People buy on emotion

We like to think of ourselves as rational creatures, but advertisers discovered long ago emotional ads perform twice as well as rational ads. Tapping into negative emotions can be extremely effective. We’ll go to great lengths to avoid pain, fear and sadness. That’s why negative emotional appeals work for health and financial services. These are things people are already worried about.  The Mayhem character in Allstate insurance ads isn’t trying to create fear where none exists.  Instead, he is literally the personification of everything that could possibly, and by extension, is likely to happen.  He does it all with a stubbled smirk for levity, which makes the ads incredibly compelling.

Unfortunately, sometimes fear based advertising can connect with another very important part of our nature, the fight-or-flight instinct. Think about a trip to the auto shop.  the mechanic tells you something needs to be fixed. It’s your car, the machine you trust to safely get you from one place to another at high speeds. You don’t want to risk danger or further damage down the road, but how much do you trust your mechanic to not take you for a ride?   

If you are employing fear-based marketing your offer needs to be pretty compelling to overcome natural instincts of your customers to flee the situation, not make decision or run to a company who makes them feel safer. 

Take a walk on the sunny side of the street

While it works, fear may not be the emotion you want to be associated with your business. “Don’t miss out!” “Make sure you have enough of…” are negative pleas that unless you are dealing with a serious situation, may not carry enough weight to motivate a customer. The plea sounds a little desperate and may even leave a negative taste in their mouth.

That’s why advertisers use puppies and babies to sell toilet paper. Excuse me, “bath tissue.”  Sure, everyone uses it every day. We consider it a necessity. And heaven forbid we are caught without it in a time of need. But that fear isn’t going to motivate you to choose 2-ply over ultra-soft.

Cute babies and bears release the neurotransmitter oxytocin or the “cuddle hormone.” According to Paul Zak, PhD , “research suggests that advertisers use images that cause our brains to release oxytocin to build trust in a product or brand, and hence increase sales.

Happiness is also the main driver for social media sharing. A general rule for news used to be “if it bleeds,” people will tune in. News channels are a constant stream of negative news and appeals to fear. So it makes sense that we’re more likely to share something that makes us feel good, releases positive chemicals in our brains and allows us to share a connection with someone else.

There are only so many ways to sell something, and it’s pretty hard to be the best, newest, shiniest thing. When you’re getting creative with your campaigns, keep the emotional connection in mind. 

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