How to use emotions in advertising

The use of emotions in advertising December 2018


Zig Ziglar once said “People don't buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons”

In other words, before people commit to a brand, the brand has to do enough groundwork to make them care.

Studies have shown that there are 'six universal emotions' that we all feel.

Happiness, Anger, Disgust, Sadness, Fear and Surprise.




1. Happiness

Brands want us to enage and share their content with each other and their studies have shown that there is a much greater chance of this occurring when they use bright, warm, positive and happy stimuli in their marketing.

It's often the case that emotionally driven events of our past leave a strong impression on us and later influence us to take action. Emotional content e.g. in advertising, can trigger us to purchase or donate in the heat of the moment.


2. Fear


Fear can be effective for discouraging people not to do certain things that would be harmful. Examples include anti- smoking images on cigarette packaging, drink driving ads showing wrecked vehicles caused by drivers that were over the limit or environmental posters showing the future where cities like London, New York and Tokyo are completely submerged under water because we did not look after the environment today.


Related: Advertising tactics


3. Anger


The use of anger will usually get our attention because it evokes suspense, anticipation of conflict and drama. We are all voyeurs and will often stop what we are doing to see how an emotionally charged situation will play out. Will it escalate and get out of control? Will there be a resolution? Film studios use this tactic a lot in their trailers to try and entice us to go and buy a ticket. The protagonist may be framed for a crime they did not commit, lose a loved one due to the antagonist or a loved one gets kidnapped e.g. (Liam Neeson in Taken). The result is the enraged protagonist then has no option to seek revenge and justice.

4. Surprise

When we are surprised by an advert e.g. we are expecting one outcome only to discover something totally different, the type of surprise, if it's a good one may encourage us to make a purchase. An example that comes to mind is when a car manufacturer labels all the special features of a car whilst the car is being driven through picturesque or exotic locations. You're expecting the price tag at the end to be way outside of your price range then when it's revealed you realize that it's affordable and you may want to trade in your old vehicle and consider the finance option on offer.








5. Sadness

We will often empathise with a person that has suffered misfortune or is going through a very tough time. Healthcare companies often show us a a patient and relatives looking unhappy because of a challenging health condition that someone is facing and how it affects them and people closest to them. Usually the healthcare company will provide reassurance as to why you should entrust your care to them and why they are the best choice and then the patient getting better until they are finally well enough to leave the care centre.


6. Disgust

Most often you will have seen disgust in before an after style adverts. For example cleaning products and air fresheners will feature somebody walking in to a room and immediately hold their nose or react to how dirty it is. The problem will then be resolved once a brand of cleaner or freshener is applied leaving surfaces spotless and the air smelling like cherry blossom.

Disgust is associated with unease and unpleasantness which are things naturally we like to avoid. We will often purchase certain products to avoid being labelled as such