Empathetic Marketing: How to Make Emotions Work for Your Business


Humans, are beings driven by emotions, so it’s not a surprise that effective marketing must start with empathy. You need to not only understand what your customers want, you have to make them FEEL for your product/service/objective.

By invoking the right kind of emotional response, you will be able to achieve the full power of digital marketing. This will be the advantage necessary to have them choose you over the competition, even if other offers have more beneficial terms. However, in order to appeal to the consumer’s emotions effectively, you must know what and how drives them.

10 Emotional Triggers to Target with Your Marketing Campaign

emotional triggers

Foster the feeling of Belonging

It’s human nature to strive to belong to something greater than we are on our own. As social creatures, people are attracted to groups (clans, cliques, families, fractions, social networks, etc.) on the instinctual level. This drive can be so strong that a person could be compelled to commit some irrational actions to join the group.

You can use this by planning a marketing campaign that will give customers the feel they belong. A great way to foster this particular feeling is to create posters with groups of people united by a single goal. Sports brands, like Nike do this quite often, motivating customers to join their elite group.

Give people something to Fear

Fear (and to a lesser extent surprise) is an emotion that makes us want to cling to something. This is a purely physical reaction controlled by the amygdala. The gland assesses the severity of the event and triggers appropriate response (fight or flight instinct).

This is where it gets tricky, as overdoing it will cause your customers to flee. So, you have to appeal to a certain fear that makes people want to join you instead. The so-called ‘fear of mission out’ (FoMO) should be your target.

FoMO is an apprehension that appears when one is led to believe that others might be getting rewarding experiences not available to them. It’s a powerful driver that triggers the desire to stay connected in order to prevent ‘mission out’.

Triggering this emotion is rather easy, just add a message that will create a sense of urgency, like this.

Appeal to Guilt

The power of guilt trip has been immortalized by the novels of Peter Watts where it was used to control a whole caste of people with immeasurable power and forcing them to use it for good. This emotion is extremely puritanical, so appealing to it will work best in the societies where people are taught from the young age that ‘this is the right way to do things’.

Understanding what that elusive ‘right way’ is in your particular case will give you the lever to use for your marketing campaign. Charity organizations know how to do this best, just check out this example. You can also draw inspiration from this juice brand.

Get them to Trust you

If you plan to stay in business for a very long time and seek commitment from your customers, you must foster the feeling of trust. This is the main driver of loyalty, but it can’t be gained through ads alone.

Trust is cultivated through consistent quality and transparency. Show people that they will truly get the best products/services from you and make sure to deliver on those promises. However, a trust-focused message won’t go amiss either, so be sure to include this word in your slogans and content.

Offer Instant Gratification

We live in the world where people are used to instant gratification and see it as the most important advantage of a deal. Long-term benefits are good as well, but a special offer that gives you a reward right now will generate more sales.

The simplest example of how instant gratification rocks is the skyrocketing popularity of Polaroid cameras. People were willing to overlook poor quality just to get a photo fast. Today we have digital cameras for that, but you can also use digital tools to spread the enticing message of a quick reward. Triggers for this are ‘now’, ‘instant access’, ‘delivery within 24 hours’, etc.

Make them Angry

Anger makes people stubborn, so you must be very careful when appealing to it in your ads. This emotion is controlled by the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that also controls basic feelings of hunger, thirst, pain response, etc.

When given in moderate doses, anger creates stubbornness instead of aggression, says a study from the University of Wisconsin. It’s focused on comments in social media and how inserting anger-inducing comments can make people more stubborn in protecting a specific point of view.

Anger is also an extremely attention-grabbing emotion. Always used it masterfully by creating their #LikeAGirl campaign that uses a common insult.

Give your customers Happiness

Happy people want to share their happiness around, it’s as simple as that. Thus, creating content that induces happy smiles should boost the number of shares. This will also attract more followers as people want to get happy.

The fact that impossibly cute and happy Android: Friends Forever ad has become the most shared video ad of all time is a solid proof of this strategy’s efficiency.

Get them Sad

Sadness makes us empathize with other people because this feeling boosts the production of cortisol (stress hormone) and oxytocin (empathy hormone). When this happens, people get more likely to donate money/buy a product that triggered the outburst of emotion.

Check out the MetLife and P&G campaigns to see how well this works.

Be Passionate

Passion and lust are very powerful emotional drivers that make people WANT to join you and/or buy your products. While lust is tricky to use because of its sexual connotations, passion is an emotion you can invoke easily.

Do this through your message, like the renowned brands:

  • Nike: Greatness in Everyone
  • L’OREAL: Because You Are Worth It
  • Reebok: I Am What I Am
  • EA Games: Challenge Everything

Do something Awe-inspiring

When people are awed, they would strive to get the thing that invokes such a powerful emotion. Using something awe-inspiring in your campaign videos will boost your sales and increase the attraction of your brand, especially if you target the audience that appreciates specific skills, like with RedBull bike tricks and their drop a man off the edge of the atmosphere mission.

Find the Key to Your Customers’ Hearts


Emotional marketing is extremely powerful, so you must use it wisely. Design your content and campaigns to appeal to one emotion at a time. This will invoke the maximum level of response and make the biggest impact as people won’t get distracted.

It’s also imperative to research your audience thoroughly so that you know which emotions to trigger.