• Jacqueline Roxman

Emotional Marketing: How To Appeal To The Emotional Brain

Updated: Oct 6

No matter how much we like to think of ourselves as rational-decision makers, human beings are governed by emotion.


In an ever-changing and highly competitive market, brands are finding it more and more difficult to succeed in the marketing battle. The answer? Marketers are continuously failing to appeal to customer’s emotional states.


Contrary to popular belief emotion plays a crucial role in decision-making, enabling us to make fast decisions, helping us identify which factors are most relevant to our decisions and sustaining our motivation to act.


With that said, emotion constitutes a powerful influence on our decision-making. In fact, professor of Neuroscience at the University of Southern California Antonio Damasio found that individuals with impairment in the emotional areas of the brain were incapable of making decisions.


So why do some brands gain mass appeal while others generate lacklustre results? A major factor that accounts for successful branding is emotional marketing.


Emotional marketing leverages emotion to appeal to an audience, making your customers remember, share or buy your product. Leveraging emotion to your marketing can help you generate leads, facilitate brand engagement and help build meaningful relationships with customers.


Studies show people rely more on emotion compared to information when making brand decisions. What’s more, the benefits consumers seek from buying a product have shifted, from procuring low-cost products to gaining a positive consumer experience.


This is not to say that creating content that focuses on product features and facts is wrong. The key however is to evoke an emotional response that will build a connection between the customer and your brand.


So how do you connect emotionally with your audience? Let’s go over some of the basic human emotions impacting decision-making in consumers.


1) Happiness


Keep in mind that there is no one-size fits all strategy for how to elicit a consumer response - the emotion you choose to target will vary depending on the goals you are aiming to achieve through your marketing efforts. Campaigns that aim to elicit the emotion of happiness or joy, also known as ‘Joy marketingare one such example of harnessing emotion in a bid to boost sales.


In fact, a study found positive content to more likely be shared on social media than sad or negative content. Capturing positive experiences that feel authentic and tangible to the consumer can therefore significantly improve your market reach.


For a glimpse into how powerful throwing happiness into the mix can be, take a look at the P&G Thank you, Mom campaign released for the Rio Olympics in 2016. Here, people built an association between feelings of joy, hope and pride and the P&G brand, creating an emotional connection built on happiness.


2) Sadness


While happiness makes people want to share their experiences, not all brands seek to evoke happiness in their marketing.


Research shows that words with negative connotations are more likely to have a higher click-through rate (CLR). In fact, an Outbrain study found that using negative superlatives in headlines like “worst” or “never” in comparison to using positive superlatives such as “always” or best” had a 63% higher CLR.


Moreover, sadness leads to feelings of empathy and compassion - a great way to raise awareness of social issues and spur your audience into action. To see how efficacious sadness can be, you only need to look at the many charity marketing campaigns in which evoking sadness leads to significantly higher rates of helping.


3) Anger


As strange as it may sound, striking the angry nerve can strongly benefit you in your campaign. Anger is an inherently powerful emotion, encouraging people to step out of their stupor.


One way anger can be seen as a tactical tool is that it can significantly drive engagement with a brand. Challenger brands such as Brewdog deliberately provoke anger through the creation of controversial content, thereby forming a stronger connection with their niche.


Anger can also be directed toward different social or political issues, uniting and motivating people to take action. “Like a Girl” campaign by the care brand Always successfully leveraged anger around gender stereotyping, turning an demeaning phrase into a source of inspiration.


Whether your goal is to create an identity as a rebellious brand or rather, you want to encourage positive action - anger is your go-to emotion.


Now that you have more insight into how specific emotions work, let’s unpack a few key emotional marketing strategies.


1) Audience insights: Who is your audience?


Before deciding which emotion to target in your marketing, it is absolutely crucial that you get to know your target audience, as you would want the emotion to resonate with their interests, desires and pain points.


There are various actionable ways to gain a better understanding of your target audience, if you haven’t done so already.


1) Survey: A great way to start with is to supply online or offline surveys to your existing customer base. On-site Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a metric that can be used to measure customer experience. Respondents on the questionnaire are grouped as promoters (score 9-10), passives (score 7-8) or detractors (score 0-6). The percentage of detractors on the questionnaire is subtracted from the percentage of promoters, yielding the NPS. Measuring your NPS will give you a better understanding of your customer loyalty.


2) Keyword research: Keyword research is another valuable tool as it allows you to match the content on your website with what users are searching for on Google. More specifically, keyword research allows you to determine the exact words that will drive traffic to your website, enabling you to create your content accordingly.


3) Social listening: Social listening enables you to track mentions and conversations related to your brand on various social channels, such as Facebook or Twitter, allowing you to identify what your audience wants, needs and thinks about your product.


Once you have located your audience, including the platforms they are using and the content they are engaging with, you can use that to fine-tune your brand strategy.


2) Storytelling: Addiction to fiction


One of the most powerful tools to supercharge your marketing is to create a good story that your audience can relate to. Now, let’s look at how you can leverage the power of storytelling in your marketing.


Storytelling is hugely powerful, providing a means for humans to connect, share, learn and inspire. In fact, storytelling is something all humans do, starting at a young age. Make-believe, daydreaming, narrative identity - are just a few examples of the ways in which storytelling is woven into our lives.


But what is brand storytelling? Brand storytelling, in essence, is creating a cohesive narrative that connects an audience to your brand. The increase in digitalisation, compounded by the proliferation of social media channels, has made it increasingly difficult for brands to differentiate from the crowd. That being said, storytelling is seen as a tactical tool for brands to engage consumers in the midst of a fragmented media world.


So why do stories captivate us? Storytelling is not only an entertaining experience but is also a physical experience, impacting on emotion and subsequent behaviour. A well-told story can trigger your brain to release cortisol- a stress hormone crucial in engaging prospects early on in the sales funnel. Moreover, storytelling stimulates the release of ‘feel good’ hormone oxytocin, promoting feelings of trust, compassion and increasing prosocial behaviour, all of which are important elements in building and deepening relationships.


Neuroscientists at Princeton found that listening to a well-told story, as opposed to facts and figures, activates the emotional centres of our brain. What’s more, listening or reading a story activates the same patterns as in the speaker's brain, known as ‘neural coupling’, causing the brains of the speaker and listener to synchronise.


With that in mind, creating a brand story is one of the most effective ways to bridge the connection between the customer and brand.


Here’s how to tap into the unique power of storytelling:


1) Character: Character is the face of the story your audience can relate to. To build your character, put an emphasis on your brand's mission - your goals, values and personality.


2) Conflict: What problem is your niche looking to solve? State what the problem is, set the need for change and emphasise how your product relates to the needs and/or wants of your niche.


3) Resolution: Emphasise the solution that you can offer to the problem. For example, mention the problems your customers have faced and how they were solved by your efforts.


To cut a long story short, create a narrative highlighting your core principles, challenges and value propositions. Remember, a good brand story does not just communicate a story about your company, but the value that customers get by engaging with it.


3) Campaign design: The Psychology of Colour


The design of your campaign is paramount to an overarching emotional marketing strategy.


Whether creating an article, logo, ebook, or video, the design of your content can strongly impact consumers' overall impression of a brand. One of the most subtle, yet emotionally powerful design elements is colour. In fact, a study found that up to 90% of judgements about brands and products are based on colour alone.


Colour is an emotional cue that can significantly help with strengthening your brand image and building relationships. While our perception of colour is widely influenced by factors such as our experiences, upbringing and cultural differences, you can still use the different colour meanings to guide your strategy.


Let’s look at a few colour meanings that can help with connecting to your audience.


1) Red - Red is a powerful colour, projecting confidence, strength and boldness. If you’re aiming to catch your viewer’s eye and create a sense of urgency, then red is the go-to colour.


2) Blue - Blue communicates dependability and is mentally soothing. Blue is the go-to colour if you are looking to elicit feelings of calmness and trustworthiness in consumers.


3) Green - Green communicates health, well-being and freshness. Green is the easiest colour for the eyes to process and can prompt feelings of relaxation in consumers.


4) Pink - Pink is a more soothing version of red, fostering feelings of compassion and love. Pink is a great colour for connecting with consumers as it promotes understanding, warmth and comfort.


4) Conclusion: Over to You


Weaving emotion into your marketing is the ultimate way to resonate with and endear consumers toward your brand. All you have to do now is figure out the emotion you want to target and align it with your overall brand story.


Time to get emotional!




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