• Dave Briggs

Have you been bitten by emotional marketing?

Have you heard of the term, ‘emotional marketing’ before? Even if you’re not aware of it, there’s a good chance that you’ve been impacted by it in some way. It’s a way of using emotion to persuade someone to do something and it’s certainly not a new technique. Even the Greek philosopher Aristotle, talked about the concept of using emotion to appeal to and persuade.

Everyone recognises that emotion is a pretty powerful force. It’s little wonder then that marketers have seized on emotion as a way of establishing a deep connection between the audience and a product or service. It doesn’t always have to be based around creating a positive emotion either. Indeed, it can trigger fear, anger, joy, or any other emotion that’s strong enough to persuade you to do something.

Think back to some of the adverts that you’ve seen that you really remember or that had an impact on you.

Innocent Drinks

I remember listening to John Thornton talk at a marketing event a while ago. He’s one of the senior social media staff at Innocent Drinks, that well-known smoothie company who just seems to do everything incredibly well. He mentioned that 90% of their social media posts have absolutely nothing to do with Innocent Drinks or even smoothies. They’re all about making people smile or feel good. Someone asked him why. His answer was brilliant.

“When someone’s standing in a supermarket in the fridge aisle and they’re trying to decide which smoothie to buy, I want them to see our logo and smile, because they remember something funny that we posted. If we can make them smile, then 9 times out of 10, they’ll pick up the Innocent drink and put it in their basket.”

What a brilliant marketing strategy. That’s why their most viewed social media post wasn’t about smoothies or health or anything like that. It was about the Eurovision Song Contest, complaining that Ireland didn’t give the UK any points.


Another great example is from Volkswagen. A while back, they launched an advertising campaign called “safe happens”, promoting their Jetta cars. The adverts portrayed some pretty graphic images of car accidents. The message they were trying to get over was that accidents can happen to anyone. The adverts stirred people’s emotions, got them scared, got them wondering… and resulted in a 17% increase in sales of Volkswagen’s Jetta line.

But you don’t always have to resort to using horrific images or danger to stir people’s fear. How often have you seen a count down clock on an advert, or “only 2 left at this price” on a hotel booking or flights website? That uses fear, but in a different way. It appeals to one of human-kind’s base emotions... fear of missing out. You hate the thought that you’re going to miss out on a fantastic deal. Hell, I’m a marketer myself, and I still fall for this kind of thing. Half the time, I look at it afterwards and realise I didn’t even need it. But the fear of missing out was there and I clicked.


People love being part of something, belonging to a community. Especially if it’s seen as being something cool, healthy and trendy. This next example is emotional marketing at its best. I’m pretty sure you can’t fail to have seen the adverts on TV for Peloton. It’s a subscription-based health company, where they want you to buy a monthly membership. It started out promoting their cycling product – you need to own one of their Peloton bikes to be part of the community. That’s going to set you back nearly £2,000. Plus the monthly membership cost. You can then take part in group fitness classes, from the luxury of your own home. It looks fantastic in their TV adverts. And it builds a real sense of community for it’s members, using emotional marketing to create that need to belong. But ultimately, it’s just a stationary bike, in your garage, dining room or bedroom. And you can pick one of them up for an absolute fraction of the price. At the very very most, it’s a gym membership to a very swanky health club for a whole year. And that's still only half the price of the Peloton bike alone. Then there's the membership fee for Peloton on top of it. And now, the gym equipment (through a different Peloton membership scheme) and other items as well.

During the classes, the session leader will mention people by name and where they are… “Look at Sam from Plymouth, you’re doing great today!” Or "Wow, Jimmy from Exeter is flying today - can anyone catch him?" So why do they go to those lengths? Because it fuels a sense of belongingness, members feel recognised and appreciated when they’re mentioned. They feel part of a community that they have seen advertised on TV and in magazines. Ultimately, members feel like they’re truly part of something bigger – the very cool, and trendy Peloton community.

With being in lockdown for the last year in particular, everyone's been looking for a community to belong to at home. It's convenient and means you don't have to go outside of your front door. Its safe, and you don't risk having a bike accident on the road. And you don't have to fight with the weather either. Furthermore, and better than all of this combined... you're hanging out with some really cool people, and they single you out by name! You've made it.

The very clever people at Peloton built this community, and at the same time, through their adverts, made non members need something expensive and far beyond what we had ever stretched for before. In America, such was the passion from Peloton’s fan base, that the company sealed a deal to supply Peloton bikes to Westin hotels. Suddenly, Peloton members travelling the country for meetings, conferences etc, wanted to stay in Westin hotels and use their bikes for fitness classes while out on the road. Now those are real ‘brand fans’. They’ve emotionally bought into the whole thing.

But a word of caution. While emotional marketing’s incredibly clever and powerful, you really need to be very careful when you’re using it. Because if things go wrong, you don’t just risk losing a sale. You risk losing a brand fan too. And that can be really dangerous for your profit margins. Here's a great example of how things can go wrong...


I was reading an article a few weeks ago. Now the author of the article was totally addicted to Apple products. You name it, she had it. One day, she bought a new Macbook computer, plugged it into her speakers, and went to launch a new playlist that she had made. Her jaw then hit the floor. I won’t go into each of the things that lead to it, but she basically lost half her music catalogue that she had bought on iTunes over the years, and through no fault of her own. Nearly £3,000 of music vanished. Just like that. She was devastated. Weirdly, not particularly because of the music she had lost, but because in that moment, she had lost all trust in Apple products. How could they do that to her? She had been a fan for years. She had encouraged friends and family members to get an Apple phone or computer, and they had let her down. Right there, Apple lost a brand fan for life, and all the subsequent purchases of their products that she would have made.

Now I think we all realise that losing just one person isn’t going to cause Apple to go into a downward spiral. But you can hopefully see from this, just how dangerous it can be if something bigger goes wrong, and a lot of customers become affected.


If you do everything right, emotional marketing’s brilliant and can really reap rewards. However, if you take only one thing away from this, it’s that you have to be careful when you play with people’s emotions, because if you’re not careful, it can really come back and bite you. Hard.

#marketing #emotionalmarketing #playingwithemotions #clevermarketing #community #trust #belief #belonging

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