Last Updated on April 1, 2020
Some of us may be more level-headed than others, but at heart, we’re all emotional creatures. These emotions direct our daily decisions more than we’d care to admit. Marketers and advertisers have known this forever, and haven’t shied away from exploiting our innermost desires and fears. But it doesn’t have to be this cold and calculating; as marketers, we simply need to listen and respond.
Leveraging Emotion in Your Content Marketing
We can evoke emotions sensitively and subtly by telling compelling stories, generating curiosity, and addressing the issues that genuinely matter to our audience. But when using emotion in our marketing, we also need to understand triggers, behaviors, mindsets, and environments.
Understanding Emotional Triggers
The importance of psychological triggers was outlined in a piece by Akshay Nanavati, where he outlines fifteen of them that convert leads into customers. Here’s a brief overview:
- Driving forces: Human behavior is about the pursuit of pleasure and happiness
- Novelty: Exposure to something new and unfamiliar releases dopamine
- The why: Give people a reason, as their brain is rewarded by answers
- Storytelling: Stories make us feel an experience without experiencing it
- Simplify: People always go for the easiest route to the desired result
- Common enemies: Creating these helps to generate brand fanatics
- Curiosity: People take action to fill the gap of what they don’t know
- Anticipation: This is a key stage in happiness
- Social proof: The practice of getting influencers to talk about your brand
- References: Create reference points so people can judge your offering
- Significance: Make sure your customers feel consistently valued and important
- Community: Humans are inherently social creatures, so build a community
- Currency: Align content with current news and trends
- Scarcity: Why countdown clocks and limited stock numbers work so well
- Controversy: Polarising people (mildly) generates discussion
And it seems that we might be a negative bunch. Studies have shown that articles with negative headlines have a better click-through rate (CTR) than those with positive headlines. This research showed that titles with negative superlatives had a 63% better average click-through rate than their positive counterparts.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that all headlines need to pretend the end of the world is nigh, but it does suggest that “how to avoid losing your keys” would do better than “how to keep your keys safe.”
Creating Purposeful Content to Hit the Right Note
First and foremost, you must always define a clear purpose and intention for each piece of content, aligned with your marketing strategy. This allows you to apply growth hacking principles to iteratively test and measure the success of your content marketing. Not only does this purpose help you understand what success looks like, but it also helps you hit the right tone and structure…
For example, a how-to article should be broken down into clear step-by-step sections with clear reference points, detailed in its advice yet simple in its delivery. A blog post about changing a car tire should be concise, but should also evoke a feeling of calm, clarity, and trust. The reader needs to know they’re doing it right and be confident that the wheels won’t fall off around the next corner.
Typically, brand awareness content should focus on educating or entertaining top-of-funnel prospects, whilst conversion-led sales content should be designed to confidently persuade someone who is considering your product or service.
Using Emotive Copywriting
It’s famously hard to communicate tone with the written word. Anybody who has tried sarcasm over WhatsApp will agree. However, great copywriters are able to communicate a brand message that makes the reader feel rather than just read. By making the reader feel emotion, they’re more likely to convert.
It’s common to list the reasons why you’re so fantastic as a business on your webpages but think about the real reasons why a customer or client would choose you over somebody else. You need to reflect your values and personality without being try-hard or unprofessional and show how you add value beyond transactional or commodified products and services.
How to Evoke the Feeling of Curiosity
Quite frankly, we’ve all had enough of clickbait. The phrase has now entered the public lexicon as a generation matures, having battled their way through showers of “you won’t believe what happened next” and “this story will restore your faith in humanity.” However, there’s still a less savvy generation that’ll continue to reward this activity with their eyes, ears, and clicks. This isn’t new clickbait-free age.
However, despite the efforts of clickbait kings across the web, curiosity is not dead. There are still neat ways to evoke curiosity in your audience, with the aim of increasing CTRs, maximizing engagement, and ultimately increasing better-quality leads.
Russ Henneberry at Crazy Egg wrote a piece on curiosity in content marketing, in which he outlines the two principles of generating curiosity, creating the gap between what people know and what they want to know, and maintaining interest by leaking out knowledge bit-by-bit.
According to Joanna Wiebe at Copyhackers, “curiosity is a driving force that’s often stronger than fear of loss and desire for economic gain.” The curiosity gap proved to be a winner for her when she saw a 927% increase in clicks on a pricing plan, after removing the price and requiring the visitor to make one more click to reveal the answer. These small changes can make a massive difference to conversion rates, which is why it’s essential to A/B test as much as possible.
Storytelling is an art, and the ability to take people on such a journey is a rare skill. Studies have proven that storytelling is one of the best ways to learn, and is the most powerful way to activate our brains. This will evoke an emotional reaction from your audience, but how exactly can you tell stories?
Understand your people:
By researching your audience’s hopes, dreams, ambitions, concerns, and obstacles – as well as their demographic and psychographic makeup, you can create stories that matter to people.
People, not products:
Think about human nature and the experience that surrounds your product or service, rather than the product or service itself. What environment is your user experiencing at the moment? How are they likely to consume your content? What are they doing and thinking right now?
Beginning, middle, end: the narrative that has driven storytelling since the dawn of time. The subject enters the arena, confronts his or her problems, and overcomes them to live happily ever after. Considering this narrative in your content will make sure your audience stays on track.
Leave your audience wanting more. Line up the ending for the inevitable sequel. Perhaps this sequel is a downloadable lead magnet, a preview to next week’s article, or an open-ended question to readers.
An important aspect of storytelling is to be memorable, which is why old fables have been passed through the generations since people started talking. One example of a brand making their story memorable is TransferWise, who marched an army of semi-naked students through the London banking district to draw attention to their hidden bank fees. It was a campaign that combined a story with a moral cause and was clearly geared towards their millennial-aged target audiences.
Tapping into emotions is important for both B2B and B2C companies. All businesses are run by people with feelings – they’re curious, they want to learn, laugh, and get lost in a story. They have worries, hopes, ambitions, and they want to become better at what they do. But in order to evoke emotion, you first need to have a deep understanding of your audience. Then, you can craft content that hits home.
Oren Greenberg is a growth marketer and founder of the Kurve consultancy in London. He applies growth hacking principles to help established businesses and scaleups grow through digital channels. Oren has written for leading marketing blogs and has been featured in the international press.