We are driven by emotions

How to use emotions to generate more sales

Whether you admit it or not, your decisions are driven by your emotions.

In marketing, we speak of psychological triggers that are used to convince customers to click, buy or take another action.

"By using common psychological triggers," they say, "you can make more sales."

The customer has the feeling of having made a logical and rational decision, but the “mental triggers” trigger emotions and use them.

Antonio Damasio examined patients who had suffered damage to the area of ​​the brain that generates and processes emotions.

The patient was no different from other people in everyday life, but could no longer feel emotions.

In addition, these patients found it very difficult to make decisions.

Even the smallest decisions, such as choosing a menu in a restaurant, turned out to be an almost insurmountable obstacle.

While patients could describe their actions with logic and rational thinking, most decisions could not be made with logic.

We cannot make decisions without emotion.

Data from Gerard Zaltman, author of How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market, confirm this theory.

Zaltman found that 95% of cognitive processes are unconscious and are subconsciously guided by emotions.

Emotions are the X factor that cannot be controlled, yet they cannot simply be ignored in content marketing.

Why do emotions influence so much?

If you build an emotional bond with your audience, you can convince them of a desired action much faster.

This emotional connection, however fresh and fleeting, opens your customers to your ideas and suggestions. They trust you and trust cannot be artificially obtained.

Rob Walker and Joshua Glen have seen the power of this emotional bond for themselves.

For an experiment, they bought cheap products in various second-hand stores.

They wanted to find out if they could resell these products using an emotional connection.

200 authors took part in the experiment and wrote fictional stories about the products in order to then sell them in an auction on eBay.

They could take in $ 8,000, a profit of 2,700%.

All with a good story that appeals to buyers' feelings.

Now, I'm not saying that logic and rational thinking don't play a role in decision-making.

This is where marketers often rely on the dual processing theory.

The theory is that our brain processes thoughts and decisions on two levels.

The first level is the emotions, which are automatically, subconsciously and quickly processed and immediately trigger a reaction.

The second level is the conscious thought process in which we fall back on logic and reason. This takes place much more slowly.

Often we make emotional decisions and then try to justify them with logic.

Just think about the rivalries of big brands and your own preferences.

What do you think when you see this brand comparison?

Here is another well-known example:

And we know the following rivalry all too well.

You most likely have some bias towards one of these brands, but it's not based on logic.

This tendency is emotional and tied to certain experiences. How do you feel when you use the products or how do you feel when you read an article about your favorite brand?

Our brain then tries to justify this emotional response.

If you choose Coca Cola, you want to justify your decision with the better taste of the drink or the superior quality.

You may feel like you made a rational decision, but in reality it was an emotion-driven decision.

Successful marketers attach more importance to the emotional decision than to the logical thought process in order to win new customers with their content.

This is why almost a third of all marketers say they make more profit from an emotionally driven campaign, but the success of those campaigns diminishes when logic comes into play.

Results are cut in half if the campaign is based on pure logic.

Emotions are no guarantee of successful engagement

We are overwhelmed with emotions and feelings every day.

Can you really appeal to the emotions of your readers and automatically achieve success?

Yes and no.

While emotions and feelings are important, other factors such as timing, format, presentation, target audience, etc. also play a crucial role.

While we know emotions are important, we haven't yet found the perfect formula for defining viral content.

But we have come very close to the matter.

Brands have long tried to trigger an emotional reaction in consumers with the help of their content, some with great success.

Like Intel with the “Meet the Makers” series.

The five videos feature people from around the world using Intel technologies to build new technologies that can make the world a better place.

13-year-old Shubham Banerrjee uses Intel technology to create an affordable braille printer.

Some companies want to harness the power of emotion to create viral campaigns, but to no avail.

CIO shows off some of these failed ad campaigns, including the Walmarting Across America campaign.

Two Americans travel across America and visit different Walmart markets and then write about it on their blog.

After many articles about happy employees, it came out that both bloggers were paid by Walmart for the action and that it was just a PR agent's advertising campaign.

That didn't go down well and the blog was outed as “fake”.

Which emotions trigger most actions?

Feelings and emotions influence our actions and decisions, especially purchasing decisions.

Some emotions are more influential than others, especially when they are authentic.

A study by Buzzsumo analyzed 10,000 frequently shared articles. These articles gathered reader reactions to help determine which sentiment is most influential.

Here are the winners

  • Awe (25%)
  • Laughter (17%)
  • Pleasure (15%)

The least popular feelings are sadness and anger, both come to just seven percent.

Two scientists from Wharton University examined viral content to find similarities and better understand why this content was shared so often.

They found an emotional element and specific outcomes related to emotions:

  • Content is more likely to be shared if it makes the reader feel good or is entertaining.
  • Shocking dates and facts instill awe and increase the likelihood that the content will be shared.
  • Triggering fears leads to more engagement and more comments.
  • Content that causes anger is often shared and commented on.

Some emotions evoke more action than others, but it always depends on the target group. Every user has different preferences.

This modern illustration of Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions, by CopyPress, depicts eight primary emotions: joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, disgust, anger, and anticipation.

If your content is to be seen and shared by as many users as possible, it has to appeal to the emotions of the users.

This statement is supported not only by the statistics shared above, but also by the great popularity that many online communities enjoy.

Just take a look at Reddit and the most popular subreddits. Each of these subreddits triggers certain emotions, including anticipation, awe, joy, and more.

Now I'll show you how you can use emotions to influence the actions of your target audience.

Influence judgment by inducing fear

Of course, you don't want your customers to make bad decisions. Bad decisions make you feel remorseful, which in turn casts a bad light on your brand.

Nevertheless, you can influence your customers to a certain extent.

A Berkeley study showed that fear can make important information more difficult to use in decision-making. When we are unsure, we find it difficult to make a decision because it affects our judgment.

Nevertheless, one can use fears as a trigger to generate action.

This was shown in a two-year study by the Wharton Ph.D. Student Alison Wood Brooks and a Harvard Business School professor.

They found that 90% of “fearful” participants were influenced and were more likely to take advice if their fears were previously reinforced with a video.

Only 72% of the neutral participants who had seen the video were influenced.

Awe generate to grab the attention of your target audience

Awe can be compared to wonder, but not always to be equated with joy or humor.

You can use this emotion to get the attention of your target group and keep it longer.

This technique is often used for headings to make them seem so important that they simply cannot be ignored.

A good example is from Dropbox.

Co-founder Drew Houston submitted the product page to Digg for more visibility. The headline made a significant contribution to the success.

Another great example that successfully used the emotion of awe to get attention comes from the Texas Armoring Corporation.

The company's managing director took a seat behind a glass wall made of bulletproof glass to demonstrate the quality of the product. An AK-47 was then used to shoot the glass wall.

The feeling of awe can affect the decision-making process, as can fear.

A Stanford University study found that people who are in awe are more focused on the present and less distracted. They also take more time.

If you can get these customers' attention, take the time to reconsider their decision.

Convince customers of an action with fun and joy

Fun and joy are very similar, but they are two very different emotions.

Laughter often leads to joy, but not everything that makes a friend makes you laugh.

Nevertheless, the feelings of fun, laughter and pleasure, in addition to awe, have a particularly strong influence on engagement and the sharing of posts on social media.

This is due to our early childhood.

Babies show their first emotional reactions shortly after birth. They respond to their parents' smiles and smile back.

Psychologist Donald Winnicott says that feelings of joy and pleasure are anchored in us from birth.

His studies show that the feeling of joy can be increased when we share our joy with others. This phenomenon is known as “social smile”.

This explains how warm these emotions can lead to action and create viral content. Happiness is largely responsible for content sharing.

A study by Jonah Berger that examined the New York Times' most shared articles (around 7,000 articles) came to the same conclusion.

The more positive the article, the more often it was shared.

Brands have been using so-called “joy marketing” for years to give their customers a feeling of joy, comfort and happiness.

Advertising campaigns like the successful P&G campaign and viral campaigns like “Thank You Mom” appeal to the emotions of the target group and pay homage to strong mothers.

Joy manifests itself in different ways and does not necessarily have to be used to sell products.

Beringer Vineyards use it for influencer marketing.

The Instagram influencer couple from Russia, Murad and Nataly Osmann, won over 4.5 million fans from all over the world with the famous photo series of their world tour.

You use the hashtag #FollowMeTo.

The couple partnered with Beringer Vineyards to produce images that evoke emotions such as joy, love and a thirst for adventure.

Benefit from anger

Anger is a negative emotion, but it can be used to produce positive results.

One of the leading scientists on a study of anger, Dr. Carol Tavris, studied the impact of anger on society.

The right to vote for women originally arose out of anger and frustration.

Anger can make you strong, bring clarity and create positive momentum. This feeling can give direction and control to people, as a study by Carnegie Mellon showed.

The New York Times study mentioned above shows that negative emotions such as anger and anger can contribute to the virality of content.

Berger's study of the content of the New York Times showed that articles triggering emotions such as frustration or anger were 34% more likely to appear in the Times newsletter.

I'm not saying that you should make your readers angry.

Instead, you should address a topic that arouses constructive anger or frustration.

You have to make your readers think and that way you can trigger an action.

This interactive graphic from the New York Times shows how business and social issues can create frustration.

This content is simple, but it provokes engagement and thought process because the reader was expecting a different result.

The right choice of words

The difference between logic and emotion is due to the correct choice of words and the presentation of the facts and information in our content.

You can use so-called power words or frequently used terms from the e-commerce industry to convince customers to buy.

When writing your texts, you have to pay close attention to your choice of words and follow a rational or emotional approach.

You need to determine beforehand what reaction you want to evoke and then create content that creates a psychological and emotional connection with your target audience in order to evoke the desired reaction.

The context can stay the same.

However, with the right choice of words, you can appeal to the emotions of your readers and potential customers.

This simple approach consists of just three steps:

  1. Determine what action you want your readers to take when they read your article.
  2. Determine which emotion should be the primary trigger. What would motivate your readers to take action?
  3. Make the right choice of words to trigger the appropriate emotions and bring about the desired action.

Persuasive and powerful words that trigger feelings tend to be short and to the point. Simple words speak to our emotions, not our intellects.

Here is a list from the Persuasion Revolution.

The vast majority of the words on this list (which is over 350 words) are short.

Our rational mind, on the other hand, prefers longer, more complex words.

You cannot rely on your gut feeling

It is not that easy to establish an emotional connection with your target group. To do this, you first have to get to know them better.

As is so often the case in marketing, your decisions and your content must be data-driven. In this case, you should conduct a target group research.

Based on this research, you can determine which topics you should cover, where your ideal customer spends the most time, what content they prefer and how you can establish an emotional connection with them.

To do this, you have to expand your buyer persona.

You have to create a psychological profile of your target group. You can ask yourself the following questions and use the answers to these questions to guide your creation process:

  • What do my customers find funny?
  • What is causing them problems or frustration?
  • What topics make you angry?
  • Which problems are discussed frequently?
  • What content that is fun or enjoyable for you is shared particularly often?

During your research, you may come across a particular topic that is shared more often than other topics.

Perhaps a segment of your target group attaches particular importance to family values, health or wellness.

You can then use this knowledge for your advertising campaigns to put your company in a good light.

For example, show the families of your employees and show how your company contributes to a healthy balance between job and family or present your company's health program.

Google is known for its corporate structure, flexible working hours, family support and personal projects, and the good balance between job and family.

The company often provides behind-the-scenes insights (photos and visuals) to show their happy employees.

These photos trigger an emotional response and lead to a positive brand image.

Emotions also work in the B2B industry.

Do not be fooled, because this strategy is not only suitable for B2C companies.

Emotions also have their place in the B2B industry.

In this case, the process can take a little longer because purchasing decisions take more time, but decisions are still driven by emotions because they are made by people.

In this case, too, the following emotions play an important role:

  • Awe and the friends about having finally found a suitable solution and being able to use it to improve the workplace.
  • anticipationbecause you have found the right product to achieve your goals.
  • fears, as the purchase decision could have a negative impact on the employee and is sometimes associated with personal risks.
  • joybecause you know that the purchase will lead to positive results and will have a positive effect on the particular employee who made the purchase decision.

Emotions definitely have an influence on purchasing decisions in the B2B sector, even more than logic or rational thinking.


You can influence your customers' purchasing decisions by appealing to their feelings.

As you get to know your target audience better, you can find out what emotions drive their actions.

Then you can use these insights to appeal to your customers' existing feelings or to evoke new emotions.

Even the most (seemingly) rational decisions are driven by emotions.

When you learn to manage these emotions, you can improve the engagement rate of your content, drive action, and attract new customers.

Do you appeal to your readers' feelings?