sales and marketing

Think of the most memorable advertisement you’ve ever seen. Last year’s Super Bowl commercial from The Farmer’s Dog is one many have talked about for weeks—and shed real tears over.

The commercial does something extremely effective: It appeals to customers’ emotions. But it’s not just about making people cry (although that can be a strategy). An emotional appeal is one of the most successful ways to leave a lasting impact on your audience because emotions are attached to memory, attention, attitudes, and so much more. 

When done right, an appeal to your audience’s emotions can make your marketing efforts—anything from a major Super Bowl commercial to a one-off email—stick in people’s minds. This is called Emotional Marketing Intelligence (EMI), and while it’s not a new concept, it’s a skill that always has room to be fine-tuned.

In this blog, we’ll cover what exactly Emotional Marketing Intelligence is, the science behind it, how to use it wisely, and what benefits you can expect.

What is Emotional Marketing Intelligence?

Emotional Marketing Intelligence refers to the strategies companies use to understand their customers’ emotions during multiple phases of their buying journey. It isn’t just a way to make customers laugh, cry, or feel fear—it’s a targeted way to touch on the specific emotional states a customer experiences before, during, and after a purchase.

When you know how your customer might respond to external stimuli—such as an advertisement or an email—you can tailor that message appropriately to get the emotional impact you want. 

In that way, EMI is more than just what you’re saying—it’s how you’re saying it. The same message can have entirely different outcomes depending on the emotion it intends to touch, and not all audiences will react to the same appeal the same way. It’s a form of communication where context matters, and knowing how your audience wants to feel matters. 

Related: Speaking Your Customers’ Language

The Science Behind Consumer Emotions

Your audience experiences a range of emotions day to day, and knowing which buttons to push will make your message and your marketing efforts land more—and stick. 

Harvard Business Review finds that when companies thoughtfully appeal to their customers’ emotions, those customers are much more likely to be loyal, trust what you’re saying, and even look potential barriers to making a purchase, such as cost. Customers who feel emotionally connected with a company are even more likely to share their feelings with others, spreading your message forward.

It all comes down to knowing which emotions your target audience responds most positively to. In our example at the top, The Farmer’s Dog’s Super Bowl commercial works for an audience of dog lovers who think of their furry companions as family. They appeal to feelings of love and connection, marking their company as one that shares in their audience’s sentiments.

Similarly, your company can touch on the right emotional “motivators” that resonate with your audience. Your customers might want to feel excited, be a part of an important movement, feel secure in their future, feel a sense of thrill, or even get relief from long-standing pains.

Strategies for Influencing Consumer Emotions

One of the most crucial ways to improve your EMI efforts is really, truly understanding your audience. Buyer interviews are one way to understand how your customers make purchasing decisions, what roadblocks might stand in their way, and how they feel about your competitors. The more you know your audience, the better you can speak with—not at—them.

From there, you’ll want to identify your customers’ emotional triggers. If you’re in a cybersecurity space, your audience might react to fear or feelings of security. If you’re in the retail sector, your customers might want to feel like they belong to a new trend or movement. If you’re in the financial space, your customers may react best to a feeling of trust and personal freedom. Whatever your customers’ triggers are, note the most influential ones and keep those in mind.

Those emotional triggers will be the blueprint for your storytelling efforts. After all, marketing is a form of storytelling. An advertisement can trigger a sense of fear in your audience by using a sobering statistic. An email can get your audience excited about an upcoming event featuring a special guest. Regardless of which emotion(s) you play up, you’ll want to check and re-check these efforts to ensure you’re still speaking with your audience the way they prefer.

One more way you can influence your customers’ emotions—and in particular, their sense of security and loyalty—is by including social proof and testimonials from their peers. The way your customers’ peers speak about your brand can go a long way in furthering your emotional connection. Think of it this way: Would you rather take advice from a friend who knows you very well or a stranger who only knows the gist of who you are?

Related: Why Words Matter

Why Should You Improve Your EMI?

We’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: Customers who are emotionally connected with you are much more likely to hang around, make more purchases, and recommend your brand.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Improving your EMI also helps you define your brand voice, image, and values along the way, so you aren’t just a company—but a personality. Defining your brand that precisely can also help you manage how your brand is represented and how your brand cultivates relationships with your audience. The more you flex your EMI muscle, the more empathetic—and trustworthy—your brand looks to your audience.

Furthermore, you can improve the overall customer experience by being emotionally intelligent. A PwC report found that 65% of customers find positive experiences with a brand to be more influential than just good marketing alone. In other words, the way your customers feel about interacting and communicating with you can make a bigger impact than just putting more dollars behind your next advertisement.

And when customers feel like you know them, 71% of these folks are likely to recommend you based on that connection alone. That connection reaps financial benefits, too. Emotional advertisements, for instance, can spike sales by 23%.

The immediate benefits—such as increased sales—are there, but the greatest advantage of EMI is improving the way your customers think about your brand in the long run. 

Get In Touch With Your Audience’s Emotions

Getting to know your audience and their emotions is a bit like becoming a detective, friend, and therapist all at once. It’s a big ask, and gathering the information you need about how your buyers make decisions, what triggers those decisions, and what might hold them back is better done under the guidance of a leader.

A fractional CMO can give you the rundown on your audience and help you devise a strategy to touch on the right emotions in the right way. As a benefit, you won’t have to pay anywhere near what it’d cost to hire a full-time CMO.

Click here to schedule a free, 30-minute consultation to get started.


Need guidance knowing how to best use AI to enhance your marketing approach?

Check out The Role of AI in Marketing for practical advice and insights from real-world peers.
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