More than a Feeling: Message Matters

Message matters. That’s no big surprise. But “They will never forget how you made them feel” may be truer than anyone realized when it comes to marketing.

Turns out, purely emotional marketing outperforms purely rational marketing by nearly double.

Yesterday I was hard at work re-painting my home office. When Pandora decided to play Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” (all you animal-lovers will understand) I had an immediate response. My emotional trigger was pulled. Within three seconds my thoughts went from “This color paint color is gorgeous!” to “Save the puppies! Help the kitties!” As I started reflecting on the types of things I have passed along and shared with friends over the past couple years, I realized nearly all were strongly emotional. (Last Christmas a Dyson vacuum drew tears!)

So what makes emotional marketing so effective? In this article, Susan Gunelius takes a closer look at 10 common emotional triggers…

  1. Fear: Fear is an emotion that can be used in a wide variety of marketing messages. Insurance companies often appeal to the emotion of fear with messages like “Don’t get caught with too little insurance.”
  2. Guilt: Consumers are easily affected by messages that trigger emotions of guilt. Nonprofit organizations use the guilt trigger effectively in copy such as “Don’t let them suffer anymore.”
  3. Trust: Trust is one of the hottest trends in marketing, and every company seems to be trying to jump on the trust bandwagon in their marketing messages. Financial companies are leading the way with messages like “no hidden fees.”
  4. Value: Value is another hot trend in marketing, and many promotions appeal directly to the emotional trigger of getting a good deal. For example, promotional messages that say “If you find a better price for the same product, we’ll match it” are effective in piquing feelings related to value.
  5. Belonging: Few people truly want to be alone. Human nature dictates that most people want to feel like they belong to a group, and customers often purchase products in an attempt to feel part of a specific group. Many companies effectively appeal to consumers’ desires to belong, using copy like “You’re part of the family.”
  6. Competition: The old adage of keeping up with the Joneses is an adage for a reason. Many consumers are affected by a competitive desire to feel equal to or better than their peers. Copy like “Make them drool” is a great example of a message that elicits feelings of competition.
  7. Instant Gratification: We live in a world where people expect instant gratification in all aspects of their lives. Messages that cater to a sense of urgency are well-received by consumers who already desire instant gratification. Use words like now, today, in one hour or less, within 24 hours, and so on to appeal to the emotional trigger of instant gratification.
  8. Leadership: A lot of consumers want to lead the way in trying new products, and this audience responds strongly to marketing messages that appeal to their feelings related to leadership. Messages that make them feel like they’re first or in control are powerful for this audience. Phrases such as “Be the first on your block” effectively appeal to the emotional trigger of leadership.
  9. Trend-setting: Many consumers want to feel cool or trendy, so appealing to those emotions in copywriting is fairly standard. Variations of “all the cool kids are doing it” are commonplace in copywriting and can be used to market a wide variety of products and services to an even wider audience. The famous Gatorade ad featuring Michael Jordan and the copy “Be like Mike” is a perfect example.
  10. Time: In the 21st century, people are busier than ever. As such, they desire more free time to pursue personal interests, spend time with family and friends, and so on. Marketing messages that appeal to that desire for more free time are extremely effective, such as “Cut the time it takes to vacuum your house in half.”

And now for the fun part. I have compiled a mini-list of links to handful of commercials, companies, organizations and people doing emotional well. Their message is sticky. Pass-onable. It gets people feeling, which gets people talking – and doing.

The heart is the first feature of working minds. | Frank Lloyd Wright

YOUR TURN TO CHIME IN: Who do you think does emotional well? What (or should I say who) is tugging at your heart strings?

  • hanelly

    I can’t help but be overwhelmed with emotion every time I see this ad from Visa (The Dan Jansen commercial). It’s a story told well and it’s as painful as it is inspiring. I’m getting the chills even typing this. Visa does emotional well.

  • Miguel Gomez

    As always, great post! Thank you!
    I have to say, whenever the “ASPCA” ad came on we (my wife and I) immediately turned down the volume or changed the channel. Too much sadness going on, we could not stand those images/sound combination (I guess that was the point).
    I love charity:water’s 2009 campaing video ( the passion on his voice, the images, the story… Incredible. The videos for other years are also very good, but the one for 2009 is, for me, their best. It makes me feel empowered to change the world to improve someone else’s life (either by donating to them or even starting my own cause).
    I also love Red Bull’s “The Art of Flight” (, watching this I feel inspired to accomplish whatever I want to do, and have fun while doing it. Interestingly, I didn’t see “inspiration” on the list…
    Finally, I like All State’s “Mayhem” campaign (, it has a touch of humor that let’s me thinking about my insurance (am I doing the right thing? do I need to do something else?). (They also did it in Spanish, but it just doesn’t work, maybe it’s the actor, or something was “lost in translation”).

  • marti garaughty

    Just one word… Wow!

  • Aaron von Frank

    Sorry, erased the double entry.

  • Aaron von Frank

    NoMB: I recognize that you’re a trendsetting leader, and I’m not trying to cause you fear or guilt; my primary aims are to build trust and save you time by providing you with a sense of belonging because I value our friendship which is not competition-based nor mired in a shallow sense of instant gratification. Aside from creating the single most effective marketing sentence ever devised, I guess what I’m trying to say is that I like your blog post enough to tell you that the formatting of your 10 points is cutting off in the right margin of my browser (Google Chrome). Call the tech medics stat. 

    • Amy

      Dear Mr. Von Frank,

      Thank you for alerting us. The blog sends its deepest regrets and wanted me to inform you it is due for a lil’ makeover in the not-so-distant future. 

  • Jacob

    As a digital marketing major, I enjoy sharing articles on the
    industry with others that are interested.  Here is one article I read
    this morning that I thought would be fun to share about Digital
    Marketing Majors and Social Media:

  • Ryan

    Really enjoyed the video you incorporated and all your points are right on. We take great consideration in the tone and message we apply to our brand strategies with our clients.