An Emotional Appeal is Better at Driving Your Customers’ Decision-Making Process


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Tapping into your customers’ emotions can be a powerful way to connect with them and drive desired consumer behaviors. Emotional campaigns speak to the heart, and can create a different outcome than rational campaigns, which tap into the logical side of your customer. Both tactics can impact your customers’ decision-making process, but our research has uncovered that an emotional appeal, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic, will more consistently increase profitability and go further to grow your brand.

Emotional vs. rational

Emotional campaigns are an incredibly successful way to grow brand following, which can provide numerous benefits long term. An emotional campaign is one that appeals to your customers’ feelings and cultivates a deeper appreciation for the brand over time. This type of marketing often uses imagery to drive the message. An emotional campaign can be effective even with passive attention and works best with multiple instances of exposure. This marketing tactic will do the heavy lifting of building long-lasting brand perceptions and works for both current and potential customers. Short- and long-term goals can be achieved with emotional marketing, making it a multi-faceted approach.

In comparison to emotional campaigns, rational campaigns appeal to logic and use information to persuade. They often use verbal cues and require active attention from the target. While they may drive immediate impact, facts and figures are often quickly forgotten. Rational campaigns are effective at reaching consumers who are already familiar with the brand and feel a connection. This means that rational campaigns can be better at short-term goals like boosting sales, as the target has already bought into the brand’s message.

How emotions drive purchase decisions

Consumer behavior is driven by consumer emotion. Society has become more engaged with brands than ever; we have opinions about brands, seek out brands that share our values and even decline to shop with those who don’t. We follow brands on social media as if they’re a friend, and 63 percent of consumers say that they prefer to purchase from brands that reflect their values. Emotion is a critical component to decision making, and research has shown that how a customer feels has 1.5 times more impact than how they think about a purchase. When your customer makes a purchase, they aren’t just buying a product, they are making an emotional connection with your brand that reflects who they are. During the COVID-19 pandemic, when emotions are running high, it’s even more important to create a positive emotional connection with your target audience.

Rational campaigns drive sales. Emotional campaigns drive profit.

The type of campaign you select can determine the “user groups” you’re able to reach. The broader the target audience of a campaign, the more widespread and bigger its effects. A rational campaign will likely only persuade your current customers, while an emotional campaign could bring in additional buyers. With this larger pool of potential customers, you’ll be able to grow the size of your brand, driving brand loyalty which has a direct correlation to brand size and profitability. User groups are:

Brand lovers – People who are already loyal to your brand. Targeting this group yields the smallest effect, because their numbers tend to be relatively small for most brands and these are people who already know the brand well.

In-Markets – These people engage in your vertical frequently and have some degree of familiarity with your brand (light/lapsed users) but likely are loyal to another provider.

Future Customers – Future customers could be anyone who currently needs your product or service but hasn’t engaged with your brand. These are the people who you may not be able to attract into the brand in the short term, but as the brand grows, you will need to appeal to them emotionally. Influencing this group is the biggest opportunity for the brand and for the business because there are more of them and because marketing will have a bigger influence over them.

Emotionally connecting with in-markets and future customers

In order to grow market share and attract new customers, it’s imperative to understand the emotional triggers, motivations and attitudes of in-markets and future customers. This is compounded with the fact that you’ll be marketing during a global pandemic, a time in which a miscalculation in messaging could cause lasting repercussions. Listening will be the key to connecting with these groups, and the best way to learn about current consumer emotions is to get that information directly from your target market. Market research can help uncover a variety of insights allowing brands to learn about consumer behaviors. Test messaging and determine through feedback which will connect best with the target during this tumultuous time. Market research will result in more effective marketing that will build brand size and reach, which in turn will increase brand loyalty, driving up long-term profitability.

Take for example the new breakfast campaign from California Milk. The campaign does not reference Covid-19 in any way, nor does it attempt to borrow emotion from the pandemic. Instead the campaign offers a genuine emotional look at the new normal. The campaign realistically captures the emotions surrounding busy families trying to meet the demands of remote working and schooling, to highlight a genuine ‘California milk moment’ of family calmness and togetherness – breakfast. The integrated campaign was made in collaboration with creative agency Deutsch LA.

Second that emotion

With an emotional appeal, brands will be able to drive desired consumer behaviors, reaching both short- and long-term goals. An emotional campaign makes a lasting impact, and over time can help attract new customers to the brand. As new customers begin to make purchases, brand profitability rises. One of the best ways to create an emotional campaign that speaks to your target is to conduct market research. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, hitting the right emotional tone will be key in reaping the rewards of this marketing approach.

Chris Hubble serves as CEO of market research and consumer insights agency Bastion db5. Before founding db5 in 2009, Chris served as Chief Executive Officer at Hall & Partners USA. Chris has 30+ years of experience in consumer insights with particular expertise in new product development, brand strategy, brand communications, and customer experience. He’s worked with over 50% of Fortune 500 clients. Bastion db5 has done work for Yahoo!, Verizon Media, and BuzzFeed.


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