The Science Behind Emotional Marketing

Marketing 2015-11-12

With Christmas now fast approaching and the power of branding and advertising at a high, I thought it would be interesting to explore the science behind successful marketing campaigns. Why is it that we relate better to brand advertisements that make us happy, excited or even sad? Why, for example, do we find ourselves on an emotional rollercoaster during what are considered the best adverts and why do the most successful campaigns cause a shiver down the spine or a tear in the eye, having a lasting impact on us for hours, days or even weeks later?


Example of successful marketing


The John Lewis advert is arguably the most anticipated tv advert at this time of year and it hasn’t disappointed yet again. But why and how? I’ve never bought anything in my life from John Lewis yet every year I find myself impatiently waiting for the advert to be released and then being gripped by it when it eventually is. As well as this, for me and so many others, the John Lewis advert has come to mark the beginning of the Christmas shopping season.


This year’s advertisement itself is a touching tale of a lonely old man on the moon and it is simultaneously epic and simple as well as remarkably free of products. Instead, it successfully focuses on the idea that John Lewis ‘gets’ Christmas and every year the company sparks public interest, creates anticipation and gets people talking about the brand, which is a perfect recipe for any successful content marketing campaign.


This is all down to emotional marketing. In an analysis of the IPA dataBANK (which contains 1,400 case studies of successful advertising campaigns), those with purely emotional content performed on average twice as well as those with only rational content. This has now become the focus of many marketing campaigns, not the actual product selling itself. In fact, mention of any products at all is notably absent in many adverts appearing over the Christmas lead up this year.



But what’s Emotional Marketing & the the science behind it?

As humans, we connect through emotions, they are the basis of who we are and how we interact, and they help us bond over shared experiences, values and interests. This is because emotions remain tied to basic evolutionary processes that have kept us alive for centuries and they’re so primal and deeply instilled in each of us that we’ll always be hardwired to pay attention to emotions with astonishingly powerful results.


A little brain science


Information such as data and words are processed in the neo-cortex, meanwhile our emotions including trust and loyalty are rooted in the limbic system, which is also the part of the brain that motivates us to take action and make decisions. Functional MRI(magnetic resonance imaging) of the brain shows that consumers primarily use emotions (personal feelings and experiences) when evaluating brands and products rather than information (brand attributes, features and facts), which were typically used in traditional marketing. This is because the source of decision-making isn’t in the analytical regions of the brain but is situated in the limbic region where intuition, metaphor and storytelling are the real drivers of decision-making. Therefore, following years of studying brain activation patterns, neuroscientists agree that people reach their buying decisions based on emotional reactions i.e. emotion is a core component of decision-making, not reasoning, and argue that in the end, no amount of information can motivate someone to buy something.


In essence, emotional marketing works because, despite our best efforts to be logical and rational about buying decisions, we are inherently driven by our emotions. This is interesting to marketers because it tells you exactly which parts of the brain you should stimulate if you want to connect with your audience in a meaningful way, establish trust and enhance relationships. Thus, developing these interpersonal, emotional bonds with customers through stories and metaphors is the only real way forward to not only increase sales but also improve customer perception of your brand.


It is important to note though that this type of marketing does come down to the type of product you are selling. For example, emotional marketing works for low value products and personal purchases whereas B2B marketing stresses the importance of rational and fact-based purchases when it comes to making complex decisions surrounding expensive, high value products.


However, what emotions should your brand evoke?


This all depends on how you want your audience to feel. For example, a sports brand may see results when it makes people feel motivated whereas a charity would benefit more from inducing emotions of compassion in its advertising. Some specific emotions common in highly viral content include curiosity, amazement, interest, astonishment, humour and uncertainty however, it is important that you have a complete understanding of your customers’ needs and what makes them happy or sad so that you can drive the right emotions in your campaign to help them relate to your brand more than ever. Following discussions of what emotions you feel are most appropriate to your brand you must orchestrate them in a way that creates emotional contrast and maximal emotional excitement so that your audience doesn’t become bored, satiated or overwhelmed and instead you create a long-lasting impression of your brand as well as possible customer purchase.





It is clear we are entering an era in which marketing is much more subtle and engaging, and where touching customers’ hearts and contributing tangibly to their world rather than selling products works best for your brand. When you think about it, how many successful marketing campaigns have included a sales pitch? Very few. The key message is, if you want people’s attention, contribute something worthy of their time and emotional investment. And remember, no matter what you are selling, your audience are, regardless of their job titles, still very much human.


Do you use emotion in your marketing efforts? Tweet me @JennyatNotch