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Emotional advertising: how and why brands use it to drive sales

By Tom Welbourne | Founder/director

The Good Marketer

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February 14, 2022 | 7 min read

When was the last time you purchased something that you didn’t need but at the time felt like buying? Probably more recently than you think. Tom Welbourne, founder and director at The Good Marketer, looks at the role that emotions can play in marketing.

We like to think that every purchasing decision made is based on logic with rational clear reasoning, but this isn’t always the case. Many purchasing decisions are influenced by the feelings and emotions we’re experiencing at the time.

Purchase decisions driven by emotion can be spontaneous. Other times, they can revolve around a strong desire for a particular product or powerful feeling toward the brand or individual selling the specific product.

The Good Marketer explains what emotional marketing is and how to get good at it.

The Good Marketer explains what emotional marketing is and how to get good at it

The process of a brand trying to elicit emotions in advertising is known as emotional advertising, and it can be used to help brands drive sales.

Why use emotional advertising?

An experienced digital marketing agency will tell you that marketing toward specific emotions can drive higher conversion rates than other campaigns.

By tapping into core emotions, feelings or psychologies that drive your in-market audiences, you can harness the power of desire to feel moved, compelled or connected to others through the stories told in ads.

Think of the best Christmas adverts you’ve ever seen – chances are, if you live in the UK, it’s the John Lewis ads. They’re simple, powerful stories that have traditionally transformed the seasonal advertising scene... for a department store.

What is emotional advertising?

Emotional advertising refers to the relationship between a customer and a brand or a product, particularly the emotional connection that appeals to the customer’s emotional state, ego, needs, fears and aspirations through content.

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According to research, it can take less than three seconds for us to have a gut reaction to something, which leaves us with lasting impressions and a predisposition to taking a similar course of action in future.

Marketers can capitalize on this in their advertising. Emotional advertising can be used to elicit an emotional response such as happiness, fear or anger in a consumer, which means the ad has a good chance of being remembered.

Used effectively, emotional advertising can lead to more social shares and product purchases. It can also inspire customer loyalty as emotions build trust between a brand and its customers.

Nike’s campaigns are a great example of this, with its ‘Just Do It’ slogan generally appearing after featuring athletes who have gone through hardship and sacrifice to get to the top of their chosen sport.

What emotions are used in advertising?

The most commonly-used emotion present in advertising is happiness. Positive advertisements are more likely to be shared than negative ones, due to people’s desire to share content that makes them feel positive.

Compare The Meerkat’s campaigns from price comparison company Compare The Market is an excellent example of happiness-inducing marketing. Its fictional mascot is one of the UK’s most-loved characters, and a successful converter for the brand – within two years of rolling out the meerkat, Compare The Market became the UK’s fourth most-visited insurance website.

Fear can be used in advertising to deter people from doing something, such as drug use, smoking or drink driving, and is often rolled out in advertising for government, charity and non-profit initiatives.

Ways to use emotional marketing in your advertising

Build trust with user-generated content

A great way to build trust with customers is by focusing on producing user-generated content (UGC), because we inherently trust other people talking about a product over the brand.

Research suggests that ads based on UGC have a four times higher click-through rate (CTR) and a 50% drop in cost-per-click (CPC) than average ads.

UGC can come in all forms: testimonials, reviews and case studies, or by encouraging customers to submit content shared on social media.

Brands often encourage customers to review their products by sharing a picture or video of them using one of their products. They then share the UGC and offer partaking followers a discount or prize for any content released.

Another effective strategy used by brands is product giveaways that encourage audiences to like and share a picture of a product up for grabs. This approach works well at increasing a brand’s follower count, getting more eyes on the content and building trust with the audience.

Implement scarcity and urgency into your offers

Instilling a sense of urgency or ‘FOMO’ can be great for sales. Offering limited-time discounts on specific products or a certain amount of a product at a reduced price also works.

Urgency tactics provide customers with the perception that there’s a limited supply of goods or that time is running out, which compels them to take action.

Scarcity tactics mean customers are motivated to buy products because they see others buying them and don’t want to feel left out. If others have validated a product, the customer who makes a purchase feels like they are making a great buy.

Wrapping it up

Using emotion in advertising can increase brand awareness and customer loyalty.

However, to do it effectively, a deep understanding of your audience and their fears, desires, needs and pain points that inspire them to take action is required.

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