Unlocking Growth on Digital: Emotion and Attention’s Transformative Effect On Brand and Sales Growth

More than just a social media platform, Pinterest serves as a visual discovery search engine and sparks inspiration for users through its treasure trove of more than 1.5B Pins each week. As the platform continues to grow its user base and capabilities, digital advertising on Pinterest and beyond is growing as well. Statista recently reported that ad spend in the digital advertising market is projected to reach US$740.3bn in 2024.

With no sign of visual discovery or digital advertising slowing down, brands are increasingly looking for guidance on the principles of effectiveness for this medium. Much of System1’s work has explored the need for TV ads to be emotionally engaging, as well as  radio ads and OOH. So, how might digital compare?

Does Digital Behave Similarly?

To better understand this, System1 recently partnered with Pinterest to examine the emotional and attention reactions to advertisers’ Promoted Pins and their subsequent impact on brand and sales growth. Together we sought to answer two questions:

  • Do Pinterest users have a different emotional reaction to Promoted Pins compared to the general population?
  • Do Promoted Pins that elicit a greater emotional response and attract and sustain more attention generate a greater sales impact in market?

We then isolated 67 Promoted Pins from Pinterest’s US Third-Party Sales Lift Provider’s Meta Analysis. This enabled us to understand the relationship between creativity, emotion, attention and in-market sales outcomes, including ROAS and Sales Lift.

System1’s Test Your Ad platform was utilized to measure consumers’ emotional reactions to the creative, as well as the level of attention they paid to the ads. Our Star Rating and Spike Rating provided predictions on long-term market share gain and short-term sales potential, respectively. Meanwhile, our Fluency metric showcased the percentage of people correctly identifying the brand each ad was for.

Coupled with the performance metrics, we were able to unlock the relationship between emotion, attention and commercial performance.

The Findings: Emotion is Essential

The study elicits interesting findings that further tout the importance of selling emotions, not products or services, in ads:

  • Higher Emotional Response: Compared to the US general public, Pinterest users showed a 17% increase in Happiness, 27% more Emotional Intensity, and paid attention to ads longer, resulting in an 18% increase in brand recognition (Fluency). 1
  • Video is Even More Impactful: Compared to the US general public, Pinterest users experienced 14% more Happiness and a 39% increase in Emotional Intensity with video content, significantly boosting brand recognition. 1
  • Positive Emotions Drive Sales: Ads that left users feeling more positive saw a 47% higher ROAS, a 20% higher lift in Ad Recall, and a 6x higher lift in Action Intent. 1
  • Sustained Attention Increases Sales: Ads with higher Creative Attention achieved a 2.7x higher ROAS and a 1.3x higher Sales Lift. 1

When taking a closer look at the creative features of the Promoted Pins, we found that certain broad-beam features, originally defined by Orlando Wood in his books Lemon and  Look out, are most effective at eliciting more positive, intense emotions. In turn, this boosts Brand Recall, Brand Lift, and ROAS.

These include:

  • Simplicity: Use fewer words and more visuals to increase attention and elicit positive emotions like Happiness.
  • Humanity: Include humans showing spontaneous changes in facial expressions to boost emotional engagement.
  • Living Elements: Featuring animals and people in Pins dramatically increases their sales effects.
  • Sense of Place: Ensure a clear setting in Pins to heighten Creative Attention, rather than generic backdrops.
  • Storytelling: Tell simple, compelling stories to attract and sustain attention.
  • Characters: Use vibrant characters to draw in Pinners and hold their attention. Brands that have invested in recurring fluent devices benefit from emotional engagement and recognition.
  • Stars: Feature celebrities early in the ad to maintain viewer interest.

Within the study with Pinterest, there were two Star Performers that stuck out to us and clearly illustrate the power of these principles:

This study highlights the unique potential of Pinterest as a platform for intent-driven inspiration and positive engagement. By crafting ads that evoke intense positive emotions and sustain attention, brands can drive meaningful consumer engagement and substantial sales growth.

For more detailed insights and creative best practices, explore the full study to learn how to measure and enhance your Pinterest advertising effectiveness.