A customer’s interaction with your brand involves a mix of emotional and rational responses. A business should always focus on both, of course, but it should especially understand how today’s online social environment primes the market for emotion-based strategies.

The Science of Emotions: Use Data to Pinpoint Emotional Motivators

Researchers have worked hard to understand the science of emotions as it applies to marketing and brand connection. A two-year study featured in the Harvard Business Review has attracted attention in recent years. As you might expect, it features numerous examples and statistics of how emotional motivators increase customer behavior. (One example: a bank increased its use among Millenials by 70 percent when it introduced a credit card with an emotion-based strategy.)


But the end-goal is more than just seeing a spike in key stats for a given time period. Effective emotion-based marketing can create a lifelong bond and loyalty between brands and clients, and that’s the ultimate goal. Classic brand-building books such as Lovemarks build an undeniable case for this approach. As Kevin Roberts, author of Lovemarks says, “Human beings are powered by emotion, not by reason. Study after study has proven that if the emotion centers of our brain are damaged in some way, we don’t just lose the ability to laugh or cry, we lose the ability to make decisions.”

The two-year study mentioned by the Harvard Business Review narrowed 300 emotional motivators down to ten primary ones that are common across all industries. Consumers (B2C) and clients (B2B) have desires to:

  1. Stand out from the crowd
  2. Have confidence in the future
  3. Enjoy a sense of well-being
  4. Feel a sense of freedom
  5. Feel a sense of thrill
  6. Feel a sense of belonging
  7. Protect the environment
  8. Be the person I want to be
  9. Feel secure
  10. Succeed in life

The trick is to align your company’s strategies with the key emotional motivators of your customers or clients–i.e. the emotions that produce profitable purchase habits. You don’t have to possess the natural emotional charisma of “rock star” brands like Disney or Apple. Any product in any industry can produce emotional reactions.

As noted in Motista’s two-year study on emotional motivators (as summarized by the Harvard Business Review), the process of an emotion-based strategy has three major components:

  1. Apply big data analytics to detailed customer-data sets, then identify the emotional motivators for a category’s most valuable customers. High-value automobile customers, for example, might want to “feel a sense of belonging” and “feel a sense of freedom.”
  2. Use statistical modeling to look at a large number of customers and brands, comparing survey results about people’s emotional motivators with their purchase behavior and identifying spikes in buying that are associated with specific motivators. This reveals which motivators generate the most-profitable customer behaviors in the category.
  3. Quantify the current and potential value of motivators for a given brand and help identify strategies to leverage them.

HBR sums these points up this way: “The model allows us to compare the value of making strong emotional connections with that of scoring well on standard customer metrics such as satisfaction and brand differentiation, thus highlighting the potential gains from looking beyond traditional measures.”

As noted in the research, using an emotion-based approach transitions a customer or client from not only being satisfied with the product or service, but being “fully connected” to the brand in a personal way that can last for years, even a lifetime.

Don’t Forget Visual-Based Media

In other research, as noted by a recent article from Forbes, visual posts on image-based platforms such as Instagram are more prone to being liked or shared if they have a positive emotional motivator rather than a negative one. A social proof Instagram campaign–i.e. posts that display customers or clients succeeding or feeling a sense of satisfaction while using the product or service–is an effective example of a positive motivator.

That’s not to say that negative emotions can’t be effective either the campaign is done well. The Mayhem campaign by Allstate is a clear example of a creative use of visual media based on emotional motivators (in this case depicting the negative consequences of not taking action).

All the Feels: Be Smart About It

The tips above can also help your business avoid unintelligent use of emotion-based branding. If you’re not keenly aware of your customer’s emotional motivators, you may turn them off by coming across as manipulative or irrelevant. If you’re careful and smart about it, your emotion-based approach will hit just the right tone to connect with your audience.

Mindshape understands how to leverage these principles of emotional motivators to define and strengthen your brand identity. If you are interested in learning more about how we can help your brand connect on a deeper level with your customers and clients, contact us today.