thanks to the evolution of the brain.


Have examples of great campaigns that appeal to both rational and emotional thinking? Want to know the other two elements to a successful rational + emotional campaign? Be on the lookout for my next post or connect with me to talk more.