How imagery can make people feel emotional about practical products

Chris Christodoulou of creative production studio Saddington Baynes explains how it uses images in marketing and advertising campaigns to get people passionate about something as everyday as a fridge.

When was the last time you felt emotional about your refrigerator? Besides hunger, frustration when it stops working, or a sense of satisfaction at how well it complements your kitchen’s feng shui, that is.

For the most part, we don’t invest huge amounts of time thinking about the appliance that cools and stores our groceries. A refrigerator is defined more by utility than appearance or personal sentiment.

That's the challenge for creative production studios and agencies alike when crafting content for everyday appliance manufacturers. Films and images that trigger an emotional connection have been shown to outperform standard advertising two-to-one. But how do you evoke positive emotions around a functional, utilitarian device?

The key is to remember that content isn’t just about communicating rational way. With the appropriate use of atmosphere, lighting, cinematography, and technology, creatives can deliver a compelling message that speaks to something deeper inside of us than the basic need to keep food fresh.

Thawed emotion

In advertising and filmmaking, photography and design, the subject itself doesn’t necessarily need to provoke emotion; the manner in which it’s presented can inspire that reaction instead. The atmosphere of a scene is often as important – and perhaps more so – than the object on display.

Case in point: the Vario 400 cooling series from Gaggenau. The appliance’s name does not exactly inspire a passionate response. But placing the appliance within an attractive, aspirational setting communicates something deeper about the potential purchaser's lifestyle – and thus inspires that deeper personal connection.

In its recent campaign – concepted and produced by us in partnership with Maker Projects– Gaggenau commences its narrative not within a kitchen, but in the forests of Washington state. The viewer is guided into an luxurious modern estate, where soft lighting and ice crystals forming on refrigerator emphasise the crisp, organic tone.

There's an emotional, fantasy-like component to this, but there's also subtext. The Vario 400 series self-regulates its temperature much like the surrounding forest microclimate.

These juxtapositions marry the appliance to crisp, invigorating and fresh sensations. Viewers aren’t thinking about functionality and storing the weekend’s dinner. They’re feeling health, wellbeing, and calm.

Digitising emotion

Saddington Baynes and Maker Projects shot Gaggenau's film on location, but augmenting the emotional triggers by using CG and post techniques. (You can watch a behind-the-scenes video below.)

In some cases, this meant adjusting the delicate interplay of lighting and shadow; in others it meant tweaking the colour levels of a sequence. Some shots required digital set extensions, others full-CG work, such as the meticulously crafted shards of ice creeping across the cooled raspberries.

While CG can be used to tweak the aesthetic qualities of a shot or sequence and emphasise the intended emotional attributes – in this case modernity and freshness – there are more fundamentally impactful applications of the technology, too.

For this film, Saddington Baynes performed full LiDAR scanning of the house and some of the forest location. The team could then use this “digital set” for pre-visualisation, defining cinematography before even getting behind a camera.

And that's not solely a practical consideration. In any story, the chosen perspective defines how viewers assess unfolding events. This contributes to emotional reaction as much as the colour or texture of an object. Are you taking the viewer on a thrill-packed roller-coaster ride… or gently guiding them from forest, to home, to appliance?

The balancing act of emotive advertising

Successful content is emotive in nature. The challenge is in the fact that you can't tell someone how to feel – you can only suggest certain feelings by reaching into their non-conscious. That's a delicate balancing act.

This goes for any product advertised or message conveyed. A brand might sell a new sports car, a video game, a flower delivery service, or a new range of oven chips. The product could be anything, but the process is the same: defining how ownership of this product will make you feel as an individual, not just how it looks or functions.

For instance, Gaggenau’s brand audience is comprised mainly of high net worth consumers, discerning about technology and design. When a product costs thousands of pounds you have to capture hearts as well as minds. As individuals, they prize aesthetics as well as performance. It’s all about aspirational imagery and lifestyle connotations.

So, the question we need to ask shouldn't be "how do I make my audience feel emotional about appliances?" It should be "how do I make my audience feel the emotion this product evokes?" When you start thinking beyond the material and instead consider the artistic context, evoking the right sentiment becomes a matter of tone, setting and delivery. It becomes a matter of statement.

Chris Christodoulou is CEO of Saddington Baynes.

Note: We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site, at no extra cost to you. This doesn't affect our editorial independence. Learn more.

Read Next...