How to use emotional marketing in your campaigns

Crafting compelling written content can be a challenge. Not only do you have to find interesting things to talk about, but you also have to nail the copy, find the right images, dial in your SEO, publish regularly, and ensure your audience both sees your content and cares enough to stick with it to the end.

This final part might be the trickiest of all. A study by Reuters found that only 51% of people who read an online article actually read the whole thing, with 22% of people just reading the headline and the first few lines. Getting people to stick around and read the content you’ve spent ages creating, let alone engage with any actions you’re hoping they might take as a result, is an uphill battle.

Intelligent content strategies are required if you hope to encourage your audience to engage with your content to the fullest extent. And that’s exactly where emotional marketing can help. If you stick with this blog to the end, we’ll go over what emotional marketing is, the power of leveraging emotions in your marketing, and some examples of how you can use emotions in your own marketing strategy. 

In this article:

What is emotional marketing?

The concept of emotional marketing is exactly what it sounds like — using emotion in your content to help drive traffic and keep your audience engaged. People have been using emotions to help get their point across since time began, focusing not just on delivering information but also on making the audience feel something. 

We can see emotional marketing everywhere we look, from fictional stories to product launches and TV adverts. This could be any emotion you can think of, be it happiness, sadness, anger, etc. You might think that focusing on positive emotions would be the way to go when creating marketing materials but one look at the news lets us know that sadness, fear, and anger are all great for boosting interest and engagement in what you’re saying.

But why is that? What is it about emotional marketing that makes it so compelling?

Why emotions are such a powerful marketing tool

Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club (yes, it was a book before it was a movie!), wrote in his non-fiction collection Stranger Than Fiction that “A good story should make you laugh, and a moment later break your heart.” And here, we can see the key concept behind emotional marketing — making the audience feel something.

Think about your favorite movie or book or even just a cool article you read. Yes, you can probably recount the details of the best scene or paragraph that stood out to you but it’s likely not because of the content itself, but rather what emotion it elicited in you. People naturally connect with emotion on a far more fundamental level than they do with just pure information — it’s a part of being human.

Purely emotional campaigns perform roughly twice as well as purely rational campaigns

And the data backs this up too. In their book Brand Immortality, authors Hamish Pringle and Peter Field conducted an analysis of the Insitute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) data bank that contained over 1400 successful marketing campaigns. In this analysis, they found that purely emotional campaigns performed roughly twice as well as purely rational campaigns (31% vs. 16%) and even better than campaigns that had a blend of both emotional and rational content (31% vs. 26%).

It is a scientific fact — demonstrated through the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) — that people primarily use their emotions to evaluate brands as opposed to information. This is baked into our biology, with the emotional parts of the brain evaluating information in about one-fifth of the time it takes the rational parts of the brain to evaluate that same information. 

When we interact with content, we have an immediate gut reaction, seen in the fact that people form a first impression in around 7 seconds. This emotional reaction dictates how our following interaction with that content will play out and whether it will hook us and stick in our brains for the long run or slip right out of our minds as soon as we’re finished reading.

Leaning into your audience’s emotions and creating content that doesn’t just make them think but also feel, is crucial if you want to stand out in an increasingly saturated market. With consumers having their eyeballs and brains constantly assaulted by a deluge of ads, articles, and videos, leveraging emotion could mark the difference between success and failure in your marketing.

How to craft an emotional marketing strategy

How to craft an emotional marketing strategy

So, we know why we should be using emotion in our marketing but how exactly do we go about infusing our content with some much-needed emotional color? Let’s look at a few tips for crafting your next emotional marketing strategy, including:

  • Finding what motivates your audience
  • Narrowing your approach
  • Building out your emotional ecosystem

Find what motivates your audience

The first step to crafting your emotional marketing campaign is to find out which emotions actually connect with your desired audience. There’s no sense basing your strategy on eliciting feelings of anger if your audience is looking for upbeat, motivational, and happy content. Appeal to the emotions that you feel represent your brand best and appeal to your audience.

Test out different types of content and look at what your competitors are doing to find out which broad emotions you should be targeting. From there, you can begin to refine your approach to appeal more closely to what your audience is looking for.

Narrow your approach

Once you have the broad emotional strokes in place, you can start narrowing and refining your approach. If you’ve found that your audience engages with “happy” content, start playing with different formats and approaches to elicit those emotions in your readers.

Then, you can analyze which pieces of content actually convert and resonate with your audience and refine your approach in line with this information.

Build out your emotional ecosystem

Now you know the broad emotions you are targeting and the specific formats and techniques that work, start thinking about how you can use emotion in all of your brand’s communications. Take the lessons you’ve learned from your content and apply them to how you interact with your customers on social media, through newsletters, and how you present your brand to the world.

Emotional marketing should be a key component of your brand’s entire identity, not just the content you produce. Use the emotions your audience connects with as a cornerstone to build the rest of your brand communications around.

Examples of emotional marketing strategies across B2B and B2C

To close out, let’s take a look at some great examples of emotional marketing in both the B2B and B2C spaces.

De Beers

You might not have heard of the brand but you’ve definitely heard their slogan — diamonds are forever (told you!). No, this isn’t just a bond film, it actually started life as the tagline used by diamond company De Beers to boost its sales of the precious stones.

By using the word “forever” in its tagline, De Beers played into the emotions of its audience by making the association between diamonds and long-lasting love. In other words, the brand was selling a lifestyle, not just a stone. This approach was so successful that it was almost singlehandedly responsible for the adoption of diamonds as the stone of choice for engagement rings, a trend that is still ubiquitous today.

John Lewis

We covered this marketing campaign in-depth in a recent blog post but the annual John Lewis Christmas advert is a textbook example of emotional marketing. By telling a story that plays on our emotions each year, John Lewis was able to elevate its Christmas ad from just an advertisement into a yearly event.


In 2023, the marketing platform Hootsuite released a video entitled “Mean Tweets.” Parodying the format made popular on late-night shows, the video featured Hootsuite employees reading out negative tweets about their platform. It was funny, lighthearted, and transparent as it showed that the Hootsuite team was not shying away from criticism.

It also acted as an announcement for updates to the platform, directly addressing many of the issues raised by the tweets. In this way, Hootsuite was able to use humor to capture audience attention, show they were listening to feedback, and announce changes to the platform all in one fell swoop. A masterclass in emotional marketing.

With any luck, you should have a bit of a better understanding of what emotion marketing is and how you can use it in your next marketing campaign. If you’re looking for more content marketing insights and explainers, make sure you take a gander at the rest of the Scribly blog!