If you want your marketing to work, you must speak to your customer’s logical and emotional needs; you must balance facts and features with compelling emotional messaging. 

Most businesses have an easier time acknowledging their audience’s logical needs. This makes sense. You understand your product better than anyone else — all the ways in which it is better, faster, more complex and more complete. 

There’s just one problem: 

According to Harvard professor Gerald Zaltman, up to 95 per cent of purchasing decisions are subconscious urges, the biggest of which is emotion.

Sure, we might use logic to narrow down our purchasing options or justify a buying decision, but it’s our emotional brain that spends most time behind the wheel on our buyer’s journey.

Emotional messaging in marketing

The best marketers realise human beings are not as rational as we think we are, and they use emotional storytelling to connect with and ethically influence their customers. 

Consider a few of your favourite brands. Be honest: Why do you purchase from these companies? 

For example, you probably don’t buy the latest iPhone just for the tech upgrades. You purchase from Apple because of what the brand says about you — because you value innovation, design, and creativity. 

Here’s another common example:

Let’s say you’re in the market for a new vehicle. Maybe your family is growing, and you want the safety and peace of mind that your kids are protected. Perhaps your next-door neighbours, Jim and Sally, upgraded their SUV, and now you want a sleeker, more sophisticated ride, too. Or maybe you simply want to switch to an electric vehicle for the environmental benefits.

In all of these scenarios, there is an emotional attachment to buying a new car: security, status, and sustainability. 

Yes, you’ll use fact-based decision-making along the way, too. But it’s the combination of functional and emotional benefits that will convince you to pay more and buy now. 

We need not only look at our personal purchasing decisions to understand why emotional messaging matters. The data supports emotional storytelling, too. 

Here are three compelling cases from the Harvard Business Review, each of which used a targeted emotional messaging campaign to drive sales:

  • A major bank that increased new Millennial accounts by 40%
  • A leading household cleaner that turned market share losses into double-digit growth 
  • A nationwide apparel retailer that accelerated sales growth more than threefold

4 Steps to improve your emotional messaging

We’ve covered the why of emotional messaging. Now, I’d like to talk about the how. 

1. Understand your target audience

Do you understand your buyer’s deepest needs, desires, and pain points? 

You want your target buyer to read your marketing or interact with your brand and think, “Wow, this company really gets me — it’s like they’re speaking directly to me.” 

Take the time to intimately understand your target audience, and you’ll craft emotional messaging that resonates — marketing that drives sales because it feels effortless. Skip this step, and you risk crafting stories that miss the mark and, worse, feel incongruous with your customer’s needs.  

A lot of brands get their buyer persona’s wrong because they (a) create fictionalised biographies based on who they want their target audience to be and (b) because they focus too heavily on demographic information. Don’t be like these brands. 

Instead, use research to craft your customer profiles and include detailed descriptions of what drives your customer: what motivates them, what makes their lives easier, and what keeps them awake at night. 

2. Build your brand 

Your brand isn’t just about your logo or colour palette. It’s also about building emotional connections with your customers — about understanding your brand from your customer’s point of view. 

In other words, why does your customer choose your product? What does their purchasing decision say about their personality or values? 

Take my friend Barbara, a hard-working mother of three. Barbara does all her shopping at her neighbourhood discount grocer. These purchases are logical. She knows she’ll save money by doing her shopping there. 

But here’s what even Barbara doesn’t realise…

My friend also chooses to shop at the discount grocer because of what it says about her as a mom: that she puts her family first and forgoes trendy, brand-named items for quality purchases that will nourish her family without wasting their hard-earned money. 

What is your brand story, and how does this story build an emotional connection with your customer? 

If you recognise gaps in your branding, read Branding Is Sex by Deb Gabor. It’s a fantastic jumping-off point for any organisation ready to use emotional messaging to build a customer-centric brand. 

3. Tell stories

Narration is as much a part of human nature as breath and the circulation of the blood.” - A.S. Byatt.

Humans are addicted to stories. Storytelling is how we’ve communicated throughout the ages, and stories continue to be one of the most influential tools at our disposal today. 

People will forget the facts you tell them, but they will remember stories that make them feel something. 

The Story Factor identifies six stories you need to know how to tell:

  1. Who I Am
  2. Why I Am Here
  3. The Vision
  4. Teaching
  5. Values in Action
  6. I Know What You Are Thinking

Tell these stories in your marketing. You’ll build connections and transform one-off customers into raving, loyal fans. 

4. Use the logic sandwich

When in doubt, use the logic sandwich, a concept by Bryony Thomas

Here’s the gist: 

Begin with emotional messaging to build momentum and establish a connection with your customer. As the buyer moves to the stages of trial and adoption, switch to logic. Provide concrete information your buyer needs to make their decision. Then, return to emotional messaging to build customer adaptation and loyalty. 

The logic sandwich is a clever way to incorporate emotion and logic into your marketing mix and ensure you’re meeting the right customer needs at the right time. 

Note: Short-term sales activations are another excellent moment to use fact-based decision-making to influence purchasing decisions. 

Take an analytical look at your marketing. Are you appealing to your target customer’s emotional brain or leaning too heavily on feature-driven marketing? 

Emotional messaging is not an exact science. So, get to know your customer. Tweak your marketing. Tell stories. You’ll begin to craft more potent messaging that speaks directly to your customer’s needs — and drives sales and brand loyalty accordingly.