When modern marketing is so intrinsically data-driven, it’s easy to let logic drive campaign planning. However, while analysis and figures should support the decisions that marketing managers make behind the scenes, they shouldn’t be used exclusively when creating appeals to your target market.
So much modern marketing now focuses on emotional appeals. Customers have all of the tools that they need to find solutions to their needs and to weigh up various providers in order to make a confident decision. This is where the emotional angle comes in. Those brands which can connect emotionally to their customers can create engagement, conversions and – ultimately – brand loyalty and repeat purchases.
Why is Emotion so Important in Marketing?
Customers have a limited attention span and will make a purchase decision based upon their own key values, plus other attributes such as ease and availability of their desired products. Emotion is hugely powerful here and brands can leverage it to connect with customers and encourage them to buy.
Emotional marketing deploys tactics that play on the desires, fears, passions or morality of their target audience in order to catch their attention and then create something memorable in order to encourage strong recollection, which ultimately helps to create brand awareness and eventually loyalty. These tactics tend to tap into a single emotion at any one time, from happiness through to fear, in order to create the desired response. Some clever forms of brand marketing may even look to tap into one before switching to the other (such as a brand film that starts off scary but ends up being very funny).
A Wheel of Emotions
Academic Robert Plutchik posited the idea of a wheel of emotion to describe the spectrum of what is estimated to be some 34,000 emotions that people can experience. Think of a colour wheel and you get the idea. Emotions are complex, varied, changing and intertwined, but can all be traced back to one of eight core emotions – joy, sadness, acceptance, disgust, fear, anger, surprise or anticipation.
This means that it can be challenging for marketers to target one emotion, because there are so many subsets and related emotions that can fall under it. Getting the right emotional balance is a case of pinpointing the right emotional tone, much like getting the perfect sound involves fine tuning a graphic equaliser.
Marketers must really dig deep to precisely pinpoint what feeling they want to create with their campaign work. This will define the way in which copy is produced, media chosen, graphics produced and so forth.
Let’s look at a breakdown of how some core emotions can create actions.
- Joy creates a desire to share – whether that’s good news, something that has interested you, or something that has made you smile. Joy is a mirroring emotion, so brand content that creates a feeling of happiness will naturally be shared within networks.
- Sadness creates connection and empathy. Empathy boosts giving and altruism, which is why so many charitable campaigns use this feeling to stimulate giving.
- Fear and surprise encourage us to hold tight to comfortable and familiar things. This creates brand loyalty. These campaigns position the brand as one solid, reliable thing in a changing and uncertain world.
- Anger is inherently tied to passion and can create stubbornness – which grows loyal followers and viral content. When Facebook shows a video about a political issue, thousands of likes and comments ensue. Some brands produce content that creates feelings of anxiety and anger to create that viral share.
Why Emotional Marketing Works
As much as we would like to think that we are rational creatures, the fact is that we are driven by our feelings. Emotional marketing can be used to create the ideal first impression, which is still one of the most powerful drivers of a sustained feeling towards a brand.
Emotions play a far more important role in our decision making than we like to think. Behavioural psychologists have identified two systems that operate in our mind when processing external stimuli (such as a brand film):
- System 1 (fast)This is your mind’s initial perceptual process and is inherently intuitive and involuntary, happening mostly in the subconscious mind. It is a fast process that created associative impressions and with them, feelings and emotions. These associations cause us to react in certain ways to the same stimuli when present again.
- System 2 (slow)The second system is far slower and is what we like to think of as our logical mind. This is driven by processing, considering and analysing facts. It is governed by rule and helps us make sense of the world around us, navigate problems and justify our decisions.
Brands which can stimulate the first system are far more likely to leave a lasting impression in their audience and this is crucial when trying to stand out from the crowd. With emotional marketing, this first impression is created in seconds – shaped by emotional appeals – and sustained in the customer’s mind thanks to the feelings it has helped create.
Studies have proven this, demonstrating that customers rely on their feelings or emotions to make decisions – not facts. Emotional responses to marketing campaigns also influence purchase intent more than ad content or marketing material itself.
This is the reason why many brands create personalities, which are far easier for customers to relate to and to feel a connection with, than a nebulous brand.
It’s interesting to note, too, that B2B brands see just as much success when deploying emotional marketing compared to their B2C peers. Those successful B2B brands that do so tend to avoid quirky, humorous content strategies and, instead, focus on ideas of reliability, trust, credibility and partnership, eliciting the same powerful emotions that guide prospective buyers through the sales cycle. The efficacy of emotional marketing in B2B (more powerful than B2C even) was illustrated starkly by a 2013 Google study in partnership with CEB’s Marketing Leadership Council.
How to Create an Emotional Marketing Strategy
There are plenty of ways to use emotional marketing within your strategy. A planned approach is key to success and plenty of variation will exist. As a broad approach, however;
1. Know your audience
Before you do any kind of marketing, it’s essential to know your audience. This will help you to plan the content that they will respond to and to define the emotion that will create the best outcome. This requires in-depth market research within your target audience. The research will create personas, which helps to target the type of person to whom you are marketing.
2. Use colours
Emotion and colour are closely linked and colour can also stimulate emotion. Think about colour psychology; from passionate red through to warm and intelligent yellow, calming and nurturing green, professional blue and regal purple. Big brands are always linked with their colours.
3. Tell stories
Storytelling is a tried and tested marketing strategy to create audience connection. Stories elicit feelings. They are relatable and they are naturally shareable. Most brands can find a way to link a story back to their product offer! Emotional marketing is creating an environment where customers seek out content that offers them value. Brands are moving away from yesterday’s old-fashioned and interrupting adverts, which forced products and brands in front of the customer’s eyes, whether or not they wanted to see it. 
4. Create a community
Some brands manage to create communities through feelings of camaraderie, pride in belonging and acceptance.
5. Seek to inspire
All of us want to feel inspired to be our best, and brands which can create this sense of inspired elation will naturally evoke those emotions that lock customers in.
6. Project the ideal image
Smart customers know that the ‘ideal’ doesn’t exist, but those images and ideas still appeal and are extremely compelling. Brands which project an idea of the ideal encourage customers to aim high and to feel motivated to want more; a powerful desire emotion that naturally leads to purchase intent.
Whatever industry you are in, whatever your budget and whatever your current routes to market and marketing channels, there is scope to use emotional marketing to great effect. Learn about it, trial some approaches, measure your outcomes and consider using specialist external support where necessary to build on your approach. See the results that your brand needs in today’s highly competitive, segmented and digitised marketplace, where customers are sophisticated, mobile and ready to make quick decisions.