Emotional Advertising in Financial Services: Driving Brand Growth

“There are no boring categories, only boring marketing” – this has become a familiar marketing saying. At System1, we’ve quoted it more than once ourselves. But the suspicion still lingers that yes, there are boring categories.

Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say, there are categories where the options available are complex. Where the purchase decision is involved. Where technical detail or regulation make it hard to sell a product in particular ways.

In our webinar last week on advertising, we revealed some initial results from our Ad Ratingsproject – one of the most complete and up-to-date databases of creative quality ever created, using data from our advertising insights platform and our audience insights platform. We can now look at all the 25 categories we measured and say, definitively, which has the most boring marketing.

The answer is prescription pharmaceuticals. Is that because it’s a boring category? Absolutely not: its products are literally life-changing, and in some cases life-saving. But the regulatory framework around pharma advertising limits the kinds of strategies marketers can use.

Insurance and complex financial products are likewise categories with plenty of regulation and a lot of complexity. But they’re also sectors where emotional advertising has played a part too – when you think of insurance ads, plenty of colourful characters and mascots come to mind.

The question is: which approach works better? That’s what System1 and a major financial service brand will be talking about at TMRE next month in Scottsdale, AZ. The brand wanted hard evidence and a definitive answer to the question of what kind of advertising drove sales impact and brand growth. Emotional, message-led, brand-heavy, or a mix? And which emotions, messages and strategies worked best?

They worked with us on a large-scale meta-analysis of the financial services category in multiple markets around the globe, using our testing metrics alongside effectiveness data pulled from our market research platforms and known outcomes. The result is one of the most comprehensive category-level effectiveness assessments ever conducted. We’re delighted and grateful that this brand have agreed to share some of the topline insights on stage at TMRE.

So, is emotion the most effective approach in financial services communication? Well, spoiler alert – yes, it is. For every campaign type and in almost every market, emotional response was the biggest contributor to effectiveness.

Though to find out how effective and how to make it work, you’ll need to be at the conference to see the meta-analysis for yourself (or read a write-up from us later!).

From our perspective that topline result isn’t a surprise, of course. What we took from the project was more valuable proof that measuring emotional response to advertising is a great way not just of growing brands but of cutting marketing waste. Even in a complex category, if people feel more, they buy more.

To book your place at TMRE, go here.

For more information on our methods and how they drive business outcomes, go here.

To find out more about the Ad Ratings product and how it can help benchmark your brand’s creative output, go here.


At System1, we help the world’s largest advertisers make confident creative decisions that lead to transformational business results. Our powerful ad testing platform (Test Your Ad) and our idea testing platform (Test Your Idea) help brands predict the commercial potential of ads and ideas. Complementing TYA and TYI is Test Your Brand, our brand tracking tool which measures the impact of ads and ideas on brand health, ensuring long-term brand growth through predictive success.

Get in touch or book a demo with one of our experts to learn more.

Get In Touch

Got a Marketing problem? We'd love to hear about it. Tell us what you're looking for and we'll get in touch ASAP.