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Marketing

An Introduction to Emotional Marketing

Meika Birch-Davis

Have you ever found yourself tearing up (or sobbing uncontrollably) at a commercial? That’s emotional marketing at work.

From the “Friends Furever” Android ad that went viral in 2015 to the WWF #JustLikeUs save the elephants advert, we’ve all seen an ad that made us feel something. Maybe we even shared these ads with friends, or made a purchase because of them.

Consumer behavior is heavily influenced by emotion, and people are much more likely to remember — and talk about — a brand that has elicited an emotional reaction. When comparing strictly rational content with strictly emotional content in successful advertising campaigns, emotional content performs about twice as well.

Emotional marketing is a popular discussion topic among B2C brands, but it turns out that it’s even more effective in a B2B context. A collaborative study by Google and CEB's Marketing Leadership Council found that “on average, B2B customers are significantly more emotionally connected to their vendors and service providers than consumers.”

Whether you’re B2C or B2B, emotional marketing works. In this blog post, we’ll tell you how and why.

The power of first impressions

In his book Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) Marketing, Douglas Van Praet explains that the ideal marketing message will balance emotional information with rational information, coaxing the consumer into making a purchasing decision:

“Marketing messages that are most effective strike at our feelings … This does not mean that emotions decide for us, but often weigh in early and heavily into our decisions.”

Harvard Business Review identified several “high-impact emotional motivators” that affect consumer behavior, including desire to feel a sense of belonging and desire to succeed. By tapping into these emotional motivators, brands make a more meaningful impact than they could with only rational motivators.

When you initially encounter a brand, your emotional response kicks in first. Does the brand’s message align with your values? Does it make you feel joyful, entertained, inspired, nostalgic, sad, disgusted, something else, or nothing at all? 

After you experience this emotional reaction, more rational factors (e.g. price, product features) come into play, and you make a decision based on both data sets.

Lookin’ good

Particularly in the digital marketing realm, visuals matter. Is our logo good enough? Is this the right font for our website? What colors are most attractive? These are important questions to ask, because visuals are fundamental to establishing brand recognition and recall. 

The human brain processes images much more quickly than text, and makes subconscious judgments based on shapes and colors. These judgments aren’t rational, and are the result of our social, cultural, and personal experiences — they’re emotional reactions.

Color in particular has a dramatic effect on consumers, and can make or break the success of a website or ad. For example, a HubSpot experiment revealed that changing the color of a CTA button from green to red (without changing anything else about the page) increased conversion rates.

Colors evoke powerful feelings and subconscious associations with specific memories and brands. That’s why visual appeal works as an emotional marketing tactic.

Coming back for more

Emotional marketing doesn’t stop at the initial impression — it also shapes brand loyalty and purchasing decisions down the line. Especially if it goes viral, emotional content has the potential to capture new leads and re-engage consumers who haven’t made a recent purchase by keeping the brand top-of-mind.

People like to feel as though they have a personal relationship with their favorite brands, and it’s this relationship that keeps customers coming back, making purchases, and evangelizing. A 2019 Deloitte study found that when asked to describe connections to their favorite brands, 60% of long-term customers use emotional language.

Think about how brand ambassadors discuss their favorite brands. They might include descriptions of price and efficiency, but the most impactful glowing reviews are more likely to center emotional experiences, like friendly customer service or personalization.

The proof is in the science: From first impressions to brand loyalty, emotions have a huge impact on consumer behavior in both the B2C and B2B contexts. Done right, emotional marketing can be a solid component of any campaign.


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