Think your feelings are deep and complex? They may actually be far more straightforward than we give them credit for. There are four emotional states that essentially drive every decision that we make as human beings – happy, sad, afraid/surprised, and angry/disgusted, according to a recent article by Julie Beck in Atlantic. Those last two choices are grouped up because our initial stimuli and facial expressions are nearly identical between the divide: a simplification that comes in handy for the purposes of an emotion B2B marketing campaign. Effectively selling to your customers becomes a much easier task when you focus on and incorporate one or more of these “base” emotions: because they’re familiar, we’re keyed to recognize and respond to them when they enter our proverbial radar.
Using emotions in your marketing can go one of two ways: either through directly associating your brand with an emotion, typically happiness, or by championing the idea that your products will help users avoid emotions like sadness or anger/disgust. If yours is a product that people want – something they’d run out of and go immediately to the store to fill up on – happiness can be a powerful tool. Consider the bubbly, bright and colorful Coca-Cola ads, each prominently featuring a group of smiling friends laughing and having a good time. Now, intellectually, we all know that opening a bottle of soda isn’t going to magically transform an empty room into a block party. That doesn’t stop our brain from recalling the images and, more importantly, that feeling of happiness and togetherness we’ve seen as we’re browsing the drink aisle in the supermarket. Suddenly, that bottle of coke is looking mighty tempting when compared to its party-less rivals, and we’re not even consciously sure why.
Alternately, our afraid/surprised and anger/disgust mechanisms are part of our very makeup – Gizmodo’s Andrew Tarantola notes that fear is actually an evolutionary advantage. We are naturally driven to avoid uncertain situations, or situations that could actively harm or injure our chance of success, a fact which makes anger/disgust and afraid/surprised-based emotion marketing particularly effective. Just like the celebration waiting for us in that bottle of coca-cola, we feel and remember what we’ve previously felt when exposed to the same stimuli later on. Anti-smoking ads aim to tap into this sensation, as do ads that amplify the image of loss or embarrassment when an individual uses “inferior” products. Think of the classic Hefty/Wimpy trash bag commercials of the 1980s to see this concept in action: everything about “product B,” from the area around it to the person using it, is painted as “less than” the feature product. Today, the “product B” setup is a bit more subtle, but the message is the same: use our product so you don’t end up in this anxiety-inducing or embarrassing situation.
To enjoy the best results from your emotion marketing, one element needs to be respected above all others: authenticity. If you’re trying too hard, that push will be what is taken away from your advertising, rather than the message you need to convey. Think about the real feelings and actions an average person would have in your scenarios and bring those to life: don’t try and shoehorn your message in after the fact. No one likes someone who acts “fake” in a social setting, so beware: any perceived slight-of-hand in your emotional delivery will be met with the same chilly response. When using emotion marketing, simply focus on having candid conversations with customers experiencing the pain points you’re appealing to. Hearing it straight from the horse’s mouth will make sure you’re staying in believable lines.