Advertising executive Don Draper from the iconic TV series “Mad Men” taught me this about marketing: “Every great ad tells a story.”

Draper knew the best way to sell was to make the audience feel something. Stories weave characters, conflicts, memories, narratives, and feelings together to powerful effect. In other words, Draper believed in emotion-based marketing.

Rodney Warner

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Emotional Marketing

Listen to Rodney talk about the importance appealing to human emotion.

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The truth is that customers want more than just features and specs. They want an experience, a connection that hits them in the heart. Whether you’re selling a product, service, or concept, successful marketing connects with the audience on an emotional level.

This is where emotion-based marketing techniques enter the chat. At just about every stage in the buyer’s journey, carefully crafted emotional marketing strategies can help you attract, retain, and satisfy customers.

What Is Emotion-Based Marketing?

Emotion-driven advertising focuses not on what a product does but on what it means.

Sure, maybe some people purchase Chanel bags for the high-quality materials and meticulous attention to detail. More often, they purchase for the way Chanel makes them feel: exclusive, expensive, luxurious, and refined.

This is no accident. Emotional marketing evokes specific feelings and fosters a deeper sense of connection with a brand. Or, as Draper put it, advertising creates “a sentimental bond with the product.”

In one episode, Draper must develop an ad for Kodak’s new Carousel slide projector. While he could have focused on the technology of the device or even the primal connection with the original wheel (as the client wished), he has taken a different tack.

Draper ends up marketing with empathy rather than specs. He fills the ad with nostalgic slides of himself and his young family, suggesting that the Kodak Carousel is “not a spaceship; it’s a time machine.”

He adds that the Carousel lets us travel “the way a child travels — round and round and back home again, to a place where we are loved.” Even the toughest executives are shedding tears at the end of the presentation.

Why Does Emotional Marketing Work?


Emotional marketing works for one main reason: People often rely on feelings rather than facts to make decisions. Study after study shows that emotions play a bigger role in decision making than rational analysis.

What does that mean for marketing? The feeling the ad creates is more important than the content the ad contains.

According to Psychology Today, brain scans show that consumers primarily use feelings rather than information to evaluate brands. Why else would people choose brand-name products when they know that generic versions have the same ingredients for cheaper prices?

Specifically, emotion-based marketing works because it does the following:

Makes a Strong Impression

Just like people, brands attract (or repel) us for reasons we can’t always articulate and that aren’t always rational. Maybe we like the way they look, the way they act, the stories they tell, or the way they make us feel when we interact with them.

Emotional marketing can craft and control the “personality” of a brand. Using color, design, imagery, and narratives, marketing creates a first impression in seconds. With people and brands alike, a strong first impression can carry a relationship forward or stop it in its tracks.

Sticks in People’s Minds

Strong first impressions are also memorable because the person or brand stands out in your mind. Truly unique personalities distinguish themselves from others, while those that blend in fade away in our memories.

In addition, emotional content helps customers connect the brand to personal experiences. Creating emotional connections helps the brand find a home in the audience’s mind.

Think about the ads you remember best — whether from last night or years gone by. You probably don’t remember specific stats, specs, or even words but rather an overall impression of ads that were funny, sad, or just plain strange.

To again quote Draper in the Kodak episode, an ad that uses emotion creates “a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone.”

Makes Persuasion Easier

Of course, it’s not always enough to make people remember or feel good about you. Successful marketing also requires them to make decisions (like purchasing from your brand). The good news is that emotions make it easier for people to decide.

People need emotions to make choices. Scientific studies have shown that people who can’t access their emotions (because of a specific kind of brain damage) cannot make decisions — even if they rationally understand information about the options.

That means emotional marketing makes it easier for you to steer audiences to your desired outcome. Once you’ve used psychological marketing tactics to create a bond, your audience will be more open to suggestions and better prepared to make decisions.

Inspires People To Act

Finally, emotional branding techniques inspire people to act. Whether you elicit happiness or sadness, surprise or fear, you can use feelings to motivate behaviors.

For example, if an ad prompts feelings of anger or sympathy, your audience may be more willing to donate to your cause. If your ad evokes fun and excitement, customers may want to get in on that feeling. As fear causes people to become more cautious, it may inspire them to stick with their current brand or purchase items that provide protection.

What Does Emotion-Based Marketing Accomplish?


It should be clear by now how leveraging the power of emotions can help you reach your marketing goals. Specifically, emotion-based marketing does the following:

Drives Sales

Even the best product may struggle to sell if its marketing doesn’t connect with its audience. As emotions trigger action, emotional marketing inspires customers to make purchases.

Positive and negative emotions like excitement, happiness, insecurity, and even FOMO (fear of missing out) can produce a sense of urgency and encourage people to buy.

Creates Brand Loyalty

Emotional marketing creates a deeper bond between customers and their favorite brands. This bond comes with a sense of shared attributes, values, and purpose.

Traditional “logical” loyalty tactics like punch cards and club discounts still have a place in modern marketing. However, emotional loyalty tactics can go even further, creating brand superfans who are loyal without a specific reason.

Studies suggest that positive feelings for a brand are more important to consumer loyalty than judgment or trust.

Encourages Sharing

Strong emotions encourage people to share with their friends, family, and acquaintances. This can translate into valuable brand awareness and word-of-mouth marketing for your company.

While it sometimes seems the opposite, studies indicate that good news and positive content spread faster on social media than other stories. That said, even negative strong emotions like anger and anxiety can go viral as people’s passion leads them to share with their social groups.

Emotional Marketing Strategies

When you’re ready to try out (or fine-tune) emotion-based marketing techniques, keep the following guidelines in mind:

  • Know your customers: If you don’t understand what drives your customers, you can’t know which emotions they will best respond to. Are they motivated by freedom, belonging, compassion, or individuality?
  • Communicate your narrative: Share who you are, what that means to the consumer, and why your customers should care.
  • Tell a story: The best ads transport us elsewhere, if only for a moment. Whether they evoke nostalgia from our past or heady aspirations for our future, stories are compelling, relatable, understandable, and shareable.
  • Use powerful images: Videos, photos, and other visual imagery can capture a mood, elicit an emotion, and connect with the audience instantly.
  • Don’t forget color: From your website color scheme to your new print ad, certain colors trigger certain emotions. While you can play with color a bit, remember that there are some underlying psychological associations. Red, for example, is often correlated with danger, love, and power. Green symbolizes growth, harmony, and nature.
  • Hone your tone: Emotional marketing walks a fine line. You want to elicit emotions without toying with them or overtly manipulating them. Striking the right balance can have a major impact on how your message lands.
  • Personalize communications: Today’s customers are used to personalized content. Companies that anticipate and meet customer needs strengthen the relationship. Generic messages, on the other hand, may fall flat, creating a sense of frustration and distance.
  • Test your message: Emotional marketing may be all about feelings, but you must still analyze the results. See which message resonates with your audience and use the feedback to improve your approach.

Final Thoughts on Emotion-Based Marketing

You may have spent months or years fine-tuning your product or service. Unfortunately, your customers don’t really care. OK, that’s a bit extreme, but the point remains the same: Emotions often matter more.

Emotional marketing grabs people’s attention and brings them into your universe. They may then admire the quality, ingenuity, and other attributes of your product. But features and specs probably didn’t get them there. Feelings did.

As a business owner or marketing manager, taking time to know your audience, understand customer emotions, and hone your storytelling skills will produce rewards in the present and the future.

Rodney Warner

Founder & CEO

As the Founder and CEO, he is the driving force behind the company’s vision, spearheading all sales and overseeing the marketing direction. His role encompasses generating big ideas, managing key accounts, and leading a dedicated team. His journey from a small town in Upstate New York to establishing a successful 7-figure marketing agency exemplifies his commitment to growth and excellence.

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