5 Emotions That Drive Content Marketing

Monday 09th, May 2016






Everyone experiences emotions each day.

Tapping into audience’s emotions has always been an integral component of any successful marketing campaign. It’s true for every discipline of marketing, and content marketing is no exception.

Unlike the previous decade, marketers have to wade through tons of noise and competition, given the meteoric rise of social media. On the other hand, if done right, social media can propel you into the stratosphere in terms of reach and impact.

John Lewis, a UK retailer, has perfected the art of triggering audience emotions to soft sell a brand. Every year, they release Christmas adverts that are eagerly anticipated in the festive season. Their campaigns tell heartwarming stories about generous children instead of hard selling, and boy has it worked wonderfully!

The 2015 advert was shared 23000 times on social media in the first two hours of being released – a testament to the power of emotional content.

Let’s take a look at some emotions that influences and attracts audience.

Happiness and Fear

Happiness and Fear are the 2 emotions that have dominated marketing all along. When your brand is associated with positivity and happiness, it’s radiates a good vibe. Stories that are humorous, inspiring or make people laugh are most likely to be shared, compared to other emotions. In 2014, Buzz Sumo analyzed 10,000 stories with the maximum number of shares – and guess what, laughter and amusement accounted for 57% of the content.

You might ask, why not chase happiness all time? You could – but it’s very difficult to hit the mark every time. And there is a risk of fatigue when you don’t deliver each time.

On the other hand is fear. Content that is designed for evoking fear and anxiety has a good potential for a viral post.

Courtney Seiter from Buffer says, ‘The theory is that when we’re scared, we need to share the experience with others’. Studies indicate that content that triggers anxiety performs 21 % better than an average one. However, care should be taken while using fear. Fear is subjective and there is always a margin for error. There have been numerous cases where brands tried their hand with fear evoking content and ended up severely criticized.


Most brands hesitate to be associated with sadness. But, if woven into a larger narrative, sad content can be very helpful. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals emphasizes on placing sadness in their content to educate people that will help start initiatives for animal conservation.

The risk that brands take by ending the content on a somber note is that they limit the viral factor. Though it might lack in the virality factor, sad content maintains a lasting connection of the brand with the consumer. Unlike fear, somber content evokes a personal, empathetic response.

Anticipation and Surprise

On Facebook, you must have come across titles such as ‘You won’t believe What Happened Next’. Though most of them are low quality click-baits, you can hardly resist clicking them.

Even if you don’t click on these posts, it’s hard to argue how seductive they can be. Business and brands who run a serious social media business don’t manipulate audiences into clicking the links. And that’s why a strong headline that teases a topic or a well-timed promotion can greatly benefit a brand.

For instance, ‘The Truth We Won’t Admit: Drinking Is Healthy’ – an article written by Stanton Peele generated more than 7000 shares. If you closely examine the title, you can see both the emotions at work: anticipation and surprise. The great combination of a catchy headline and a scientifically robust argument is intriguing and that’s why it went viral.

If you want to succeed in mastering this art, think of it as a two-step process: setting up the anticipation to get people to click on your link, and delivering on the anticipation to keep visiting you again and again.

Each of these emotional triggers have their own set of benefits – you should know which one to use and where. Therefore the next time you plan on striking an emotional chord , pay attention to which one it is striking.


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