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Walking in Your Customer’s Shoes: A Simple Guide to Emotional Advertising

Emotional advertising is a powerful tool for any business, but it has to be used correctly. Learn more with our simplified guide on emotional advertising.

Perhaps the greatest challenge in marketing is effectively connecting with your target audience. You can do plenty of research and groundwork to identify the audience you want to reach, and you can find the right channels to communicate with those people, but it will only be successful if you can make an authentic, emotional connection. 

Clearing that hurdle is the topic at hand for this article. Emotional advertising is an extremely powerful tool for nearly any business, but it has to be used correctly. We’d like to offer a simplified, basic guide on how to execute this strategy and gain traction in your market. While it’s going to take some practice and experimentation to dial in your campaigns just right, we hope this article will be the nudge you need to take your marketing to a higher level.

Evoke Emotion—Not Fear!

The first thing we want to say about emotional advertising is a warning… Be careful not to take it too far! When creating ads that evoke emotion, you want to tap into the right feelings in the minds of your customers, but you do not want to scare them. If your ads are too aggressive, you may leave some people feeling too concerned about their problems to make a purchase, and others still might just be turned off by your methods. 

Be careful quote

So, emotional advertising is good, but taking it too far is a problem. The trick, of course, is figuring out when you have taken it too far with a particular ad or campaign. While there is no one hard and fast rule to make this determination for you, a good starting point is to make sure you aren’t exaggerating the problems that you are trying to solve with your product or service. If you are making those problems seem way bigger than they are just to push a sale, you might have crossed the line and reworking your campaign could be in order. 

The key here comes back to being honest and authentic with your advertising—something that you should be aiming for anyway. If you are honest with your audience, you are more likely to gain their respect and trust. In a world where dramatic, over-the-top claims are commonplace in advertising, the companies that build a lasting connection with their audience are those that respect the customer and try to serve them transparently. 

Check out some ad examples we found that evoke emotion but don’t take it too far:

Protect like a mother ad by Lysol
Deliver Smiles by Amazon Flex
Like a girl ad by Always

Understand What Problems You Can Solve for Your Customers

To understand how to write ads that pull out the right emotions, you first need to understand your business. That sounds obvious, but you need to be careful to take the time to get to the heart of what your business is all about. Sure, you already know what your business sells in terms of products or services, but it’s necessary to go another layer deeper. 

The goal of every business in existence—every business—is to solve problems. A business is nothing more than an organization that uses goods or services to solve a problem for its customers in exchange for money. With that definition in mind, what you should be thinking about is not what you sell, but what problems you solve. Some businesses basically solve just one problem for their target audience, while other businesses aim to solve a range of problems. To highlight this concept, the list below will feature some types of businesses and the problems they may solve. 

  • A restaurant not only solves the problem of customers being hungry, but it also helps customers who don’t have the time available to cook their own food.
  • A movie production company addresses the problem of customers (fans) who are bored and want to be entertained. 
  • A medical office aims to solve the problems of illness and disease.
  • A daycare doesn’t just watch children, it solves the problem of parents needing time to go to work or run errands

This list could go on and on to include every business in the world. As you think about your business, what problems do you solve? Without a proper understanding of the problems you are trying to solve, it will be nearly impossible to write effective ad copy that hits an emotional note with your audience. 

As you go through the exercise of determining what problems you solve, make a list and order that list based on importance. For example, a restaurant might see its primary role as simply solving the problem of hunger. However, the secondary problems they solve also deserve a place on the list, such as time savings, cooking food that customers don’t know how to make on their own, providing a gathering place for the community, and more. Going into as much detail as possible on the problems you solve will only make it easier to create compelling ads later on.

Understand What Your Customers Want and Need

So far, we have been talking about how you need to understand your business and the problems it solves. That’s important, but it’s only one-half of the equation. On the other side, of course, are your customers. Just as you need to have a solid understanding of what your business does, you also need to know who your customers are and what they want. 

Think of this as a prerequisite for writing your emotional ads. After all, an ad is nothing more than a message to a group of people, and how do you know how to write those ads if you don’t know who will be receiving them? It’s no coincidence that big corporations spend millions of dollars on market research to figure out who their customers are and where they can be found. You may not have that kind of budget, but that doesn’t mean you can afford to ignore this critical point. 

Creating an accurate profile of your ideal customer includes many elements, including the following:

  • Basic demographic information like age range, gender, geographic location, etc.
  • What pain points, or problems, are the top priorities for these people to solve
  • How much money these target customers are willing to spend to solve the problem they face
  • What channels can be used to reach these people with an advertising message

Through a combination of market research and critical thinking, you should be able to create an accurate profile that helps inform the decisions you make moving forward. Not only will having a detailed customer profile help you when creating marketing campaigns, but it can also help with other aspects of your business, such as deciding what new products and services to bring to market. 

Pick the Right Emotions to Target

The emotions you can try to elicit in your potential customers can be broken down into four basic categories: happy, sad, afraid, and angry. As you can see, three of those four options would be considered negative emotions, which is just a reality of how the human brain works. While creating happy emotions in your customers might seem like the positive, optimistic thing to do, the truth is that negative emotions tend to draw a buying response far more often. In most cases, ads that make customers feel at least somewhat sad, afraid, or angry are going to be most productive. 

Again here, however, we need to come back to the concept of walking the line with your emotional ads. If you target the emotion of sadness, you have to be careful not to go so far as depressing your audience to the point that they don’t want to make a purchase (or do much of anything). The art of writing a good ad involves bringing out just a bit of negative emotion and doing it in a way that will demonstrate how that emotion can be avoided in the future if a purchase is made. 

How To Write Your First Emotional Ad

We think the general concept of emotional advertising is clear at this point. Your business solves problems, and you use ads to explain to your target market how your products and services can solve their problems and help them avoid negative emotions. But how is that concept applied in the real world when writing ad copy? That’s the topic we’d like to tackle to wrap up this article. 

Let’s consider two example pieces of ad copy for a donut shop. This is a relatively simple business model, as it is a shop that is only open for the early part of the day, and it sells donuts and coffee to commuters heading to work. Two versions of a text ad could read as follows:

  • We offer 10 different varieties of donuts which are made from scratch each day with quality ingredients
  • Our warm, comforting donuts have been loved by area residents for generations

On the surface, the first ad seems good enough. After all, it includes some important information, like how many donut varieties are available in the shop, and the fact that they are made fresh every day. We could easily say that this ad is informative, but it is not emotional in any way. There is nothing in the ad copy that makes the reader feel anything, and that could be a problem. 

By way of contrast, consider what the second ad brings to the table. It doesn’t actually offer as much information, but it does bring out some potential emotions. For example, the use of the word “comforting” could bring out a desire to stop in and feel that comfort before heading to the office for a long day. And, the idea that these donuts have been popular in the area for many years can lead to new customers wanting to be part of the community. They will feel like they are missing out if they don’t stop by to see what it is that everyone else loves so much. 

Get Started Today

To try your hand at writing these kinds of ads, make a list of the ways your products or services could be positioned emotionally and just get started. It might be helpful to first intentionally write some non-emotional ads, like the first one in the example above. That will give you a framework for what you are trying to avoid, and you can then dive into the task of reaching your customers on an emotional level. 

Make no mistake… Writing good emotional advertising is a skill that takes time and practice to develop. Work on as many different versions as you can think of and gradually narrow down the list until you are left with just a couple of ads that you want to test in the real world. See how those perform, adjust them along the way, and continually refine your message. This process never really ends, but your ads should keep getting better over time and you’ll find that the connections you make with new customers become easier and easier to form. 

Good luck and have fun with this project!

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Morgan Staples
About Morgan Staples:

Morgan Staples leads written and verbal content efforts for digital marketing projects and campaigns, delivering highly effective copy that drives leads and sales. She has always loved reading, writing and research papers, and now she gets to put that to use every day.

Learn more about Morgan.

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