Emotion shapes how consumers perceive, interact with, and remember brands and products. At its core, marketing is about connecting with the audience in a way that persuades them to take a desired action. Before marketers can convince consumers to make a purchase, sign up for a service, or change their perception of a brand, we have to first understand—and connect with—those customers as people.

To do this, marketers must have a good grasp of the fundamentals of psychology. Whether you’re crafting a landing page, a video for social media, an elaborate e-commerce website, or even a direct mail campaign, you should try to understand the range of emotions your intended audience feels—especially in relation to your goal or purpose.

Recently, one of our developers (maybe it was Brad) got excited when the coffee shop near our office ran a special on their über-fancy java juice. For one day only, you could save a dollar off the regular price. A 25% savings, which our own fearless leader gently reminded us is generally a good thing. But it was still only a buck, and one of our developers (OK, it was definitely Brad) realized he’d fallen for the sales promotion when he could have had coffee in our office for free. “My logic is flawed,” he joked. 

Of course, as a developer, Brad can be forgiven for placing a high value on logic. Logic is, after all, an inherent aspect of programming. A system needs rules. While logic certainly has its place in marketing, marketing is mostly not about logic. In fact, most successful marketing campaigns are powered by emotion.

When I taught rhetoric and composition courses, I asked students to conduct a rhetorical analysis of an advertisement for one assignment. A simple ad—one for Colgate toothpaste, let’s say—can underscore the basics of rhetoric quite nicely. The three rhetorical appeals (logos/logic, pathos/emotion, and ethos/character) are easily found there, after all.

Four out of five dentists recommend Colgate, you say? We can discuss how three-fifths of dentists would still be a majority—and an impressive 60% market share—but that doesn’t sound as great as saying four-fifths of dentists are riding the Colgate train. And since no one would believe that five out of five dentists recommend the same brand, especially when there’s a chance your own dentist just gave you a Crest sample after your last exam, four out of five dentists will suffice. It sounds both impressive and believable. The statement doesn’t strain our sense of logic.

You wouldn’t care if four out of five auto mechanics recommended Colgate anymore than you’d care what kind of synthetic motor oil your dentist requests for his Volvo. In short, that’s ethos.

The driving force in such ads is rarely the copy, as much as it pains this writer to admit. What type of imagery have you seen in nearly every toothpaste ad or commercial? A close-up of a perfect mouth. A mouth so pristine and flawless that your heart yearns for it. You either want it to replace your own mouth, which now seems insufficient with the arrival of this new and perfect mouth, or you want to get super-smoochy with this dreamy mouth from the ad. Desire comes in many forms.

Happiness, fear, sadness, trust, guilt, and inspiration are just a few of the emotions used to sell everything from legal services to a cup of über-fancy java juice. Often, two or more emotions conspire to propel you toward action. And if the emotional connection is strong enough, you might praise the company in public by either writing a review on their Google Business Profile or commenting on their social media account.

In my earlier example, Brad sought the fleeting happiness that only an über-fancy cup of coffee can bring, but he was also (perhaps only mildly) afraid of missing out on the deal. FOMO is real.

Logical, data-driven strategies are important, of course, but they are used to support the deployment of emotion-driven messages. To create an emotionally-charged marketing effort requires a high degree of emotional intelligence (EI). Beyond traditional marketing metrics, emotional intelligence can be used to deepen customer relationships, enhance brand loyalty, and drive consumer behavior. If (or perhaps when) a talented and proven marketer makes reference to a gut feeling about this or that decision, they might actually be drawing from an acute awareness of multiple layers of emotional intelligence. At the very least, that person is likely drawing on years of empathy.

At its core, emotional intelligence refers to the ability to recognize, understand, manage, and use emotions in positive ways to communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges, and defuse conflict. In marketing, EI becomes a strategic tool that enables brands to craft messages that resonate on an emotional level, thereby creating a more engaging and persuasive narrative.

How Marketers Can Use Emotional Intelligence

Enhanced Customer Insight: Emotional intelligence allows marketers to better understand the emotional needs and desires of their target audience. By tapping into these insights, brands can tailor their messaging to evoke specific emotional responses, such as trust, happiness, or a sense of belonging, which are crucial for building strong customer relationships.

Improved Brand Loyalty: Emotionally intelligent marketing establishes a deeper emotional connection between the brand and its consumers. When customers feel understood and valued, they are more likely to develop a strong attachment to the brand, leading to increased loyalty and long-term engagement.

Effective Conflict Resolution: Brands are not immune to crises or negative feedback. Emotional intelligence equips marketers with the skills to sensitively—and smartly—maneuver brands out of such situations, turning potential setbacks into opportunities for demonstrating empathy, accountability, and a commitment to customer satisfaction.

Increased Conversion Rates: Emotional decisions often precede rational ones. As many marketers often say: “People buy on emotion and justify with logic.” By understanding and appealing to emotions, emotionally intelligent marketers can more effectively persuade and motivate consumers to take action.

To build a deeper connection with your audience, start by really listening. Use tools and feedback channels to get a better grasp of what drives their emotions by paying attention to their language, the issues they care about, and what they like to engage with. Remember, not everyone is motivated by the same things, so it’s smart to divide your audience into groups based on their emotional needs and preferences. This helps make your messages more personal and hit closer to home.

Storytelling is your best friend here. Craft stories that reflect the real experiences, challenges, and dreams of your audience, showing them how your brand can make a meaningful difference in their lives. It’s crucial that your marketing feels real and empathetic—people can spot insincerity a mile away, so you need to genuinely understand and care about their needs and feelings.

If you’re interested in discussing how these strategies can enhance your customers’ connection with your brand, please reach out. We could meet at our office, where we would offer you the kind of coffee that Brad now enjoys for free.

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