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Guide to Emotional Marketing: Unleashing the Feels

By Jeff Deikis

March 21, 2024

emotional marketing

When emotional marketing works, you don’t just know it – you feel it. The KPIs are measured in goosebumps, tears and skipped heartbeats: physical reactions caused by a sudden connection between brand and consumer.

But reactions – and connections –  like these don’t happen by accident. They’re born from weeks, months and sometimes even years of brand strategizing, researching and testing (plus no small amount of creative flair). 

If the idea of spending years on emotional marketing strategies raises the wrong kind of goosebumps, take a deep breath. Our guide below covers everything you need to know about creating ad experiences that connect brands and consumers across space and time.

What is Emotional Marketing?

Emotional marketing seeks to establish connections between people, brands and products by tapping into shared human experiences.

Messaging that resonates with audiences’ goals, aspirations, fears and passions establishes a common ground between brand and consumer – a sense of understanding that leads to strong, carefully crafted bonds that can even span generations.

The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty started conversations about body image conventions by featuring non-model, unedited women of all ages, shapes and ethnicities in their marketing materials. Nearly two decades after its initial launch, the campaign continues to impact women and girls with ads, activations and initiatives (including charitable endeavors) focused on personal acceptance and the rejection of rigid beauty standards.

Sometimes, the product being sold isn’t even present in the ad. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, P&G’s timely “Thank You, Mom” ad subverted the narrative by celebrating both athletes and the mothers who support their dreams.

And even if the product is present – like in Coca-Cola’s candid camera-style “Happiness Machine” – it’s a side dish compared to the simple joy of making someone smile with random acts of kindness.

These examples show that emotional engagement differs from traditional approaches to marketing by focusing on the emotional needs and desires of consumers rather than solely highlighting product features.

How Successful is Emotional Marketing?

Emotional connections drive brand loyalty. When businesses invest in marketing efforts centered on meaningful human experiences, the outcomes are significant, according to research:

  • Emotionally connected customers are 52% more valuable to brands (Harvard Business Review)
  • Ads with above-average emotional response lead to a 23% increase in sales volume (Nielsen)
  • Campaigns containing only emotional content performed almost twice as well (31% vs 16%) as campaigns with only rational content (
  • The majority (71%) of customers recommend a brand they feel an emotional connection with (Motista)

Benefits of Emotional Marketing

Emotional marketing delivers big time – from brand loyalty to sales to profitability – for brands that know how to leverage it.

  • Enhance Brand Loyalty: Emotional marketing creates strong emotional connections between consumers and brands. When people feel emotionally connected to a brand, they are more likely to develop loyalty to that brand, repeatedly choosing it over competitors.
  • Promote Brand Advocacy: Emotionally engaged customers become brand advocates. They willingly share their positive experiences with others, leading to word-of-mouth recommendations and organic awareness.
  • Improve Customer Retention: Through loyalty and advocacy, emotional engagement builds a sense of trust, leading to improved customer retention. When customers feel emotionally connected to a brand, they are more likely to continue purchasing its products or services.
  • Increase Sales and Profitability: Emotional marketing campaigns drive sales. When consumers feel a deep emotional connection to a brand, they are more likely to purchase, resulting in increased sales and profitability.
  • Define a Competitive Advantage: Emotional marketing can provide a differential advantage in a competitive market. Brands that effectively tap into the emotions of their target audience stand out from competitors and create unique selling propositions based on the emotional connections they offer.
  • Increase Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): Emotionally engaged customers tend to have a higher customer lifetime value. Their emotional connection translates into long-term relationships with a brand, repeat purchases and higher revenue over time.

Strategies for Creating Emotional Engagement in Marketing

Brands looking to engage consumers with powerful, meaningful, resonant messaging can employ a few different tactics as they go about crafting their campaigns.

Customer-Centric Approach

Consumer-centric marketing messages – that is, valuable, personally relevant experiences – can signal empathy and understanding. Through personalization, brands can align their messaging with the unique needs, preferences, desires and values of their target audience, evoking emotional responses and forging stronger connections. 


Lean into your strengths and own your weaknesses. You have to be true to who you are, not who you think people want you to be (or wish you were). Authenticity will inspire the right audiences and make sure expectations are fulfilled. If you aren’t authentic, you aren’t anything.

Social Impact and Inclusion

Demonstrating social responsibility through a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (as well as environmental conservation and sustainability) through marketing efforts can not only positively impact local communities it can evoke the emotions necessary to build meaningful connections. Initiatives that align with consumers’ values and priorities are well-positioned to build strong emotional bonds. 

Emotionally-Charged Content

Creating content that elicits an emotional reaction is key. Whether through inspiring stories, relatable anecdotes, thought-provoking messages, humor, nostalgia, or a host of other triggers can help marketing efforts leave a lasting impression through emotional appeal.

Consistent Brand Voice

Maintaining a consistent brand voice across all communication channels helps create familiarity and trust. When consumers consistently encounter a brand with a distinct personality and tone, it reinforces trust and enhances brand recognition.

Embracing the Negative

Not all emotional marketing has to be happy and upbeat. Negative emotions can impact ad performance, too. Research by Outbrain found that headlines with negative superlatives like “worst” or “never” performed 30% better than positive ones. Going negative can have long-term brand implications, though, so use good judgment.

Measuring and Evaluating Emotional Engagement

To understand the impact of emotional marketing, brands need to measure and evaluate their strategies using proven marketing analytics methods and metrics.

Primary Research

Gathering direct feedback from customers through surveys and interviews can provide valuable insights into their emotional connection with a brand. Asking specific questions about their emotional responses, brand perception and satisfaction levels can help gauge emotional engagement.

Sentiment Analysis

Brands can learn a lot with social listening and sentiment analysis. Monitoring social media and analyzing the emotional tone of online content, language, discussions and context provides real-time understanding of consumers’ emotional needs and reactions. By tracking emotional engagement through these methods, brands can gauge how impactfully their marketing is connecting emotionally.

Brand Health Metrics

Tracking overall brand health takes into consideration metrics including brand awareness, brand perception and brand sentiment, but also metrics like brand affinity and brand recall. Taken together, these can provide valuable indicators and a comprehensive view of emotional engagement with a brand.

Customer Loyalty Metrics

Evaluating customer loyalty metrics, such as customer retention rates, repeat purchase behavior and customer advocacy, can reflect the level of emotional engagement customers have with a brand. Loyal customers who actively promote and recommend a brand demonstrate a strong emotional connection.

A/B Testing 

A/B testing marketing assets that utilize different emotional appeals can produce data on which emotional levers resonate best with a particular audience. Brands can test ad creative, email subject lines, social content and more to see which emotional approach generates higher engagement and conversion rates. This enables brands to optimize emotional marketing.

Behavioral Data

Analyzing customer behavior data, such as browsing patterns, purchase history and campaign engagement, provides insights into customers’ emotional responses. Identifying trends and patterns in customer interactions reveals levels of emotional engagement and impact on actions. Tracking resonance through analysis of customer behaviors allows brands to connect more meaningfully.

Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)

Customer lifetime value measures the financial value a customer brings to a brand over their entire relationship. Higher CLV indicates a stronger emotional connection, as emotionally engaged customers tend to have longer and more valuable relationships with a brand.

Emotional Response Studies 

Conducting controlled studies and experiments to measure emotional responses can provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of emotional marketing strategies. By monitoring physiological responses, facial expressions and self-reported emotions, brands can gauge the emotional impact of their campaigns.

Overcoming Challenges and Risks

Emotional engagement strategies aren’t all sunshine and rainbows. Here are some suggestions to help you navigate the potential challenges and risks, as well as ensure ethical and effective implementation.

  • Understand Your Audience: Truly understanding your target audience — their values, beliefs, cultural background and other personal traits — is crucial. Emotional engagement strategies should align with audience preferences and sensitivities to avoid unintended negative reactions. If you don’t know your audience, conduct the research necessary to learn before attempting to appeal to them emotionally.
  • Be Culturally Sensitive: Cultural differences and nuances must be considered when designing emotional marketing campaigns. You need to ensure your emotional appeals resonate across diverse audiences and are culturally appropriate. A misstep here can be dire; you can never unring a bell. When in doubt… don’t.
  • Test and Iterate: You should continuously test and refine your emotional marketing strategies to gauge their effectiveness and make necessary tweaks. A data-driven approach can help optimize efforts based on customer feedback. Appetites, interests and values change over time, and iteration will eventually be necessary regardless of how well your campaigns perform.
  • Balance Emotion and Logic: While emotional marketing aims to evoke emotions, balancing emotion with logic is essential. Emotional appeals need to be supported by rational arguments and information to build trust and credibility. Remember, your emotional connection is really there to support your primary selling point.
  • Manage Sentiment: Acknowledge and address negative emotions that arise during engagement. Respond promptly to customer concerns and feedback with empathy, showing commitment to resolving issues. Do not give negative sentiment time to fester. Rather, take ownership in redirecting the narrative.
  • Avoid Overexposure: Excessive or repetitive emotional messaging can cause desensitization or fatigue among consumers. It also smacks of inauthenticity. You need to maintain a strategic balance in your emotional marketing efforts to ensure continued impact.
  • Measure Success: Develop appropriate metrics and measurement frameworks to evaluate the success of emotional engagement strategies. Monitor key performance indicators aligned with emotional objectives, like sentiment shifts and loyalty metrics.

Emotional Marketing Examples

We’ve explored what emotional marketing is and why it’s so powerful, but seeing successful, memorable campaigns will make the emotional impact clear. When you experience these examples first-hand, you’ll feel those chills, tears and heart-swelling reactions for yourself.

IKEA, “Proudly the Second Best” 

 Not only does IKEA get to show off its extensive kids’ catalog, but they also elegantly and warmly yield to the bond between parent and child. The campaign produced by IKEA, DAVID Madrid and INGO Hamburg honors parenthood across media and embodies IKEA’s brand values of family and humility.

Canal+, “Papa” 

BETC Paris created “Papa” for Canal+ as part of their partnership with the Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival. The short film portrays a family gathered at the hospital bed of their dying patriarch, demonstrating that powerful dramas with great twists can exist in short formats.

SAS, “The Arrivals” 

This campaign asks if you’ve noticed the beauty of an airport arrival hall. SAS believes travel expands perspectives, inspires ideas, increases cultural awareness and prompts self-reflection. Launched in 2019, this campaign garnered over 40 million views and won three Effie Awards.

John Lewis & Partners, “The Beginner”

The retailer’s 2022 Christmas ad portrays a man persevering to learn a new skill despite difficulties. His efforts are revealed to be for a heartwarming purpose when a doorbell rings. John Lewis emphasizes that dedication to help others is what truly matters.

Dove U.S., “Cost of Beauty”

(This is an age restricted only available on YouTube: Watch it here.)

Dove’s research revealed that 70% of kids see toxic beauty content online, harming mental health. Their ad with Ogilvy shares first-hand stories of impacted youth to support legislation addressing this crisis as part of their Self-Esteem Project.

Wieden + Kennedy, “The Myth”

The spot tackles the harmful ‘Model Minority’ stereotype of Asian Americans that pits groups against each other. Created by the Call It COVID team with Wieden+Kennedy, it dispels this myth that deprives communities of belonging, proposing mutual acceptance instead of competition between ethnicities.

Petlove, “Confess Your Lies”

Petlove’s ad by David shows a student blaming homework failure on their dog, referencing a survey where 73% of students lied about using pets. For April Fools, Petlove suggests rewarding pets for cover stories with their discounted products. Their #ConfesseSuasMentiras (Confess Your Lies) campaign has people sharing pet blame stories.

Tourism Quebec, “Blind Love”

The campaign follows Danny, blind since birth, as he explores Quebec guided by Judith. Their alternating perspectives show travel is about more than sights — Danny describes rich smells, sounds and textures. “There is a reason why people close their eyes: when they kiss, when they cry and when they pray, because the most essential thing in life must be felt by the heart” — Danny Kean. 

Macmillan Cancer Support, “Whatever It Takes”

Macmillan Cancer Support’s new campaign depicts their dedicated staff as compassionate warriors who tirelessly support cancer patients using grit and tenderness. The tear-jerking work highlights Macmillan’s integral role in securing top-quality care for people with cancer from a fresh angle.

Shelter, “Brave Face”

Shelter’s Christmas ad shows a boy named Jayden hiding his difficult reality of homelessness with smiles. Creative partner Rick Dodds says they aimed to make audiences fall for Jayden without exaggerating, revealing many children’s stark truth of temporary housing each Christmas.

Ignite Emotional Bonds

As consumers continue to reward genuine human connections with loyalty and advocacy, more and more brands are investing in emotional marketing tactics.

Strategies like personalization, social impact initiatives and customer-centric messaging help build emotional bonds. The key is authenticity. When brands speak from the heart, with actions to match their words, they can appeal to people’s sense of self, sense of place and sense of tribe. This means tapping into motivating feelings: inspiration, happiness and togetherness.

Ready to connect? Noble Studios creates personally relevant experiences that drive trust, curiosity, joy and satisfaction between brands and their audiences. Learn how we can help you transcend the intellectual, tug heartstrings and drive performance. Get in touch with us today so we can start getting you in touch with your audiences.

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