The importance of emotions in marketing

We talk a lot about emotions – if you’re one of our clients, then it’s likely you’re tired of hearing about the importance of emotional segmentation and understanding the emotional motivators behind a buying decision.

But there is no better way to create an effective and engaging campaign than to be aware of, and enable your audience to experience a certain type of emotion.
But not all emotions encourage purchasing.
A few weeks ago, we were approached by an organisation which had created an incredible, highly emotional video series. They were being shared on YouTube, and while they weren’t technically viral, the business’s marketing director was ecstatic with the metrics. All, except one.
Nobody was purchasing.
The purpose of the video was fairly clear – and a compelling call to action was present all the way through, culminating in a clear reason to purchase in the final few seconds. The videography itself was extraordinary, and most people were so engaged by the narrative that they would watch the first clip in the series in its entirety, and then immediately move on to the final two. So why weren’t people buying? This was the question put to us.
We met in the client’s boardroom, and the movie was screened again. The marketing team had become detached – and reasonably so – having seen the clip many times before. So, we put on another ad which shared an emotional thread with the client’s movies but was new to most of the people in the room.

Then, we asked how everyone was feeling. Some were still wiping tears away from their eyes and even those who had seen it before, were clearly moved. We all agreed that it was a brilliant video – a narrative that made all of us relate to the story itself, rather than forcing characters down our throat.
The consensus was, that if the emotion experience by the audience had to be described, most people would call it ‘sad.’ The terminology was different from person-to-person – emotionally moved, pained, reflective, but once we boiled it down to the core emotion, it was sadness.
Then, Kimberley Knight, our General Manager, asked if we could have a quick break and as we stood around chatting for 20 minutes, she asked certain attendees if they would be interested in making a small donation to a charity which was doing ‘a lot of good.’ In return, they would receive a voucher far in excess of their donation to any store they wished. She was careful to do this out of other people’s earshot to avoid impure motivations, and if anyone said yes, she said she would catch up with them later to collect their money.
As we took our seats, Kimberley made clear our experiment. She had asked for a buying decision while people were still in a state of sadness. The result? Seven people were asked, one person offering a half-hearted acceptance. Hardly a conclusive scientific experiment, but certainly telling. Everyone said they were comfortable with how they were approached, but they just didn’t feel like buying – one said she wanted some ‘space’ after watching the movie.
We explained to the team that certain emotions create natural action, and others encourage inertia. Sadness will slow our movements and naturally stop us from doing anything – including purchasing.
Do you remember a time when you were sad? Perhaps you experienced a relationship ending, or a loved one passing away. It’s likely that you were far from inspired to take any significant action, preferring to be alone, spend time with loved ones, or watch TV. There is a reason that the cliche of rocky road ice cream on the couch after a breakup is a cliche – it’s a natural occurrence.
But don’t think that this is a negative/positive emotion criteria, far from it. Just as sadness will create inertia, anger and frustration will drive you to action – be that replying impulsively to an insult, or joining a mailing list when filled with political frustration. Those who are experiencing fury, are hard to hold back.
Likewise, contentment will stop you from doing anything at all – because, why would you? Everything is fine. When people are content, they wish for things to remain the same and are unlikely to do anything that could change their existing situation.
For our client, the reason for high sharing, low sales was suddenly very apparent – this was a superb video that was a poor sales tool, because it evoked sadness in the audience – an emotion which stopped people from buying, rather than encouraged it.
The lesson is to be aware of the impact you have, both in advertising and in person, on those you wish to encourage to take some form of action. For us, it’s about creating an emotional connection that inspires clicks, purchases, and likes. For you, perhaps it’s about encouraging your staff, or getting your teenager to take out the rubbish, or keeping your clients in the right frame of mind during a difficult meeting.
The hunch you had was right – making people feel sad, will only slow them down.