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How to Tap Into Emotions and Boost Your Content Marketing

Emotions in content marketing






We all experience emotions every day. From our daily struggles to our biggest dreams.

It’s your job as a content marketer to discover these emotions, and uncover their raw ingredients.

Embrace them, dig deeper and offer a way out the other side.

We are always trying to understand why some content goes viral and rises to the top – and some flops. Up until now we have focused on the content itself – optimizing it for search and sharing, then desperately hoping it will get some attention.

But what about your readers’ emotional needs? The sense of belonging, ego, self-expression and obligation.

There are ways to “tap” into these emotions and they should be a part of every content marketing strategy.

You have about 2 seconds to get people’s attention – that’s your first couple of sentences. My hope, for example, is that you were drawn in by my first sentence and lured down the page. Now, the rest of my job is to engage you, to continue to feed your emotions, and move you along in two ways:

  1. If the goal is increased brand awareness, relationship building, and sharing of valuable and practical information, then I am looking to compel and engage the emotions of my readers to the extent that they will want to share.
  2. If the goal is moving the visitor into the next phase toward a purchase, I will be using sales psychology and neuroscience to stimulate the emotional responses necessary to achieve certain actions (solving his/her problem or relieving the pain through purchasing the product or service I am selling).

The whole 2-second thing and beyond – Creating engagement

Once you have a potential customer’s attention, the next step is to engage that customer with the content you provide. At this point that customer is still in an emotional stage, so continuing to appeal to their emotions will achieve that engagement.

At this point you can use humor, fun, arousal of curiosity – address pain, fear, and/or anxiety over their problem – engage in story-telling.

This idea of engagement through emotion is embedded in our make-up. A few years ago, two researchers at Wharton studied content that went viral, in an attempt to determine commonalities, and, indeed, they found them. They discovered that very early on in that content, the following appeared:

  1. Positivity – when people feel good or entertained by what they read, they are far more likely to share what they have read and/or viewed.
  2. Shock and awe – facts or data that shock people are more likely to be shared
  3. Anger, fear, anxiety – there is something in human nature that wants to share what they are angry about and to comment on it when they share it. This in turn stimulates more commenting and sharing. The same goes for things that instill fear.

Emotions for viral content marketing

Practical aspect of content – After the engagement

By the time the reader has experienced the initial emotional attraction, and logic is “kicking in” a bit, it is time to present the useful and practical aspects of your content.

You can address the “pain” or problem that the visitor has and demonstrate that you, as an authority, have a solution to that problem. If you do your job well, with clear, simple language and engaging media, your reader will see inherent value and move into the purchase phase.

If you goal for this piece of content is not to sell but to increase awareness and brand recognition, then you want that reader to share the content. Again, if the piece is done well, and the reader sees value, it will be shared.

Certain emotions trigger the most intense sharing responses.

Heat map for emotions that make content marketing better

How to do it

You cannot appeal to the specific emotions of your target audience unless you are absolutely certain you know who that audience is. As a content marketer, that is a critical piece of your responsibility.

To do this, you have to “hang out” with them:

  1. Create a demographic from your current customer base, and use that demographic to develop a profile. Use the profile and good analytics tools to determine the sites, social media, etc. where your typical customer hangs out. If you want to get even more precise with your profile, survey and interview your existing customers. Visit the websites they visit; see what they share and post on Facebook.
  2. Begin to develop a psychological profile. For example, what type of humor do they appreciate? How sophisticated or simple is their language? What frustrates them, angers them, pleases them, and what problems do they speak to? Psychologists have quite a list that includes such things as control, superiority, family values, belonging, fun, self-achievement, helping others, and so forth. If, for example, you discover that your demographic seems to be very strong on family values, then sharing stories of you and your team with their families on your blog will be perfect.
  3. Focus on your audience in the beginning of whatever you write. If that audience is correctly identified, you can then address its “pain” points and problems and how your product or service resolves those. Once they accept that you are an empathetic expert, and feel a relationship with you, you can move to the next phase of the conversion process – perhaps getting email addresses through special offers, such as a short e-book for free, or offering a subscription to your newsletter. If you have developed the emotions of trust and security, you will be successful. Even if the follower is not yet ready to buy, when they do need your product or service, they will buy from you!

A short case study in the appeal to humor

Because the research from Wharton showed that most people want some fun and that humor and jokes were consistently shared, using humor in content marketing is extremely effective. Large companies do it all the time, in order to keep their brand name “out there”.

They know that humor does the following things:

  1. It grabs and holds attention
  2. It results in an emotional response – not just positivity but a connection to you and your brand
  3. It shows you are just “one of them” after all
  4. You are remembered and shared. And if you use humor on all of your social media pages, you will continue to increase your number of followers.

Here are some examples of the “big boys” using humor on social media. You can easily and cheaply do the same.

  • Newcastle Beer tweeted: “It’s National Beer Day. Have an ice-cold Newcastle and pretend you care.”
  • Virgin Airlines posted a picture to wish its audience a Happy Thanksgiving. An employee, dressed in flight clothing was in a stance as if he was guiding a plane in on the runway with his arms raised. Instead of the normal lights, he held two giant turkey drumsticks.

Virgin Airlines emotive photo to make content marketing better

  • Charmin Bath Tissue issued a Tweet on Father’s Day: “To all you dads doing your morning routine, we wish you a Happy Father’s Day.”

One last comment on this one: You have to know your audience and your humor must be appropriate for them. Don’t offend.

Don’t neglect the emotions of your audience

Sometimes content marketers get so caught up in the latest technology and SEO techniques, analyzing traffic and the content itself – they forget that buying is about 85% emotional and only 15% logical.

Guest Author: John Unger is a passionate writer and contributor from Manchester, UK. Currently, he works as an editor at AssignmentMountain. He writes about things that matter and tries to consider the issue from a different angle. His main topics of interest are self-improvement and marketing.

Jeffbullas's Blog


  • Hi John and
    thanks for your advices!
    Personally I think that there are also some technical
    nuances of going viral. Assume that the story is well-written and it tap into
    the most sensible emotions but when it’s served in the unattractive form it won’t
    drive traffic. There are a couple of key trend in consuming content nowadays,
    which I covered here: http://blog.4screens.net/2015/07/17/4-trends-in-customer-satisfaction-surveys-to-bring-the-best-results/

    It’s all about Micro-moments, Multiscreening, right Context and Attractiveness.
    I put through those trend in my company’s product – easy, good-looking quiz
    editor; feel free to give it a try: https://4screens.net/engageform

  • Hey John

    Great article. I agree engaging the emotions of your readers is the key to great copywriting and content marketing.

    Interestingly, some studies have suggested that appealing to negative emotions can gain more social traction than appealing to positive ones.


  • Netta

    Thanks for sharing, John! I agree that it is important to remember your audience and their emotions in content. It’s also good to test what gets better reactions from your audience – which emotions work best for them. I loved the part about the humor – I’m glad I now have an excellent reason for using some fun jokes in my content!

  • Great article! Focusing on the audience from the very beginning is the key to success in content marketing in my opinion as well. I would even suggest using a social media monitoring tool to gain insights into topics relevant to your target audience. check out Brand24 – it’s my top choice for building up a reputation and engaging in conversations with your audience. http://brand24.net/ Thanks for the insights and tips! 🙂