Emotion is a hugely powerful driver in our lives and is the bedrock of compelling storytelling, whether that takes the form of a great novel, a hilarious anecdote or a strong marketing campaign.
According to a study in Current Biology, all of the complex emotional states we have can be reduced down to four basic emotions that are built upon; these are happy, sad, afraid/surprised, and angry/disgusted.
Appealing to emotion is a core part of what makes influence marketing work, and by understanding why it works and how to harness it, you can create not only effective marketing campaigns but deeply meaningful messages as well.
What Is Emotional Marketing?
Emotional marketing is any marketing campaign that works by appealing to a particular emotion and attempting to elicit that same emotional reaction in its viewers.
A simple example of this is charity adverts, which use very specific conventions to convey a feeling of sadness, elicit sympathy and in turn lead to donations.
These include using sad sparse music (Kate Bush’s This Woman’s Work and Sarah McLachlan’s Arms of An Angel have been used highly effectively for this), muted colours and simple designs.
The aim is a viewer is so upset or angry at the injustice that they will donate to the campaign or support it in another way.
Another common example is the common cliché of the Christmas advert. Intending to invoke feelings of a particular kind of comforting nostalgic joy, these adverts rely so heavily on emotional marketing that some of them have become part of the seasonal tradition.
Why Does Emotional Marketing Work?
Emotional marketing works because our emotions dictate so much of our thoughts, and our empathetic nature bleeds into the way we consume media and dictates how we react to a message in front of us.
When a post makes us feel an emotion, it lingers with us, whether that emotion is positive or negative.
This goes for brands as well. If a person’s first impression of a brand is positive, that impression will stick in their minds and cause that brand to stand out from the pack.
Brand association is a powerful tool, which is why Dove is associated with body positivity and acceptance, Apple is associated with elegant simplicity and Nintendo is associated with nostalgia and childlike joy.
As well as this, the heart is a powerful factor in convincing people to make a purchase and providing that nudge to push people into a purchase.
A fascinating neuroscientific study found that emotional marketing that appeals purely to emotion works nearly twice as well as purely rational marketing, but also works better than a combined approach.
Different emotions work in different ways. Whilst sadness makes us connect and empathise, as seen in charity adverts, happiness is contagious, as positive content spreads faster than other kinds of content.
Surprising and content that scares us make a brand more dependable, as the one good thing in a negative world. Similarly, evoking anger inspires people to share content and be stubborn in their views.
The most important tip is to ensure that your emotional marketing comes from a real place, as people will quite viscerally reject inauthentic appeals to emotion.
Pepsi may hold the prize for the worst appeal to emotion ever with their Kendal Jenner advert, which tried to evoke the imagery of real activism and imply that Pepsi can solve structural inequality.
It was so badly executed that even several years later it would be mocked by protestors and satirists during actual protests and riots.
Be honest with your emotions and honest with your audience, and they will be receptive.