We’re surrounded by marketing all day, every day. Whether it’s a television advertisement, a poster or simply branded packaging, wherever we look we will find something trying to sell us something else. These adverts of many forms can prompt an array of emotions as we encounter them, from trust, to amusement, to passion. However, recent research suggests that all human emotions can be boiled down to just four key feelings that we all experience throughout our lives – and that these are the emotions that marketers should be attempting to target in order to make their strategies a success.
According to this article by Buffer, the keys emotions in question and their fundamental purposes in marketing are:
Happiness – makes us want to share
Sadness – makes us sympathetic and want to help others
Shock – makes us want something to cling to
Anger – makes us stubborn
The idea is that other emotions that we identify with are simply variations of these key feelings mixed together in what Robert Plutchick called the “wheel of emotions”. So, if there are only four emotions, how does that affect how marketers ought to go about trying to engage with potential customers? Should they simplify their approach and cater to only these emotions?
Not necessarily. Although our emotions may stem from a fundamental set of instinctive impulses, whether it be due to the environmental influences of a complex modern word, social conditioning or simply human intelligence, these emotions combine and evolve into a whole array of feelings, each of which is valid and should be targeted by marketing teams as an avenue for reaping powerful effects in potential customers.
There is one very simple but effective way that marketing and graphic design advertising teams can approach incorporating five key variations of these four ‘root emotions’ into their digital strategy. The web is becoming increasingly compulsive, encouraging instant gratification in users who want to be given a simple and effective experience of stimulus – material – result. With so many companies vying for the attention of potential consumers on the internet, marketers can tap into this quick-turnover approach for instant results.
Fear is one of these core emotions, and is controlled by a part of the brain called the amygdala, which triggers a dramatic, and often physical, response to the emotion. This compulsive response makes us want to take immediate action, which is why so many companies utilise fear in their advertising campaigns. For example, insurance companies often display car crashes – fearful in themselves, with a message such as “don’t get caught out without insurance!”
It works because, when we feel fear, we feel the need for support and someone to share the experience with – you could call it “pack instinct”. This often results to building an attachment with the nearest person or thing that is available, and adverts establish themselves as such that – a source of support. Fear builds brand affinity in an instant.
Competition is a similarly compulsive emotion to fear, and works in a similar way on consumers. Perhaps this emotion harkens back to the ‘survival of the fittest’ instinct, the desire to get ahead of others and prove your worth is hard-wired into everyone, and products offering an easy way of doing so will always stimulate quick responses from consumers.
Catching customers by surprise is a great way to invoke instant responses and really gain their attention. This also works in similar way to fear, subverting a sense of resolution so that the viewer of the advert is left feeling like they need to build an attachment with something to gain this resolve – which is where the brand comes in. Surprise really remains with consumers, prompting sharing and sticking in their mind, continuing this sense of urgency that drives conversions.
Amusement is like happiness’ instant-gratification counterpart. When we see something funny, endorphins are released in the brain, improving our mood, but humour also renders some of the sense of surprise that pushes us to share. Who hasn’t seen something funny on the internet and shared it on a social media platform for their friends to see? We want to show that we appreciate good humour and spread happiness, which is what makes humour so effective in marketing, because the customers do the work for you.
Empowerment is an emotion that is very popular for targeting in the marketing industry at present. This often involves flattering the audience, and instilling in them a sense of self-worth and belonging. Pride and empowerment make us want to share this sense of belonging, creating a somewhat defensive, passionate response that inspires sharing. We want to stand up for ourselves – whether it be as proud to be a woman, as was the effect of the recent ‘Like a Girl’ campaign by Always, or as part of a nation, which is something we often see advertisers engage with around international sporting events. We all want to be a part of our group, whilst also determining our place within it, and providing a sense of this communal and individual pride as attached to a brand is incredibly effective in marketing.
Although four emotions may arguably be at the core of why we respond to advertising in certain ways, it is important for marketers to cater for a whole range of emotions that human beings feel. Creating content that will stimulate powerful responses, both positive and negative, is the key to navigating the fast-paced web where content is constantly being refreshed and replaced. Create something that will provoke immediate responses and your campaign will stand out and get results.
To find out how our marketing and design experts can create brilliant content and eye-catching design that targets all of the right emotions to make your campaign a success and business grow, please feel free to contact us today on 01392 914033.