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Why ‘emotions sell’ is incomplete marketing advice

By August 4, 2014Values

Emotions sell.

Or so we’re lead to believe.

By me and anyone else who’ll teach you a little somethin’ something’ about marketing.

But appealing to the emotions of your audience alone won’t do the trick. Marketers have done this since they realised sliced bread wouldn’t just sell itself. And people have become immune to this style of selling. They see it coming and laugh in its face.

Something else has to be added to the mix to tip them over the edge*.

*Note: not the edge of a cliff, or the edge that leads to a drinking problem. Just so we’re clear.

And that little thing? Is identity.

Because emotions + identity = genius marketing, raving fans, sales and anything else you want in your business (Click to Tweet

Dontcha just love equations?

The more your message aligns with the identity of your audience, the more your audience will connect with your message. The more they connect with your message, the more they’ll trust you. And the more they trust you, the more likely they are to buy from you. Or sign up to receive your free training. Or leave a comment on your posts.

Ain’t that beautiful?

So how exactly do we go about aligning emotions with identity?

Let’s use an example.

Take a look at this little piece of genius from the chaps and chappettes at the advertising agency Serviceplan. The perfect example of emotions + identity colliding to create a thing of beauty:

Now, I’m an Audi gal through n through. Always have been. There’s no way I’d consider buying a BMW. But this advert right here? With all its black+white shots and appealing to my identity? It made me consider it.

Take a look at the comments under the video. I’m not the only one who’s temporarily lost her mind but still thinks it’s all good up in this here ‘hood.

And that, my friends, is the power of emotion + identity. It makes you reconsider everything you ever thought to be true. It encourages you to move away from your absolutes. 

The identity of your audience is hidden within their unique set of values. Find these values, and your marketing messages will explode (in a good way).

So how can you apply this to the messages in your business?

Glad you asked. Let’s show you:

Get clear on the audience you’re appealing to. We have an entire digital guide that teaches you how to do this, so if you haven’t already, geddit here.

Understand their back-story, the stories they tell themselves, their values, fears, beliefs about themselves and what they hope for in life.

We won’t go into the details of how to get all that in this post. There’s 26 pages teaching you how to do it here.

You have it, right? Right.

Now that you’re clear on who you’re appealing to, it’s time to make the link between what they feel, and what their identity is, by listing their values.

You do this by asking ‘why’ until you reach a point where a person’s values are revealed. In other words, the psychology behind their actions.

Let’s use the example of a person who wants to hire a coach to work through an issue they’ve had in their life for a while (<– deliberately vague).

Why does this person want to hire a coach? Because they want to make their life better. They want to improve, learn, adapt and survive.

Why do they want to do this? Because they want to be better at life, solve a problem, and ultimately teach their children to do the same thing.

Why is this important to them? Because this issue has been part of their life for a while, and solving it would remove the feelings of failure, helplessness and distress they’ve been carrying around.

Why have they felt like this? Because they didn’t make solving this issue a priority; they didn’t make time for it. But now? Their instincts are telling them it has to be solved. They won’t be able to move forward without the solution. It’s a gut feeling.

And what does all this say about their values, and ultimately, their identity?

Wanting to make their life better means they value improvement.

The desire to solve a problem means they value progress.

Deciding to teach their children means they value a better future.

So when it comes to their identity, they align with messages that reinforce the values we’ve listed above.

Some tagline examples of the messages that would appeal to a person with this identity are:

Progress: Toyota: The car in front is a Toyota

Better future: LeavingWorkBehind.com:  Quit your job and build your best life

Improvement: Adidas: Impossible is nothing

So the last thing for you to do is to take the values you’ve listed and use those either as themes in your copy (Adidas decided to write ‘Impossible is nothing’, rather than blatantly stating ‘I can do anything if I sent my mind to it’) or use the exact words your audience would use (‘I want to quit my job and build my best life’) in your copy.

Over to you. How will you apply the emotions + identity equation to your business? Answers in the comments, yo.


  • Jane says:

    I love the advert for the new BMW! It is very emotional and I hadn’t considered how the advertising agency used their ideal customer to shape it. It makes sense now though!

    I’m currently training as a health coach and will start my practice at the end of the year. Thanks for the tips – they are useful to me as I prepare.

  • Marianne says:

    Nice one Razwana! I think we definitely touched on these points in my shiny new about page 🙂
    I am definitely trying to keep my customer’s emotions in mind when I write now.

  • Steve says:

    This reminds me of something I read a while back about emotions being used in advertising. It seems that it’s pretty big now since they’ve had some big hits with some. Have you ever seen the ad for Cadbury with the gorilla drumming? The ad people did a survey and found that most people felt indifferent to it, but they went ahead with it anyway and the emotions behind it increased sales tremendously and it became a huge hit. It’s weird stuff and I wish I knew more about it.

    • Razwana says:

      It makes no sense to have an animal drumming to advertise chocolate – but it works! The same for the meercat advertising a price comparison site (moneysupermarket.com – big in the UK!). I guess it adds some playfulness to it?

      Some things just cannot be explained – vivre experimentation !

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