Are Emotional Marketing Methods Really That Effective?

emotional marketing methods effective commercial ads

Emotional Marketing is a time-honored post-70’s marketing method that is seen everywhere from charity adverts to shoe adverts. Yet have you ever watched one of those charity appeal ads all the way through? Do you remember the old smoking ads that showed horrible diseases, or babies breathing smoke? Did it stop you smoking? How many beaten donkeys, abused dogs, and drowned cats have you seen on TV and then donated to the charity? These are extreme examples, but do you know what most people feel when you try to manipulate them emotionally? Angry. They feel Angry! 

Emotional Marketing Works - Doesn’t It? 

The problem with college textbooks is that they get across a point, but rarely get across its context, subtly, or the fact that it “Can” be wrong. Textbooks make things seem black and white when they are not. 

Do not let this dissuade you from taking educational courses. For example, management courses and business admin courses are invaluable, even if they only give you a grounding in the basics. Marketing courses are worth-while learning experiences, even if they only teach you what not to do. But remember that things are not always black and white, and often not as simple or clear-cut as textbooks suggest. 

For example, using emotion to push people into giving to charity is a bad idea because the viewer is usually driven away from the ad by the upsetting nature of its content. The best charity advertisements are often those that use logic over emotion, such as the famous Oxfam ad called, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, give him a fishing rod and he will feed himself.” 

On the other hand, if you are promoting a theme park, then using excitement, happiness and adventure to push your ad narrative is a great idea. Disney was brilliant at this back in the 90s. Their ads often showed a child tentatively entering this new amazing place, only to be bowled over by characters, rides, fireworks, and castles. All of which was interspersed with happy children smiling. There were more shots of smiling kids than there were shots of their theme park attractions. 

I Can’t Just Make Clinical Adverts? 

Firstly, yes you can. A cold and clinical advertisement is far more effective and far less offensive than an ad that is packed with emotion. Car advertisers have known this for years. These days, car ads look more like corporate PowerPoint presentations than they do marketing material. In fact, many image-based car ads show off the car, mention a stat or two, and then give a price or cost of monthly payments. 

Secondly, the point is that you shouldn't be using emotion to make your sale, but this doesn't mean your ad has to be clinical. Take the “Red Bull gives you wings” advertisements. They show people flying away. It has a very simple message, and mentions nothing about the properties of the drink, its taste, smell, cost, etc. They simply push a popular name, and they do it without using emotion. Any emotion that comes from the absurdity and comedy is a side effect; it is not the lever by which the product is pushed. 

What Is The Alternative To Emotion? 

Try selling the steak rather than the sizzle. Good marketers have known this for years. You only sell the sizzle if the steak stinks! The movie “The Muppets Take Manhattan” made a joke of all the emotional and manipulative marketing that companies try to foolishly push down your throat. Characters in the show try to make up names for a soap, using all sorts of silly high-brow and emotional themes, when Kermit simply says, “Ocean Breeze Soap, it gets you clean.” 


How many times have you seen ads, and through most of it you have no idea what it is selling. Remember that people got paid to make that ad. They would have had more success simply telling you what the product is and what it does. 

I Need Trickery To Get Ahead Of My Competitors 

No, no you do not. What you need is a clear understanding of your product, of your customer, and the narrative skill required to take people from one train of thought to another. 

It is no different to great storytelling or great movie making. Would you have enjoyed Scrooge’s redemption as much if he had given in during the first ghost visit? Or if he made silly Marvel-esque jokes all the way through? Or if during the second ghost visit he did a dance number? 

The Greatest Adverts Used Emotion? 

Again, no they didn't, and in many cases, any emotion you felt was a side-effect of the great advertisement. It was not the lever by which people were compelled to buy. 

● “Wassup!” and “Where’s the Beef?” didn't use emotion, but they created it when the sayings were repeated to friends or on comedy TV.

● Never has somebody felt emotionally compelled to buy a very safe Volvo car. 

● The death of a loved one is the most common reason for a life insurance purchase, not because of the manipulative old-person-child-sad ads we see on TV. 

Hilarious ads do sometimes go viral, but the vampire effect often shows that said humor (the emotion) doesn't translate into sales, especially when the people remember the joke or the meme over the actual company behind the ad. For example, the “Overly Attached Girlfriend” meme was actually started by the Justin Beiber’s production team to throw attention on his new single, yet most people have no idea the meme was ever part of a corporate advertisement. 

Final Thoughts - Take The Slow And Boring Route 

Rather than trying to come up with the next ground-breaking earth shattering advertisement, start very small, and test hundreds of small and clinical ideas. Test and retest ads that simply state what your company does and what your product does. Look into ways you can promote your products for free online so that you do not feel like you “have” to make an impact. In short, rather than trying to burn down the woods, try setting a few kindling fires and see which produces the most heat. Over enough time, you will be surprised to see how the blandest and often inconsequential adverts seem to have the most traction. 

Marketing to emotions is for movies, creating click-bait is for shiftless teens, and marketing trickery is for companies selling bad products. Keep things simple, honest, clean and un-manipulative. You may not enjoy the sort of traction that viral ads or Super Bowl ads do, but you will create a customer base that doesn't need to be wowed with fireworks upon every interaction.

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