How to Use the Four Core Emotions in Your Marketing

By eleventy marketing group

Use the four core emotions in your marketingAs human beings, we are driven by emotion. Even when we aim to be objective, there are internal feelings bubbling below the surface, influencing what we do. It’s undeniable. Emotions affect us. Impact us. Inspire us.

Emotions also lead to actions. Which is why they play a key role in marketing. How you connect with people on an emotional level can influence how they view your brand, how much they value your product or service, and how they see your mission fitting into their lives.

In today’s post, we’ll look at ways you can use four key emotions to create stronger connections with your audience. We’ll also provide some examples of these emotional marketing tactics at work.

Defining the Four Biologically Based Emotions

A recent article in The Atlantic reported on research from the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of Glasgow. That research revealed the range of human emotions was a bit more limited than initially thought.

Where science once recognized six distinct human emotions (happiness, sadness, anger, disgust, fear, surprise), this research concluded there were actually only four. When studying facial signals, they found anger/disgust and fear/surprise shared the same traits.

So they hypothesized the four biologically based emotions to be: Happy, Sad, Angry, Afraid. In our discussion here, we’ll focus on these four as well.

Using the Four Core Emotions for More Effective Marketing

As mentioned above, emotions trigger actions. So by connecting your product, service or mission with an emotion, your message will become more meaningful and memorable.

Here are some tips on how to tap the four core emotions in your marketing and examples of how others have done it:

1. HAPPY – Connect your product with a feeling of joy

Happiness is an emotion we crave. People like to feel good. And they want things in their lives that make them feel good. In marketing, promising a sense of joy can be a powerful selling point.

Show people how what you do is impacting the world in a positive way. Make them feel good about it. You can do this in a number of ways: You can make people laugh. You can make them cry tears of joy. Or you can connect your brand to the things that bring them joy in their lives.

Example: Apple is a pro at injecting much-needed emotion into their technology marketing. This commercial from 2013 is a great example. It stirs a strong emotion of joy, reflects the importance of family in our lives, and ties Apple technology (the product) to that emotional experience.

2. SAD – Show people how upsetting the problem is

Sadness is a feeling we generally want to escape. In marketing, stirring a feeling of sadness can compel people to act. In many cases, this means showing the problem. How sad it is. How hard it is. And then providing the solution—the way to move from sadness to happiness.

Example: Who could ever forget this ASPCA commercial featuring Sarah McLachlan from 2007? The ad features heartbreaking images of dogs and cats to McLachlan’s emotional song “Angel”. Even McLachlin admitted she has a tough time watching it.

Before you start wondering why anyone would ever want to create marketing based on sadness, take a look at the results: In 2008, the New York Times reported the ad was the ASPCA’s most successful fundraising effort—raising an estimated $30 million (and more since then).

3. ANGRY – Remind people what frustrates them

This is a tricky one since anger is a volatile emotion. It can overtake us and yet sometimes we gravitate to it. In marketing, you have to be careful not to push the anger in your direction.

Typically, brands will conjure the emotion of anger to remind people of the frustrations in their lives. The things that drive them nuts. And then offer an alternative. This is often done in a funny way to remind people of their anger while also tempering it.

Example: Many companies will stir the emotion of anger and direct it toward their competitors. A good example is this recent commercial from Dollar Shave Club, which illustrates the frustration people feel when buying razors in a comical way. Then it provides a solution.

4. AFRAID – Illustrate the imminent danger people face

Fear has long been used and debated as a marketing tactic. Many question the ethics of stirring fear in people to sell a product or service. And that’s definitely a valid conversation.

But fear can be an effective motivator since it’s an emotion we’re biologically compelled to move away from. Our bodies and minds tell us we need to take action. In marketing, this means painting a vivid picture of the threat and then providing the course of action to alleviate it.

Example: We’ve seen a lot of fear-based marketing in public service announcements. One of the best examples is anti-smoking ads (like the one below from the Centers for Disease Control). These ads aim to compel people not to smoke (or quit smoking) by showing the end result.

What Emotion Does Your Marketing Story Trigger?

An emotional connection is a stronger connection. By wrapping your message in emotion, you can increase the likelihood it will be received by people and the depth it will reach.

When you’re putting together a marketing piece—be it video, direct mail, website, etc.—think about the emotion you want to tap and the response you hope to elicit. Give your marketing an emotional core. Tell a story that makes people feel and provides a compelling next step.

Have a good example of emotional marketing? Share it with us by commenting below.