Negative Emotions as Advertising Themes to break the Clutter [Repose Mattress]


Advertisements are meant to attract, create an interest and make the audience to buy something. Advertising themes used varies depending on the product, brand and objective. Use of negative themes in commercials is rarely seen. In this edition of ‘Pick of the Week’, we will explore a new brand utilizing a negative theme (Obituary/Death) in its TV commercials – Repose Mattresses.

Indian Mattress Industry

Before diving into the commercials of Repose Mattress, let’s quickly have a look into the Indian Mattress Industry. It is one of the most unorganized sectors with perhaps less than 25% in the organized sector. The key segments are Foam, Spring and Coir. These days, Foam mattresses comes in Natural latex foam, Memory foam, and Polyurethane foams. Coir used to be used historically in most of the mattresses. However, due to the comfort it offers; spring mattresses are gaining popularity these days. Having said that, market players have used various value propositions to market all these types of mattresses. For example, rubberized coir mattresses for back pain (since it offer a sturdy support). Also, it is debatable how much the end customer is knowledge-able about any of these differences.

Key Indian players in the segment include Duroflex, Kurl-on, Sleep well, Rubco, Godrej, Peps etc. Increasing momentum in the industry has also attracted foreign players like Spring Air, Tempur-Pedic, Spuhl etc. There are few niche players like Dr Back catering to specific segments. Repose is perhaps the latest entrant into this market.

About Repose Mattress

Repose is a South India based mattress company. To be honest, I heard it for the first time after seeing the commercials and hence the motivation to write this post 🙂 They are specialized in manufacturing spring mattresses. They seems to be expanding in the state of Kerala and hence a flux of TV commercials being aired(sometimes even in prime slots!).

‘Xceeding Xpectations’, ‘Wake up to fresh ideas’ are the taglines used by the company. If one searches for the brand or visits their website, it will become clear that they are a pretty new entrant into the market (2014+). The launch commercials were focused on showcasing comfort factors (as comfortable as sleeping on the lap of your mother!). There are few more commercials with themes revolving around comfort, intimacy etc.

TV Commercials with death/obituary as a theme

The brand has started to air a set of 10 seconds to 30 seconds ads these days focusing on a completely different theme – death; not of your beloved ones, but your old mattresses :). Have a look at this video as the first sampler.

This 20 seconds ad revolves around a cemetery, with the Father offering his final prayers and then the frame shows a torn old mattress. The voice over says ‘Good bye old mattress! Upgrade to Spring mattress’. A similar ad as below shows a distressed couple after seeing an obituary advertisement of an old mattress in a newspaper; followed by the same voice over. Main ingredient of each of these ads is the suspense music in the beginning sequences followed by an unexpected picturization of mattress (as opposed to positive emotions, humour or rational themes). The brand has even gone to the extent of showcasing a distraught family standing in front of an operation theater; but showing the patient as an old mattress!

Negative emotions as advertising themes

Using negative emotions in advertising is not new. However it has been mostly used in either statutory/Government advertisements or by those brands selling products in such segments (for example, Nicotex an anti-smoking chewing gum). Dramatization is also a complementing factors used in these advertisements. This is a good example of this combination being used to generate an interest and break the clutter.

A quick further search on this topic pointed me to the research paper by June Cotte & Robin Ritchie titled Theories of Consumers: Why Use Negative Emotions to Sell?. In it, the authors argue that negative emotions help to break through clutter and generate an interest among those audience they call – desensitized consumer (someone who know about the motive of advertising and who generally tends to ignore them). Negative emotions also help to generate an interest in the case of audience who are looking for a sense of belonging / cult. But these themes will have a completely negative impact on those audience who consider advertising as manipulative and recognize the persuasion tactics of advertising.

Overall, a generic opinion could be that ads with negative emotions may drive away prospective audience due to factors like fear, anger or disgust. In order to tackle, often advertisers show the negative affects of not using the product. Research hasn’t shown an unequivocal opinion on when and how negative emotions as persuading themes in advertising.

Creativity and Execution of the Advertisement

Let’s close this post by playing a bit of devil’s advocate now. Having said, the brand has established to break the clutter and generate an interest – I think it has failed on two counts. Firstly, the brand is not visible clearly; it is shown only for few seconds in the end. This leaves the viewer in a confused state thinking what the ad was all about. Secondly the value proposition has not clearly come out. The ad appeals to move to spring mattresses; but doesn’t give any further details leaving the viewer to guess its benefits.

Ending on a positive note, I believe it’s a nicely executed creative strategy to generate interest, especially for an unknown brand and a new entrant in a cluttered space. What do you think…?

About Vijay Sankar 44 Articles
A techie turned business professional; presently living in Cochin, India. For bread and butter, exploring the domain of marketing attribution. I hold an Electrical Engineering degree from College of Engineering, Trivandrum and Executive MBA (PGPEM) from Indian Institute of Management Bangalore

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