Emotion and marketing: Why emotion is your biggest marketing tool Published August 5, 2016 We love to think our decisions are based on rational thinking and logic. We compare our choices and opt for the one that seems to make most sense – we look at the evidence, test the alternatives and make a sound decision. The truth is that this is a lie. The biggest influencing factor in our everyday decisions is emotion. It’s the thing we call our ‘gut’. The thing we inexplicably trust above all else. It bypasses logic and reason, striking at our heart. It propels us to make a quick decision based on how we feel. Some people hate this. They deny its existence, post-rationalising their decisions by trying to justify it with logic. But it’s just that, telling a story that makes us feel better.. Think of the brands you buy. The chances are you’ve not chosen them as a result of extensive consumer research. You’ve probably not tested their claims or even tried alternatives. You just trust them, connect with them, want them. And as marketers this is why emotion is your biggest ally. You don’t need to make a case for a purchase when your consumer just wants it. They don’t know why – they just do. It’s not just a theory. Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio made a groundbreaking discovery when he studied people with damage in the part of the brain where emotions are generated (Damasio, Cerebral Cortex, 2000). He found that they seemed ‘normal’ (whatever that means), except that they were not able to feel emotions… or make decisions. In the study the subjects could describe what they should be doing in logical terms, yet they found it very difficult to make even simple decisions, such as what to eat. From their research they believed that while many of the decisions had pros and cons on both sides (health implications, costs etc), with no emotional way to decide, these test subjects were unable to arrive at a decision. Furthermore, studies in neuro-imagery show that when evaluating brands, consumers primarily use emotions (personal feelings and experiences) rather than information (brand attributes, features and facts) (PsychologyToday, 2013) Think about your everyday product choices and purchases. Can you name the difference between between Adidas trainers or Nike? Do Heinz baked beans or Sainsbury’s taste better? Why would you buy a brand when a generic cheaper option is available? The answer is that brands create emotional connections with their consumers. And your brand is nothing more than the mental representation that is conjured up in the consumer’s mind. So how do we influence people when we’re marketing? Well, studies by the Advertising Research Foundation conclude that the emotion of ‘likeability’ is the most predictive measure of whether an advertisement will increase a brand’s sales. Furthermore, the same studies show that positive emotions have a far greater influence on consumer loyalty than trust and other judgements which are based on the brand’s attributes (Advertising Research Foundation). So in practical terms what does all of this mean? Well next time you’re designing your next campaign, evoke an emotional response. There’s some smart marketing being done with exactly this in mind. The Coke ‘Taste the feeling’ advert is one of the most explicit examples of using human emotion to evoke a decision. The picture of a friendship or a holiday shot conjures up our own feelings hopefully from happy memories of a brand that most of us have grown-up with: John Lewis also do a great job with their Christmas adverts: But you don’t need a big budget to create a feeling with imagery and copy. To create loyalty amongst your customer-base you just need be be likeable and positive. Some may say this sounds obvious but positive emotions have a far greater impact than the commonly used emotion of fear that many marketers use in order to create trust (Advertising Research Foundation). Put yourself in the shoes of your audience, what makes you connect, smile, cry or makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end? When you find something that does – stick with it. It’s only then that you can throw away the lengthy justifications of why your business is the best. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re working B2B or B2C – we’re all the same, relying on the same responses to make our decisions. So next time you’re thinking up campaign ideas, remember to include the emotion – after all your audience aren’t rational, they’re just relying on their gut.