Fire-up customer neurons with emotional content

The mood on social is changing. The Covid-19 support ads have run their course. And your audiences are looking for something more meaningful as we move into recovery. They want to hear from brands with empathy and emotional connections. And brands want to trigger responses that will see action and ensure they are memorable at point of purchase.

It’s time to bring a depth of the emotional into social content.

Why bother with emotions?

Whether we are talking consumers or B2B customers, people form emotional connections with brands. We don’t just buy based on features, benefits or just because of discounts (even if that sometimes provokes impulse purchases).

Emotions help brands be memorable. There is much research proving that brand recall and emotion are interconnected. Emotional content boosts recall and loyalty. And we all want our company to be front of mind when our customer comes to buy, don’t we?

It can be explained with a wee bit of neuroscience. Apparently, the brain fires 11 million sensory neurons every second. Most don’t travel through conscious pathways, but instead they feed into our gut decision making. We might think we are making logical rational decisions, but we are often making emotional ones.

And this matters a lot when you are trying to push through the social media noise. Because according to, an emotional approach in advertising is nearly twice as effective as a rational approach.

More importantly for social, emotional content is more likely to drive response from engagement to click throughs.  One teeny tiny yellow-faced example is in the emoji. Emojis, our social shortcut to emotions, drive up responsiveness. According to Hubspot 25.4% of tweets with emojis get better engagement. 57% of Facebook posts get more likes while 33% get shares and comments if they have emojis in them.

So emotions in content is a good thing. So how do we use them in our social media marketing:

Layer those feelings  

Getting the right tone in emotional content is a balancing act for most brands. There is a lot to get right and you cannot afford to misfire, or the repercussions can be an issue on social.

Creating emotional content is not just showing emotions without a reason. Crying, laughing or distressed images won’t work if they are not in context. And they won’t work if they are off-centre with your audience needs and your brand.

You need to be looking at a layering of feelings between the general mood of your audience and the emotions that you will want to evoke to trigger a response or reaction.

Reading the mood of your audience on social is made easier by social intelligence tools like Brandwatch. But there are some words of warning:

  • Remember emotions can change rapidly on social. Especially following government announcements or key bits of news. You need to watch it like a hawk and adapt your messaging fast.
  • Be nuanced. Pitching the broader emotions too strongly, and without authenticity and you’ll come across as crass. Acknowledge the situation and move on. The supermarkets, especially Tesco and Aldi have done a rather fine job of this.

When it comes to looking at triggers, then your focus is the feelings you want to trigger in your customer. You want them to feel an emotional need, not just see that you reflect the mood. Some drivers are relatively obvious such as feelings of hope, desire, urgency, positivity etc. Emotions that will be a connection to your brand. Others are more complex, such as fear or alarm.

Your audience is hungry of connectedness. A feeling of belonging that goes way beyond the bland messages of “in this together”. They are looking for the empathy that exists in their community, amongst friends and family. Find that and you’ll make a difference.

Unpicking your emotions step by step

How do brands get to that sweet spot of emotional context that meets the mood and triggers a response? There are some clear steps:

  • Audience moods are indeed skipping around on social. So social media cannot be business as usual. Your first stop is to monitor. Dive into the conversations your audiences are having and immerse yourself in their world. If you want to be emotional you need to feel it.
  • Build really detailed profiles of your customers if you want to understand emotional triggers. Not just personas, but strong psychographic analysis that details values, attitudes and behaviours. Take the time to know who you’re talking to.
  • When picking your approach there is one must ask question: Can you legitimately own this emotional territory. If the answer is no, don’t do it. Don’t shoehorn it in. The backlash will be painful.
  • When it comes to social, you need a personality. How can you expect to connect on an emotional level if as a brand, you don’t know who you are? Know your purpose, your tone and your style.
  • Once you know the mood of your audience, the emotional triggers and whether you can communicate them with legitimately, then you need to consider how you will take your audience on an emotional journey. What’s the narrative? How will they experience your brand, and how will you tell a story that your audience will find affinity with.
  • And only then after all this work, do you think about the creative. From the music to the visuals and copy.

This is how you build emotional intelligence. EQ is like any muscle; you need to train it and work on it constantly to bring it up to full power. Don’t fall into the trap of emotional manipulation. It rarely works and can degrade trust. Like a good workout, you just can’t fake it.


Oh and enjoy getting to know your customers – you might discover something new about the people you want to talk to everyday through social.



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