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Making Readers Feel: Using Emotion to Promote Your Content and Brand

Few marketers would disagree that emotion drives response. Yet pulling off a successful emotionally engaging campaign, especially for smaller brands with less name recognition, is easier said than done. Emotional campaigns can be risky; audience reaction tends to be unpredictable, and campaigns gone wrong can cause real damage to brands. But, if attempted successfully, the payoff can be great.

Content marketers regularly cite catering to the four basic human emotions, identified by researchers at the University of Glasgow (2014) as happiness, sadness, anger/disgust, and fear/surprise. Some emotional campaigns can masterfully trigger a range of these and the “in-between” emotions–think Extra’s wildly successful happy/sad commercial “The Story of Sarah & Juan”–but picking one is ideal to begin with.

Emotional marketing is no longer just for big corporations with Super Bowl commercial slots; with the help of social media, smaller companies are increasingly tapping into the emotional side of the consumer experience to bring viral attention to their brands.

For those who need proof beyond common sense, Roger Dooley (@rogerdooley) of Neuromarketing points to this promising IPA dataBANK analysis: in a sample set of case studies, campaigns with purely emotional content were scored 31% profitability, while purely rational campaigns were at 16% and combined rational and emotional campaigns at 26%. Because products tend to take a backseat in emotional campaigns, Dooley recommends a combined approach for smaller companies to avoid confusion about the brand. In general, however, the data suggests that more is better when it comes to emotion.

So, is the call for an emotional campaign a call for extremes?

One line of thought says that the emotion itself doesn’t matter so much as its intensity. The point of using emotion is to motivate people to action–be that donating to a cause (sadness), starting a protest (anger), or simply, buying your stuff. If you are invoking sadness, you want to bring viewers to tears; happy campaigns should have viewers laughing out loud, and so forth.

Citing a study on viral articles from the Journal of Marketing Research, Amber Kemmis (@AmberKemmis) of SmartBug Media suggests that “your content should create a high intensity of emotion that can be positive or negative.” An important distinction to make is between what’s viral and what sells and, ultimately is good for the company. Despite there being some credence in the old “no publicity is bad publicity” idiom, marketers need to be thoughtful about the company image that they are crafting.

Ben Collins of the Daily Beast offers an interesting perspective on the role of advertising in creating more anger or disgust-inducing content. He points to the omnipotence of the click in internet metrics for the Internet…getting objectively deliberately confrontational and subjectively worse.  Calling for more quality control in Internet content to battle the prominence of “hate-reading,” he fairly points out, “Brands want to be associated with beloved things, not hated things. Happy people buy stuff.”

Does that mean that negative emotions are inherently damaging to brand associations? No, but it does mean that content should be sincere in the emotional experience which it attempts to convey. Ads which make people angry can be very effective–as long as they are angry with, and not at, the company itself.

Content provide the opportunity to introduce users to the human side of your band.

Consumers are people who use your product or service to solve problems, to bring joy to someone, or just to make life a little easier. Viewing consumers as people with goals first puts the company in the position to help achieve those goals. Emotional campaigns connect your brand to deeper meanings and human experiences. A ring is not just a ring. A stick of gum that brings two people together is no longer just a stick of gum.

Rational consumers don’t need as much as emotional consumers. How many of the things that you buy do you truly need? Ask people to think with the rational sides of the brains and they just must reason themselves out of your sale, solid facts and statistics withstanding. Ask people to be part of a lifestyle which your brand has made possible, and suddenly the sale is a small price to pay.

Kemmis makes a good point about the importance of understanding buyer profiles. Like other kinds of marketing, emotional campaigns begin with an understanding of the consumer experience. What emotions drive your consumers to your brand?

Starting with your target audience in mind, think about what you want your brand to associate with and work from there. It may be about activism, or getting people back on their feet, or a moment of happiness in the middle of a long a work day. Emotional campaigns are less about the product and more about the story. The story may not be about selling, at first. It may be about entertaining or making people think. It’s a subtle, but ultimately enduring approach in that the product tells its own story.

About The Author

Natalya Bucuy

Natalya Bucuy is a content marketer at LiveHelpNow. With expertise in customer service and marketing, she has written nu...

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