Triggering Emotions: Ambivalence is the Enemy of Marketing

In online marketing you’ll often hear the mantra “data-led”. But data can only get you so far; sometimes you have to get emotional.

Earlier this month I wrote a piece on the psychology of marketing for London’s City A.M. journal. At Paragon, we use data as the basis for our campaigns – as all modern marketers should do. But data alone only gives us half the picture. Our ultimate audience is human, after all, so feelings come into play.

It’s tempting in a digital world, where much of our business and social interaction is no longer conducted face-to-face, to forget that we have the same emotions and drives as the earliest homo erectus.

American university professor and psychologist, Robert Plutchik, believed there are eight core human emotions: anger, fear, sadness, disgust, surprise, anticipation, trust and joy.

These emotions drive actions. If markets can trigger them then audiences will respond. Comedians trade on some of them: joy, surprise, anticipation and, often, disgust. An NGO combating animal cruelty will tap into sadness, disgust, anger and fear to instigate a response.

The absolute enemy is ambivalence. If people come away from our speeches, our blog posts, our interviews or any other content feeling nothing, then we need to rethink.

Data and Emotion in Tandem

Data tells us what to write about, emotion defines how we write it.

At Paragon, we use online tools to work out what subjects interest our target audiences, who influences them, what content spreads where and how, and the business impact on our clients.

That gives us the content calendar. But one of the columns in that content calendar is “Emotion”. That helps us focus on what feelings we intend to generate when crafting that particular piece of content. Whether it is a blog post, podcast, video or infographic, emotion is central to getting the message across.

Emotion determines the words we use in our corporate writing, the angle we take, the images we select, and the case studies we cite.

We then use a range of online tools to test the most evocative headlines, the readability of the content, and proven trigger words to make sure the message resonates.

If you feel your content needs life, please contact us to learn how we can help.

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