Anytime you interact with your audience, they have an emotional response—to your behavior, your message, your brand, or the issue you’ve brought to their attention.
They may experience delight, disgust, surprise, desire, disappointment, joy, or other emotions that shape how they respond to your content and what they associate with your brand.
Good marketers anticipate how their audience will emotionally react to their content. Often, they intentionally frame their message to evoke a particular emotion. They may tap into their audience’s frustrations, affirm their values, or expose the cost of their inaction.
It’s not about manipulation. It’s about empathy. You have to understand your customers and recognize what matters to them. Compelling content doesn’t rely on emotion. But if you want to be persuasive, you need to know how to evoke them in your audience.
Here are four emotions you can bring to your next marketing campaign.
Using emotion is not the same as manipulating people
You might be thinking: this sounds a lot like manipulation. You’re using words in a particular way to create a specific feeling in your audience that influences their behavior.
But manipulative marketing crosses a line that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with emotions. It makes misleading claims, isn’t fair, and disregards what we would consider morally acceptable.
What we’re talking about is finding appropriate ways to evoke emotions, like affirming someone’s values, beliefs, and aspirations. Delving into the depths of their problems and what they lead to if they go unsolved. Pointing to the obstacles that frustrate them over and over.
Think about how testimonials work. A customer explains their situation before and after your product or service. Whether they directly explain how they felt or not, we naturally empathize with their experience as a result of your product or service.
Don’t think of it as a choice between making an intellectual or emotional appeal. Persuasive content evokes feelings as it informs and instructs. Marketing’s goal is to speak to both the head and the heart of potential customers.
Here are four different emotions you can evoke to connect with your audience.
If you can evoke happiness in your audience and lead them to associate that happiness with your brand, that’s a huge win. Emotions like happiness require you to connect your product or service to a larger story and show people how you can contribute to their overall well-being.
Virtually every Hallmark ad is designed to evoke happiness and create these kinds of connections. With short video ads, they tell a story that uses a card (or in some cases just an experience we may associate with a card) as a vehicle for happiness.
The card isn’t usually even the focus of the story. But it plays a role and directly contributes to the end result: happiness.
Video isn’t the only way to invoke feelings like happiness, joy, and awe. Visuals certainly help, but your copy can tell meaningful stories, too. These stories should come from your personas, your customer testimonies, and the real problems you want to help people solve.
Sadness often works in conjunction with happiness. It’s the alley-oop for your happiness slam dunk.
Disappointment or regret can be significant tools that help our audience understand or remember a problem’s significance and impact. It doesn’t even have to be an issue they’re experiencing right now. Just one they have experienced or could experience in a particular set of circumstances.
To wield sadness in your content, you have to understand the problems your product or service solves on a deeper level. What are the real ways people experience them? How do those problems actually affect people? Why are they worth solving? Dig deeper, bring your audience into the depths with you, and then surprise them with a compelling, delightful solution.
Fear is one of the emotions marketers grab for most. Specifically, the fear of missing out.
“Sale ends soon!”
“Hurry, before it’s too late!”
“Limited time only!”
We may not always think of creating a sense of urgency as stimulating fear, but it is. And organizations do it because it’s effective. Urgency can bypass or accelerate someone’s natural process for deciding if they should make a purchase, because suddenly the clock is ticking (sometimes literally).
Some content uses fear by focusing on the consequences of allowing a problem to go unsolved, or an aspiration to go unanswered. What happens if you do nothing about ____? Similar to sadness, this can set up your product or service to be the happy answer. Or you can simply position it as the way to avoid a disastrous outcome.
Fear is also one of the emotions marketers need to be most cautious about wielding. Consumers are pretty attuned to manufactured fear, and it’s easy to cross the line into manipulation if you aren’t thoughtful about how and why you’re using it.
It’s like cilantro. A touch of it adds a unique, powerful flavor to your dish. But a touch too much will overpower everything else and leave a bad taste in your mouth that makes you resent the entire dish.
While it’s not an emotion you want directed at you, anger is a common emotional appeal in content marketing.
Anger isn’t always the right approach to looking at a problem. Whether or not it makes sense to use depends on your industry, brand, and target, but it can be a powerful way to empathize with the people you’re trying to reach.
You should be careful not to manufacture anger, but there may be times where it’s appropriate to at least acknowledge the frustration your audience already feels toward something.
When you think about the people you’re creating content for, what are they frustrated with? Do they feel misunderstood? Helpless? Is something happening to them that’s unfair? Showing that you understand where people are coming from and how they already feel can help you build a loyal following and show people that you’re “on their side.” The key is to find appropriate places to use anger without alienating other segments of your audience.
How does your marketing make people feel?
The things you write and create are already stirring up emotions in your audience. The key is to find ways to align those emotional reactions with your goals and objectives, and to select the emotions that fit the best with your brand, voice, and content.