‘Sales’ come in many different shapes and sizes. One tried and trusted method is selling emotions.

We take a look at the technique and explain what it is and how you can apply it to your marketing plans.

What selling emotions means

It’s a personalised way of tuning into targeted customer demographics in order to provide them with a feeling attached to a product or service.

Advertisers and marketers use it all the time.

For example, the chocolate bar, KitKat. Although a chocolate bar, similar to dozens of competitors, KitKat sells ‘a break’, or the emotion of relaxing for a few moments.

Alcoholic beverages are more examples. Typically, they sell the emotion of winding down at the end of the day or socialising with friends (relaxing and happiness).

Nike is yet another example as without even thinking too hard, you’ll know it sells ‘victory and success’ and the feeling of achievement.

If you’re familiar with Youi Insurance’s ads, it’s clear they’re selling peace of mind.

Personalisation is extremely important in today’s market and selling emotions backs up the practice. 

The science behind selling emotions

If big brands are spending big bucks on emotion-based advertising, there must be some evidence that shows it works.

There is.

A survey from the University of Southern California found that 31% of emotional content performed well based on viewer reactions compared to 16% of rational content.

That means, under their study conditions, emotional advertising was 93.75% more effective than simply showing and explaining what a product is.

The survey also found that emotional responses to ads had far a greater influence on a consumer’s intent to buy compared to the actual content of the ad. In other words, consumers took the emotions away more so than the product information itself in the ads.

Even the subtle tweak of changing a call to action (CTA) button from light green to yellow increased conversion rates by 14.5%. Yellow is associated with optimism, motivation and cheerfulness.

In another major study, titled ‘Marketing in the Era of Accountability’, undertaken by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), findings showed that emotional campaigns are the most effective.

Based on 880 case studies, the IPA concluded that emotional campaigns outperform rational campaigns in terms of increasing penetration, sales and market share in the long term.

A study from Motista showed that emotional attachments can create loyal customers. It found that customers with an emotional relationship to a brand have a 306% higher lifetime value and will likely recommend the company at a rate of 71%.

More benefits

Creating emotions in advertising has two key benefits, in addition to the statistics above.

The first is that emotions generate longevity through engagement. Customers (and potential customers) are more likely to engage with feelings, whether that be on social media or a mental connection.

Longevity translates to people being far more likely to remember the product and brand after emotionally connecting.

The second is that when emotions are transferred to the brand, it lifts perceptions and empathy with the brand and its products.

For example, consumers begin to see companies as groups of people rather than faceless corporations looking to make money. It helps win over difficult customers and sway those who might be on the fence.

Master of the ‘warm welcome’ emotion, Airbnb, launched a ‘community commitment’ back in 2016 which aimed to fight discrimination.

It asked all users worldwide to agree to the following:

“treat everyone in the Airbnb community—regardless of their race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or age—with respect, and without judgment or bias.”

Failure to commit meant users would not be able to host OR book using Airbnb.

Essentially, they risked losing a large number of customers who might not agree with the terms and go to competitors.

The result, however, was the company strengthening its values of cultural tolerance while establishing itself as an empathetic brand.

In 2016, Airbnb’s valuation came to around US$30bn, that figure today stands at US$130bn.

Effective emotions

Most marketing campaigns have one or two main emotions attached. These typically match, such as a warm home and happy family, the two emotions being warmth and happiness.

Determination and achievement are another example, think sportswear.

Creativity and prestige are yet another pair of emotions. An example of this pair is Apple’s advertising. The brand is well known for high end appeal and presentation, but also creative style. iPad and Macbook advertising imagery are prime examples as they often show users creating colourful work.

A quick look online shows the images below:

iphone13 pro

mb air

It’s easy to get the impression of the ‘prestigious’ iPhone 13 Pro and ‘creativity’ that a Macbook Air offers. Also note the expressions of the people on the Macbook’s screen.

Other common emotions in advertising with examples

Emotion Example
Power Toyota showing its HiLux punching through mud and construction sites
Hope Commonwealth Bank’s ‘Can lives here’ campaign
Passion Red Bull showing people pursuing and mastering extreme sports
Intrigue Pokemon “Gotta catch ’em all!”
Reassurance Dettol ‘Kills 99.9% of germs’
Security Google Nest Cam ads showing home security video (albeit with happy kids and dogs, not criminals)
Freedom Isuzu’s ‘Go your own way’ ads
Humour Sportsbet’s ‘bet with mates’ ads

Emotions to avoid

Some emotions are best left to the movies and the media. It’s always good practice to avoid any emotions that people generally don’t like, for example:

  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Uncertainty
  • Controversy (e.g. politics and COVID / vaccinations)
  • Loneliness

Instead, look for positive emotions.

Apply emotions in your marketing campaigns

It’s extremely difficult to connect with your target customers without actually knowing who they are.

The first step is to review your databases and clientele to determine what they generally aspire to purchase and any typical pain points they may have. Knowing their lifestyles and interests also helps.

For example, commercial clients looking for leisure vehicles who struggle to arrange finance due to documentation.

Another example might be clients who have recently purchased their first family home and may need a vehicle upgrade for a growing family with only one source of full-time income.

Tell a story
This means giving honest and accurate examples and stories about previous clients you’ve helped. Giving explanations on how this can be achieved is also a good idea.

Social media or on your website is a great place to start.

Get creative
Correct imagery is crucial. LinkedIn posts that include an image typically result in a 2x higher comment rate than those without. Facebook and Twitter follow similar engagement trends.

Make sure your images are relevant and use the most effective fonts

As discussed in The Importance of Branding in Business, colour choices are also crucial in portraying the right emotion.

Canva is a great (free) place to start designing your images and text overlays. Note that Canva also has social media templates.

If your creative flair doesn’t shine very brightly, it may be worth sourcing a professional to help. You can get ideas on prices, designers and their work experience on Upwork.

Be careful
Make sure that emotions and colours tie in with your brand. Adding too many or diverting from your core business values can confuse people.

For example, you wouldn’t see Mercedes-Benz releasing discount ‘slashed’ prices like Cheap as Chips.

It’s always good to get a few opinions from friends and colleagues.

Get started

After taking the above into consideration and reviewing your financial products and target customer demographic, some ideas will likely start coming out of the woodwork.

Social media posts are a great way to get started, with feedback to come from likes and comments.

For further information on applying emotions in marketing, reach out to the Nodifi marketing team – [email protected]

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