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How to make or break emotional marketing campaigns

How to make or break emotional marketing campaigns

Emotional marketing campaigns have one thing in common: they strike the right note with its target audience. There is something about the message and the way it is conveyed that makes people pay attention to it. More often than not, this thing that grabs the attention is an emotional appeal.

Emotions have a strong influence on people. They drive all kinds of aspects of our behavior—including consumer behavior. So naturally, emotions offer great possibilities for use in marketing campaigns.

The six appraisals for emotional marketing campaigns

Just like emotions can lift us up or bring us down, they can also make or break emotional marketing campaigns. In an earlier blog post, we introduced the building blocks of emotions: the appraisals. We discussed how the appraisals pleasantness and self-accountability can be used in emotional marketing campaigns.

Self-accountability plays an essential role in some emotions, like regret and guilt. Unlike feelings of fear, guilt inspires people effectively to take action on their bad habits. The other appraisal we’ve explained, pleasantness, deliberately places either positive or negative emotions in the customer’s mind. Often, it’s these confronting campaigns that end up going viral due to the intense emotions they evoke.

In the following, we cover the remaining four appraisals:

  • Attention
  • Controllability
  • Certainty
  • Anticipated effort

Let’s take a look at how these work, and how to harness their marketing potential.

Attention grabbers and repellers

An important way in which emotions influence our behavior is through attention. Some emotions draw us in and make us absorb a message with interest. Other emotions have the opposite effect; repelling us and shifting our attention elsewhere. Let’s see the extremes of this appraisal in action.


One emotion that works well for grabbing attention in emotional marketing campaigns is hope. Great examples of this are Elon Musk’s endeavours. Lots of public interest and excitement surround his innovative tech companies. One reason for this is the philanthropist basis of his missions. He presents them with the underlying goal of making the world a better and cleaner place. This hopeful motive is what makes people believe and invest. This is not really an emotional marketing campaign but it does involve emotion in marketing.


Now let’s look at the other extreme. An emotion that is sure to turn people off is disgust. This is what happened to Pepsi in early 2018 when they launched a controversial commercial. It portrayed street demonstrations that seemed inspired by the Black lives matter movement. Amidst the protests and police forces, it was the power of a Pepsi can that united all the people.

Despite good intentions, the commercial wasn’t received well. People found it inappropriate, offensive, and insensitive. It was a costly case of lousy marketing: the commercial was pulled down before it even made it to the tv. But, as with all mistakes, it’s a lesson we can learn from: be sure to evoke the right kinds of emotions!

Having it under control

The next appraisal on our list is controllability. Businesses are expected to have all kinds of things under control. Their products or services ought to live up to expectations and delivered on time. In case of problems, customers expect the company to fix it promptly.

You cannot control everything!

But some things are uncontrollable. Like a storm preventing goods from being delivered. Very annoying, but you can’t control it. Situations like that will leave customers frustrated or sad.

Controllable situations are a different story though. When companies fail to do their part, customers tend to get angry and demanding. But when customers see that a company puts in hard work and effort, they feel grateful. Let’s see what this means for your marketing activities.

Appreciation and value

The design of your marketing initiatives is one of the controllable aspects of your business. And a very visible one! If the effort you put in shows, your customers are more likely to appreciate it.

Therefore you should be sure that your marketing material makes a professional impression. Don’t neglect your social media channels and engage with your customers. Consider going the extra mile by creating a valuable freebie. For example, a free guide or e-book is a great way to make your customers feel grateful. And a grateful customer is more likely to become a loyal one!

Emotions you don’t want to miss out on

Another appraisal that plays an important role in consumer emotions is certainty. Some emotions come with a sense of certainty, like happiness and anger. We can pinpoint the things that triggered these feelings. For example, think of the happiness you feel when you receive the keys to your new home or car. There are also emotions that come with a sense of uncertainty. When we’re not sure what will happen feelings of hope, fear, or anxiety can emerge. The latter, however, poses exciting opportunities for businesses.

The fear of missing out

Consumers are susceptible to the regret of missing out on a good deal. That is also known as the fear of missing out or FOMO. A workshop organiser triggers anxiety by alerting people that there are just a few spots left. The same holds for the last items in stock or any type of limited offer. In this way, feelings of uncertainty can be very useful in an emotional marketing campaign. They can be the nudge that hesitant customers need. Adding a sense of scarcity and urgency turns the “maybe I should” into a “let’s go for it”.

Action-packed or easy-going

We’ve reached the last appraisal on our list: anticipated effort. Some emotions are arousing, preparing us to get in action. Think of anger and fear (the fight or flight response), or excitement. But others are more laid back in nature, like boredom or relaxation. This distinction can help you choose the tone of your marketing. It might be tempting to think that getting your customers excited is always a good idea. But actually, resonating with their mood can often be a better strategy.

Let’s look at a specific example. For people in a peaceful mood, a serene-looking vacation advertisement will have a lot more appeal than an adventurous trip. “Upping my relaxation game? I’m all for it.” But for people that are feeling excited, the adventurous trip will resonate much more. Now the question is: which mood is most likely to resonate with your customers?

Finding the moods and emotions that will strike the right note with your customers can be a tricky task. However, doing this right will give your marketing efforts a boost. It’s worth an experiment or two to find the right emotion and strike the right note.

If you want to learn more about behavioral insights, read our blog or watch 100+ videos on our YouTube channel!

About Neurofied

Neurofied is a behavioral science company specialized in training, consulting, and change management. We help organizations drive evidence-based and human-centric change with insights and interventions from behavioral psychology and neuroscience. Consider us your behavioral business partner who helps you build behavioral change capabilities internally.

Since 2018, we have trained thousands of professionals and worked with over 100 management, HR, growth, and innovation teams of organizations such as Johnson & Johnson, KPMG, Deloitte, Novo Nordisk, ABN AMRO, and the Dutch government. We are also frequent speakers at universities and conferences.

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Denise Janssen

Untangles complex neuromarketing topics to build digestible & useful content