Emotional Marketing: Smiling All the Way to the Bank

Posted by Grant Robertson-Adams | Jun 10, 2021

Emotional marketing at its finest is marketing that makes you feel. After all, that’s what emotions are all about, feeling things. That doesn’t mean you have to constantly make people feel positive emotions either. Negative emotions are just as, if not more, powerful than the positive ones.

What is emotional marketing?

Ever felt that pang in your heart as you watch a little Labrador puppy make friends with a horse in a Budweiser advert? Or cry like a baby as you watch a Thai surgeon save the man who fed him as a street child? Sure you have, and you’ve been the subject of some emotional marketing in turn.

This is by no means a modern gimmick, used to sell more beer during the Superbowl, it’s a tactic that has been used for centuries, in fact even longer than that. It was the ancient Greeks who first penned philosophical ideas and in this instance Aristotle’s Rhetorical Triangle. He explained the theories behind emotional interaction as having 3 corners of a triangle, ethos, pathos and logos. Ethos representing the credibility of the speaker. Logos meaning logic, and the necessity for proof or evidence. Pathos embodying how an audience feels and reacts to something.

the 3 rhetorical appeals of marketing

Source: The Visual Communication Guy

Making someone or a group of people feel strongly about something is a great deal of what marketing is. You’re persuading people to feel the need to buy something because of x, y or z, whatever that emotion may be. You want people to be talking about your product or service with passion in their circles (think about just how many sales come through word of mouth marketing) or, talking about the marketing around it.

4 Emotions You Can Tap Into in Your Marketing Campaigns

The 4 horsemen of human emotion are generally summed up as; Happiness, Sadness, Fear and Anger. Unless you’re a Jedi on the path to the dark side, where Yoda has a somewhat more dim view on typical human emotions.

Yoda quote on emotions

Source: Goalcast

It’s the negative emotions that people usually react strongest to, so it’s no wonder that marketing companies are focused on harnessing that power to sell their services and products.

Happiness (Shares)

But first, let’s have a break from the doom and gloom and focus on the happy side of life. Happiness tends to get people talking and sharing. When taking customers on their buying journey the first thing they tend to exchange with you is a bit of time (they spend time looking and learning about your brand), that is given freely. Next up, they might give you a bit of data (sharing information), usually in exchange for a token, such as an eBook or similar. Next up, they begin to share their trust with you. Once people begin to share their trust in your brand they’ll begin to share your story.

Social media campaigns work best on happiness, it’s why you see so many videos of dogs, cats and “heartwarming” stories all over your feed. Brands know that if you watch something and it makes you laugh, smile and feel positive, you’re more likely to share it with friends. At that point, you’re doing their marketing for them! Happiness leads to recommendations, and recommendations tend to lead to referrals.

Sadness (Clicks)

Clickbait titles galore! Sadness is what drives people to click and engage with a brand’s content. It’s an emotion that humans naturally flock to, not to wallow in but to be there as a support. For the most part, people want to feel useful and empathise with others. On social media, cunning marketers will make use of the marketing equivalent of the vague status posted by a Facebook friend with limited detail, “ Can’t believe this has happened to me. How can I cope?” that then, in turn, elicits the endless string of “ Are you OK hun?” messages. The sadness in the post has driven people to engage and comment.

It’s a useful tactic to use, but one to use sparingly. A brand that majors on sadness is, putting it simply, going to be something of a downer. But a light sprinkling here and there can pay dividends. Audiences tend to want to learn more about sadness, whether it be to understand the cause and avoid future occurrences, or to seek to help those feeling the sadness at the time.

Fear (Loyalty)

Fear leads to… No, we'll move on from that. Fear is one of the most powerful emotions that marketers can leverage. From car manufacturers shouting about safety ratings, to life insurance providers questioning “But what if you do get cancer?” Fear is used to make you seek safety and sanctuary.

fear response marketing campaign

Source: Branding Strategy Insider

Interestingly, you’ll find that brands who stick it out during fearful situations are regarded with fonder eyes than those that stay quiet. Take the recent events during the coronavirus crisis. There was a whole lot of fear out there. People were scared for their loved ones, their jobs, their livelihoods, themselves. Brands used this fear to provide reassurance and safety, how many times did you hear, “Now, more than ever…”

Therefore fear marketing works both ways. Brands can choose to present a fearful situation such as the chance you’ll get cancer, or the chance that your family will be in a road traffic accident, and then present a solution. Or they can choose to be the knight in shining armor, presenting the route to salvation and safety. Either way, it’s a powerful marketing ally.

Anger (Virality)

Nothing gets people talking more than something that they’re angry about. Recent times have been full of anger with brands embracing that anger and taking the stand with the cause. Think of the entire BLM movement and the marketing that has sprung from the back of this.

Rarely will brands seek to intentionally anger their customers or audience, that seems beyond foolhardy, but they will seek to engage in issues that their customers are angry about. When people are angry they tend to want to have their voice heard, therefore, it’s only natural that they will comment, retweet, share and engage on content that elicits that emotion.

That said, sometimes brands are seeking to get people angry, to get them rallied to their cause, to get them to shout about the issue and push their content virally. These brands tend to share inconvenient truths with the aim of provoking strong emotions. The likes of the WWF or PETA are big on this type of anger marketing. The more emotional they can make people, the more likely they are to engage with the content. The more engagement with the content, the more likely they are to go viral.

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Why Emotional Marketing is so Effective

Human emotions are about as natural as you can get when it comes to marketing. People will always feel these emotions and by engaging with an audience on an emotional level, you are effectively engaging with them on the deepest, primal level.

For a start, emotions are memorable. It’s why you can still remember that hurtful thing that was said to you in fifth grade, or the embarrassment you felt when you messed up a first date or the happiness you felt as you spent long summer evenings with friends. Your brain is chemically wired to better remember events linked to strong emotions. Adverts on television are generally remembered for being heartwarming, hilarious or shocking. No one remembers a yoghurt advert.

Content that pulls out emotions will naturally be talked about, this could be through word of mouth or through social media channels. But, essentially, it becomes shareable and begins to influence the decisions that people make throughout their buying process. That emotional connection has been proven to increase customer loyalty and, potentially, encourage more customers to become brand evangelists.

  • Ads that pulled on the heart strings were found to be 15% more likely to convert customers than those that relied on logic and cold rationale.

  • Customers surveyed and found to have an emotional bond with a brand have a 306% higher lifetime value versus those who don’t have that relationship.

4 Emotional Marketing Examples

The Happiness Example

Coca-Cola major on happiness in their marketing campaigns. Whenever it gets to that time of year when the red trucks with glittering lights make their way through the snow, everyone gets that fuzzy feeling that the holiday season is approaching.

More recently, their Share a Coke campaign focused on the happiness of friendship emotion. By getting their customers to imagine themselves in a pleasant, happy situation where they were sharing a product with a particular person it made for a strong emotional and personal connection. The campaign was hugely popular, so popular that “1.25 million more teens tried a Coke during the following summer and sales of participating Coca-Cola packages rose by a phenomenal 11% in the US.”

coca cola advertising campaign example

Source: Marketing Mag AU

The Sadness Example

Marketers in Australia for McDonalds did their research on this one. They discovered that there were high numbers of high value coins in high circulation within their economy, but psychologically these coins were still being treated as “loose change”. This was the launch of their version of the Dollar Saver menu.

The sadness side of the campaign was in the visual imagery that the campaign used. It was simple but played on the fact that, because everyone would use their loose change to eat at McDonalds, old machines that would previously have taken that change were now sad and redundant.

sadness marketing campaign example

Source: Trend Hunter

The campaign worked wonders, in fact after a rocky start to 2012, the CMO at the time, Mark Lollback said, ''It was a slow start, but basically from March, April and on we have had a very strong year from when we launched the 'Loose Change' menu, ''

The Fear Example

Fear isn’t just about fear of something happening to you such as injury, death or a sad event. In fact, one of the most popular methods of fear marketing is FOMO. The fear of missing out. In this instance, people have been using FOMO for years. Nike’s own slogan, Just Do It, plays entirely on the FOMO factor.

That said, there have been some incredibly stimulating advertising campaigns that have relied on good old fashioned fear. We’ve seen many of them recently regarding coronavirus safety measures. One of the most memorable, from 1987, was the UK government’s use of fear in their campaign for AIDS awareness. The advert was straight up terrifying but the then Health Secretary Norman Fowler felt it was entirely justified, "The TV adverts we ran were certainly hard-hitting. There was no point spending a load of money to send out innocuous adverts."

The Anger Example

Anger in advertising is found regularly and across many channels. Probably some of the best examples are from environmental and humanitarian charities that play on the torridness of global situations to raise awareness and funds through anger.

The WWF majors on these styles of adverts, playing on people’s inherent anger towards species becoming endangered and disappearing from our planet, and, more recently, the increasing issue of plastics in oceans.

fear-based emotional campaign example

Source: Ads of the World

Key Takeaways

Emotional marketing is powerful, it works and can do wonders for creating connections on a human level. Happiness, sadness, fear and anger can all lead to sales and profitability when used right.

  • Leveraging the audience's emotions increases engagement, awareness and conversions.
  • Emotional marketing is memorable, for all the right reasons.
  • Marketing that sticks with people on an emotional level can easily turn those people into lifetime customers.

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