How to develop an emotionally appealing digital marketing strategy


Emotional resonance is almost mandatory in today’s marketing landscape. You can’t just make a great product and count on buyers coming to you – you have to lure them in. And with inflation driving customers to prioritize savings, you can’t count on brand loyalty to keep them coming back.

To capture and hold a customer’s attention in an increasingly competitive and unpredictable marketplace, you need to build deep and lasting connections. Then, like a good romantic partner, you need to make sure they feel truly seen and understood. Here are some ways to get started.


1. Study your customer’s feelings

Research shows that people’s decisions are driven more by emotion than by logic. If you can find out what’s in your customers’ hearts, you can calibrate your strategy to pull the right strings.

You can use traditional market research tools such as customer analytics, surveys, and CRM data to do this. But these may not give you the level of depth you need to truly identify with your customer. You don’t just have to anticipate the behavior and decisions of your customers. You really want to understand Why they make the choices they make and how they feel about their decisions.

Focus groups and other qualitative research tools give you more insight, but require much more time and money. Instead, you can partner with companies that innovate the science of collecting emotional data, developing more sophisticated methods to understand customers’ reasoning. Through advanced analytics, they can quickly determine what motivates customers and how to convince them to act.

2. Rewrite your story

Once you understand what’s meaningful to your customers, you can start realigning your messages with their – sometimes surprising – feelings. If you sell hybrid cars, you may discover that your audience cares more about feeding their families than about saving the planet. If your current brand story is about environmental benefits, you could start promoting the long-term savings of going hybrid instead.

Or you can take emotions in a different direction that has little to do with your brand story. You can simply use your customers’ motivational emotions to gain visibility, as in the case of “sad advertising.” The message doesn’t even have to relate to the product if you convince customers that your brand shares their values.

Do you remember the beneficent protagonist of the Thai commercial life insurance that went viral a few years ago? The spot played on the consumer’s empathy and desire for connection, without really saying anything about the product. Such ads work because they make customers feel something, and that makes them remember you.

3. Segment and manage

In addition to customizing your overall brand story, you need to build emotion-based content for different types of customers and interactions. To do this, segment your marketing based on the motivational emotions of different customers. Perhaps you have a demographic that is moved by fear of toxic chemicals in their food. Another is driven by extreme jealousy from their fitter, leaner friends. Those two groups should get very different ads for your vegan meat substitute.

When developing your marketing strategy, you can also think about how you want customers to respond. You can build your content around a variety of business goals, such as creating more online presence or earning customer loyalty.

Research shows that anger and awe go viral the fastest. If you want to quickly reach more people with a new product, target your ads to those emotions. If your goal is to build brand loyalty, research shows that your marketing should evoke fear.

4. Use testimonials and word of mouth

One of the best ways to engage with customers is to make them feel closer to the product. Social media marketing, testimonials and other word of mouth can be some of the best emotional marketing tools. In fact, 81% of customers said social media posts from influencers or personal connections led them to buy something.

Hiring trusted influencers to promote your product to their social media followers is one way to do this. Another is creating viral content that people voluntarily share on their social media. A link from a friend makes a customer feel much closer and more connected to a product.

Getting more customers to review your offerings can also go a long way in fostering that sense of belonging. Research shows people trust online product reviews almost as much as personal recommendations and more than brands.

5. Give the right clues

There are other, more subtle ways digital marketers can tap into customer emotions. For example, certain colors and word choices elicit certain emotional responses from customers.

Blue stands for trust and reliability, which increases customer confidence in hospitals or health insurers, for example. Green represents nature and is great for selling eco-friendly products and fresh food. Red can evoke urgency or make a customer hungry, so it’s a good choice for a sale or fast food.

When all else fails, you can go the old-fashioned route of making customers feel insecure about their appearance. But in this day and age, inclusivity and positive marketing you get much more bang for your buck.

Know yourself

The core of an emotionally resonant marketing strategy is knowing and serving your customer first and foremost. Before making major changes, review your current marketing strategies to see what’s already catching on. Get the clearest possible understanding of what your brand has to offer and expand what works.

Keep in mind that you can always tailor, segment, and reshape your emotional marketing — to a point. But be careful never to stray too far from your brand’s core message and values. The most important core emotion you need from your customers is trust. To earn it, you have to keep your story straight.