emotional marketing

Emotional Marketing and Customer Motivation

What is emotional marketing? Does it work, and how does it work? Learn the basics about emotional marketing and how it can work for you.

This article was originally written in September 2011, but has been updated for current standards - Level343 Editors

What motivates you? The coffee in your hand? The money in your pocket? More importantly, what motivates your customers? Do you know? What makes them emotional about your business offerings, and how can you turn that knowledge into marketing?

Understanding what triggers the motivation to buy is an integral part of being a marketer. It’s not a minor matter. Rather, having this understanding helps you to better cater your services to meet their needs. It means getting why they’d want to buy your products, and how you might better build your marketing campaigns to target the individual rather than the collective.

Because, you see, everyone has a different reason for buying. -And, that reason may change depending on the product or service being thought of.

For example, coffee. Which is more important to you? A robust, delightful flavor that you wouldn’t mind spending a few more dollars a pound on, or you don’t care if your spoon stands up in it as long as it keeps you awake?

And yet, that answer might change when looking at clothes. Often, the cheaper the clothes, the less likely they are to last. What’s your priority then? Buy cheap now or buy less in the long run?

How about chiropractic services? Would you rather go with cheap (AKA inexpensive) or experienced (generally, the more experience, the more cost)? Chances are you want someone who is going to know what they’re doing.

Looking at sales and marketing this way is called a lot of different things, but one of the most used is emotional marketing.

What is Emotional Marketing

Emotional marketing takes the understanding of buyer motivation to the next level. Reaching into human emotion with an eye towards business can help you reach several marketing goals, including more sales, brand awareness, and reducing customer churn.

It’s not new. The idea of using emotion to get people to act has been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. The current political state of our world is an excellent example. Think of any movement, grass roots or otherwise, that has come about in the past 100 years and you’ll most likely find an emotional group behind it.

Emotional marketing intentionally targets these emotions in order to persuade the audience in favor of the brand. If your content targets “pain points”, you’re using this marketing method.

Does emotional marketing work?

Most assuredly.

One study that reviewed 1400 case studies found that “campaigns with purely emotional content performed about twice as well (31% vs. 15%) than only rational content… and a little better (31% vs 26%) than those that mixed emotional and rational content.”

Another study found that “82% of consumers with high emotional engagement would always buy the brand they are loyal to when making purchasing decisions (compared to 38% of consumers with low emotional engagement).”

These two examples are just the tip of a large iceberg that point to the benefits of focusing on your customers’ emotions. Yet only 15% of consumers say brands do a good job of emotionally bonding with them beyond a functional, rational relationship.

There’s a clear disconnect between the buyer and the seller.

A study in marketing gone wrong

A vendor at the mall stopped me. I don’t know if it was my frizzy, messy hair piled in a ponytail or the smile on my face, but he thought he could sell me his wares. I sat down in his chair and politely listened to the virtues of his products. He was a friendly person—a great conversationalist—but I walked away empty-handed.

Why? He didn’t size up his customers correctly. I wasn’t the right prospect and he didn’t read my needs correctly. His attempt at emotional marketing was way off.

Look. We know the goal of marketing is to sell products. There’s no magical formula involved. If customers know about your product and need it, they will buy it. It seems easy enough, so why do even the best marketing plans sometimes fail? A friendly face, excellent product, and perfect sales pitch can lead nowhere. How does this happen?

16 Basic Desires That Motivate the Sale

The key to this puzzle lies in the hearts of your customers. In the end, people do things—including buy products—because they want to do so. The deciding factor isn’t you or your product. It’s the ideals that drive your customers to do—or not do—something. Successful marketers understand this, and how it ties into emotional marketing for the best results. They know who their customers are and what matters most to them.

How do you know what will convince your customers they need your product? Here are a few factors that motivate people do whatever they do.

  1. Acceptance: I want others to approve of me.
  2. Stand out: To be seen as something special.
  3. Curiosity: I want to learn how and why things work.
  4. Eating: I want food.
  5. Family: I want children and a partner.
  6. Honor: I want to be true to the values of my cultural group.
  7. Idealism: I want justice in the world.
  8. Independence: I want to be myself.
  9. Order: I want organization and systems.
  10. Physical activity: I want to exercise.
  11. Power: I want to be able to influence people
  12. Romance: I want to have sex.
  13. Saving: I want to collect things I may need.
  14. Social contact: I want to have friends.
  15. Status: I want to be important in the world.
  16. Tranquility: I want to be safe.
  17. Vengeance: I want to get revenge.
  18. Excitement: I want to participate in thrilling, fun events.
  19. Eco-conscious: I want to protect the environment
  20. Succeed: I want to fide worth and meaning in my life.

On a subconscious level, each one of us has certain dominant motivators guiding what we choose to do. This explains why workaholics are truly happy sacrificing relationships and leisure time, while social butterflies cannot imagine life without a bevy of friends and acquaintances. It explains why some are more than willing to spend an extra couple of dollars for biodegradable or non-harmful substances to protect the earth while others will buy whatever is cheapest.

What motivates me to spend my time and money may be very different from what motivates you to spend yours. – And we’re both equally happy with our lifestyles.

Emotional Marketing Done the Right Way

There’s a right way and a wrong way to use emotional marketing. What’s the right way?

Consider your target market

As you develop your marketing plan, stop to consider your target market and what motivates them. What do the members of your target market have in common? Are they pet owners? Parents? Senior citizens? Creative types? Of course, your target market is composed of individuals with different motivators, but they also have common motivators. For example, people with children are often motivated by family. Senior citizens living on fixed incomes tend to be motivated by saving. Make a list that represents your market—age, location, lifestyle.

Prioritize the desires.

Review your list. Which motivators are most dominant in your target market? Young professionals may be motivated by acceptance, independence, power, and status. If your market of young professionals is filled with recent college graduates working in the corporate world, the needs for power and status are likely stronger motivators. Knowing this will help you zero in on what will make them want to buy your product.

Develop a marketing plan.

Build a plan that shows how your product or service will meet these needs. For example, how can you convince young professionals that you offer them a way to increase their status within their peer groups? Incorporate images of young professionals who are surrounded by people showing they respect them. Use strong language implying how your product will arm them with the tools that bring the honor they strive for.

When Marketing Goes Wrong

The sales rep who tried to sell me his hair products tried several techniques to convince me I needed them. He started with, “See how much better your hair looks with this?” (romance and acceptance). When I didn’t respond, he tried, “Your friends will all be jealous and want to know what you’re doing different” (social contact and status). Again, I refused to buy. Then he asked me about my family and told me about his (family).

He knew that I needed a reason to buy his products. What he didn’t understand was that my need to save money (saving) was far more motivating to me than the factors he assumed would matter. Had he offered to lower the price or demonstrate how I could save money using his products, he would have been more likely to make a sale.

You don’t have the time or the resources to make a similar mistake. When you understand what motivates your target market, you can tailor your emotional marketing plan to those needs. As a result, you will spend more time on marketing campaigns that bring results.

You don’t want to invest your time and resources on marketing that falls on deaf ears. Knowing your market and their needs is a key factor in developing a marketing plan that will reach them—in ways that will resonate with them. When you consider their needs, you are well on your way to increasing your conversions.

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11 Responses

  1. Inspiring, the post is completely inspiring and throws light on even the smallest of details. As a businessman its very important to work on a lot of things and the customers always comes first, customers are our first priority. Besides selling our products and services we have to connect with them, making them feel valued so that we can win their loyalty.

    1. Glad you agree Tim. You would be surprised how many people just don’t see the connection. Maybe if they had a mom & pop shop in their careers they could see how important it is to connect to people. I don’t know. I see so much is being taken for granted since people started interacting online. That human element is lost unless we as business owners use research, and data to see how it affects our business. Either way, motivating customers is a constant…

    2. Thanks Tim for your kind words. I do believe when a business is passionate about their industry, service, it shows. Its infectious, and it’s part of their story. The brand, the magic!

  2. I like to envision the customer and my brand (whichever one I’m doing copywriting for at the time) as two people in a bar. I want the customer to pick up my brand and take him/her home for the night?

    So I ask myself:
    1. What does the customer find attractive?
    2. How can I “package” the product’s messaging to hit those desire triggers? (And how can I do so with credibility? Because people recognize the faker in the bar. Or at the very least, they figure it out later and never take them up on another date.)

    I figure out how to pimp out my brands. Who doesn’t want their product to be the village bicycle?

  3. Great article, really makes you start thinking down the right lines of who is your target market and what do they want? Working with several business owners it’s scary how many of them don’t have a clear idea of who their target market is. It’s important to know your target market and understand their needs, without that you have little chance of having effective marketing.

    ~ Trevor Kohlhep
    Business Owner

    1. Hey Trevor thanks for your input. Therein lies the problem, how can the new business owner, entrepreneurs, companies etc. know unless they listen? Everyone is so busy being busy, they’re not seeing much success. Diving into every social network, looking for new customers, advertising their services on every Facebook page, Twitter account, etc. yet, ask them to discuss their market, or god forbid their data… more often than not you will either get the “deer in the headlight” look or silence from the other end of the phone. 🙂

      1. Gabriella,

        Agreed, all to often people get caught up in being “busy” and at the end of the day get little or nothing done. By getting into each social network and ADVERTISING their new business they are less likely to gain new customers. Social media is all about building relationships, it is not the area to share forced advertising onto Fans/Followers. This is a common mistake for many businesses, they try to incorporate traditional marketing in social media.

        For those that aren’t sure what to use social media for I can wrap it up in, engagement, engagement, engagement and interaction. Built relationships with real people and you will get real people visiting your website or store front.

        ~ Trevor Kohlhepp
        Business Owner

  4. This is a very interesting and significant article. All too often sales people will just mass sell, using the same technique for everyone and going for a tried and tested method over adapting to various situations and taking the time to assess their ‘target’.
    On a personal note, I feel that this is something that I need to take into account when discussing the sale of websites with my clients. I always feel I have a good read on situations and empathise with them yet for some reason, struggle to adapt when selling products. Having read this article, it really brought to the fore that everyone is different and everyone needs a different pitch to grab their attention. What works for one client won’t necessarily work for another. I’m no salesman and I don’t pretend to be, but taking this into account could certainly help me out in the future.

    1. Hey David, maybe it’s the word salesman that puts many people off. I like to call myself a “merchant” at heart. After all when you consider how business started we were all merchants in one way or another.

      When “selling” websites you are discussing a different animal. The World Wide Web is “still” not really mainstream. We forget that a lot of people out there have no clue. They understand that in order to stay competitive they need one. Entrepreneurs know if they are going to compete and immerse themselves globally they have to be accessible with a url.

      I’m sure you are aware and take into consideration the people coming to you either have no clue, or they know so much you wonder why they aren’t doing it themselves? lol Either way, I can tell you from experience understanding and empathizing with the client is not enough. You have to create a standard when “selling” your product. The best way I’ve found is to create questions that address their pain… lack of a better word. Then shut up and listen. Take in as much information as you can. We actually have a questionnaire we send to clients. After 15 years of using it and adding to it it’s still a work in progress since consumer needs have changed.
      As you stated what works for one won’t necessarily work for another. That’s the beauty of this business. That’s what I live for 😉

  5. Obviously the importance of these motivators (across any population) shifts dramatically in different times, e.g. periods of peace and prosperity, after a war, in a recession, etc. Since your salesman (as far as I can tell) didn’t listen to you first to understand something about your motivation, he could have at least started with the prime motivator during a recession — “Saving”.

    Then, sometimes it’s about the product. It’s easier to sell umbrellas when it’s raining.

    Of course, you could have just told him that your hair is part of your branding… and if it had been raining and if he was selling umbrellas …

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