mastering emotional marketing - happiness

It’s no secret – emotion is a powerful influencer. Brands that can forge a strong emotional connection with their audience are able to increase sales, boost customer loyalty and even get away with charging up to 200% more than their competitors. Yes, 200%. Wouldn’t you like to charge that much more? Master emotional marketing is key.


What is Emotional Marketing?

Studies show that we are capable of four basic emotions – happiness, sadness, a blend of fear/surprise and anger/disgust. When combined, these primary emotions create layers of emotions that cause us to have a variety of reactions. Based on the action you want to elicit from your audience, you can use each of these core emotional segments to strengthen your marketing efforts.

Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions


Using Happiness in Marketing

Of the four emotional pillars that all other expressions derive from, happiness is the one we most often want to extend to include friends, family and social networks.

If you take a look at your favorite viral videos, you’ll likely find that they elicited a warm and fuzzy feeling within you. That’s because across the board, “happiness is the main driver for social media sharing.” These moments of elation make up the majority of the top 10 emotional drivers for viral content. People like feeling good, and they like spreading that sentiment around.


Emotions That Drive Social Sharing

The emotions that drive social sharing

Using Sadness in Marketing

Another powerful emotion that can be wielded into effective marketing for your business is – sadness. Yes, it may sound counterintuitive to make your customers sad. After all, who likes feeling glum?

Oddly enough, sadness activates many of the same regions of the brain as happiness.

When the brain experiences those ‘blue’ feelings, two neurotransmitters in particular jump in to action. The first, cortisol – otherwise known as the stress hormone – is released, and the body may feel anxiety and tension. The second is oxytocin, which is often referred to as the ‘love hormone.’ Oxytocin produces feelings of connection and empathy.

Biologically speaking, it is most prevalent during and after childbirth, when a mother is breastfeeding and nurturing her newborn. Oxytocin helps us establish fellowship with others.

How our brain registers emotions

Together, these neurotransmitters produce powerful effects within the body that create a desire for community.

Using Fear in Marketing

Before we scare you off by trying to convince you to scare your target market, consider this: when you watch a scary movie, do you prefer to do so alone, or with a friend? If you answered, “duh, with a friend,” then you are in the vast majority who when presented with a fear-based stimulus, look to companions to share in that emotion, thus lessening its strength over you. When we are afraid, we want to turn to our friends and say, “did you see that?” thereby bonding you with that friend over the shared experience, and making the spooky feelings dissolve just a little.

This is because the emotion of fear is controlled by the amygdala – an almond shaped cluster of neurons that plays a key role in how we process emotions. The amygdala helps us determine the significance of a fearful event and how to respond, either with “fight or flight.”


Sharing in the fearful experience helps pacify our emotions and makes us less anxious. Nothing is ever as scary when you’re with a pal.

The same applies to fear-based marketing. Research has shown that in the absence of a human, viewers of a scary movie or commercial will connect with whatever nearby brand is readily available to them. Actually, product placement works best in horror films than any other movie genre (scary, right?).

You may not have noticed it the first time around, but usually, the logo of the car that helps the last remaining protagonist escape is typically very obvious, and easy to see. Brands like Ford, Chevrolet and Volkswagen are often getaway cars in thrillers. It makes sense – you want a car that’s fast, reliable, and will get you away from centuries-old bitter ghosts in a jiffy.


Emotional Marketing Used in Videos

The best way to connect with your audience emotionally is through video ads.

Happy Videos

If you want to get the word out about your business, consider creating a cheerful video. Think about how your business or line of products can contribute to your city, community or even the world feeling a smidgeon better.

The SPCA of Wake County made this adoption video in 2011. The goal, of course, was to encourage adoptions of shelter animals. Rather than focusing on the horrors of animal abuse and neglect (which is a reality, and one that Sarah McLachlan effectively reminds us of) this video calls for views to “Take a Chance” on the wonderful animals at your local shelter.

The video managed to accumulate 65,000 hits within 6 days, sending it into viral territory. It was picked up by news broadcasters and even made it all the way to the Today Show. Soon enough it attracted the notice of ABBA, the band whose song is being lip-synced in the video. Though the SPCA of Wake County made this video solely to encourage adoptions and spent just $32 dollars on the confetti, ABBA’s legal team thought it looked too commercial to not be making any profit, and ordered them to take the video down.

By this time it had amassed millions of views and had been pirated and uploaded by other YouTube users. While the SPCA obliged and removed the video that contained ABBA’s song, the outcome was already in motion. Their video continues to circulate, drawing the affections of viewers from Spain, Chile, Japan and Bulgaria who still write them letters, thanking them for their inspiration.

The media attention SPCA of Wake County received from their viral video has put them on the map and gained the patronage of a slew of new donors – something animal shelters, or any non-profit, spend much time and effort vying for. Their community is engaged and expectant for opportunities to be involved.

While you should be cautious of potential legal infractions, consider thinking like Wake County SPCA did – what inspires you? What makes you get up each morning and do what you do?


Sad Videos

As it turns out, we really love feeling connected to people, and we especially love a good underdog story. Remember when Budweiser broke our hearts with a commercial featuring a dog and his best friend, who later went out for a night of drinking and never returned home.

At first, we feared the worst – that the dog’s owner suffered a fatal accident, and would never make it home. Cue the cortisol. Moments later we see the man return home to a heartfelt reunion with his dog – oxytocin – who tells his buddy that he drank too much, and stayed at his friend’s house to be safe.

We’re left with a message to drink responsibly, because “your friends are counting on you.” Here is the video to jog your memory:


Scary Videos

You have to consider what other emotions are linked with fear. Anxiety and anticipation in small, thoughtful doses can create a powerful marketing campaign, without sending your audience into hysterics. Remember this Skyfall Coke Zero ad that sent your regular Joe into a high intensity, stress-inducing 70 second mission to get their beverage?

The anticipation built with each obstacle, and by the end of it I felt a swell of relief that each of them were able to successfully complete their mission – to get a Coke. Coca-Cola stressed me out so much that I felt a perceptible change in my disposition when these guys made it all the way through to the end of the challenge. But it was brilliant! I loved the ad, I love James Bond, and I loved how Coke was able to effectively create an alternate reality for the participants that were swept into a world of action and espionage. If only for 70 seconds. It connected me with Coke in a way I would have never expected.

How You Can Apply Emotional Marketing

First, think about what matters to you – why did you start your company? Were you trying to help solve a problem or create new opportunities for someone or a market that may be underserved? Then, think about how can you utilize emotional drivers in a way that will create action within your audience. Is there an underdog story you can share? Did you, or a customer, overcome an obstacle by using one of your products?

Share your motivation and your passion. The story behind your small business and what you do is what people will connect with. Like any of us, your customers are looking for ways to feel connected to the people and experiences around them. Give them an opportunity to share in something that matters to you.

It will help your audience feel linked to your mission, and if it makes them feel good first thing in the morning or after a long day of work, they will share it with their network. The bigger your reach, the more sales, conversions and marketing influence you gain.

Maybe try a social media contest where your social followers have to find certain items (by taking pictures) and be the first to post them to your page, like a virtual scavenger hunt. Is there any way your product has bettered certain aspects of your customers’ lives? Is there any instance where your product helped a customer avoid a negative situation? If you sell car parts and accessories, could any of your merchandise either prevent the likelihood of accidents or increase safety in the event of one?

If you can create an experience of anxiety that your product either solves or makes the experience less profound, you can nail fear-based marketing.

This will likely not be more difficult to achieve than marketing with strong emotions of happiness, but take note from the thousands of brands that spend big bucks to get their products in horror movies – it may require more thought and planning, but when done right, its extremely effective.

Have you inadvertently bought something that was displayed in a horror movie? One brand that’s a regular in horror films is Converse. Might not be what you expected, but they have grown in popularity again since the 2000s. Any other product placements you can recall? Let us know in the comments.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This