Emotional Marketing 101

Emotional marketing is one of the most versatile and powerful advertising tools. Let’s learn how to create ads that elicit a strong emotional response.

Marketing design
April 7, 2023

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Emotions are a powerful thing. They are present in every moment of our lives and impact our decision-making more than most people would care to admit. So, it’s no surprise that emotional marketing is one of the most effective and powerful advertising strategies. However, there’s more to it than pictures of dewy-eyed puppies. Let’s learn all about it!

What is emotional marketing?

In simplest terms, it is a kind of marketing strategy that taps into the customer’s feelings to elicit the desired response (such as buying, sharing, or simply taking notice). It banks on emotions being the most powerful driving force in decision-making, as well as forging a positive response to a brand. It’s difficult to find a marketing strategy that doesn’t rely on emotions in some capacity.

To better illustrate this point, ask yourself have you ever had an inexplicable, but visceral emotional reaction to a piece of advertising? You probably have. It’s not easy to explain why, but sometimes the images we see trigger a long-forgotten memory that tugs at our heartstrings.

Storytelling is one of the most effective ways to trigger an emotional reaction. We want to feel invested in the characters and their story, and it never fails to make us sympathetic.

One of the best portrayals of this feeling undoubtedly comes from the cinematic masterpiece Ratatouille, when Anton Ego gets transported into his childhood by Remy’s food. It’s the small things that make the biggest impact. There are tons of emotional marketing examples that convey that precise feeling.

Traditionally, emotional marketing centers around one emotion. Joy and love are among the most commonly used emotions in such campaigns. However, emotions are complex, and basic emotions like joy have many facets to them. Joy can be nostalgic, aspirational, serene, and ecstatic. And, as we all know, there are many kinds of love – familial, friendly, romantic to name a few.

Emotional advertising banks on the fact that even the most logical, rational people in the world can’t avoid acting on impulse or being led by their feelings. Whether it’s nostalgia, FOMO, wanderlust, and even negative emotions like fear, anger, and disgust, emotions are what make the customers engage and respond to your brand.

How to use emotional marketing?

A good emotional marketing strategy can be incredibly effective, with studies showing that advertising campaigns with exclusively emotional content have a customer impact of 31%, which is almost twice as much as campaigns with purely rational content (16%). This shows that our emotions are the ones calling the shots at the end of the day.

Here are a few pointers on how to create an effective emotional appeal marketing strategy:

  • Choose the right colors. People associate different colors with different emotions, for example red can be associated with rage and danger, as well as love and attraction. On the other hand, cooler colors like blue signify sadness, but also serenity.
  • Think about your clientelewho is your ideal customer, and what are their interests and goals. That way you will be able to suss out what could move and inspire them. Think about all the things they might find appealing and make sure that the campaign blends well with your brand identity. A campaign that creates a strong emotional response in teenagers and young adults probably won’t have the same effect on older audiences.
  • Tell a story. Stories are what get people invested, and what will trigger an emotional response. Creating a strong story isn’t easy, but it’s always best to approach the topic with sincerity and warmth.
  • Decide on the right medium for your campaign. Videos are massively popular in the internet sphere (and beyond!), but sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words. It’s best if you try out both and see which one works best.
  • Think about the goal of your campaign. Ask yourself what emotion you want the viewer to feel and what would be the desired response. Then, you will be able to craft a storyline that will move the viewers. This is especially important for campaigns that collaborate with charities. You want the viewer to understand the importance of your work, but nobody likes content with an overly preachy and moralizing tone.
  • Understated is best. As in many cases, you can have too much of a good thing in emotional marking. Overly sentimental imagery might produce the opposite effect. It can annoy and alienate your audience. So, you must be careful in dealing with people’s emotions.

The best emotional marketing campaigns to get inspired by

Of course, the best way to understand how to use emotional marketing is to see it in practice. Let’s take a look at some of the best emotional marketing examples.

The Little Duck

This ad for Disneyland Paris is what most people would immediately associate with emotional advertising – a baby animal, soft lighting, and at its core, a heartwarming story. It’s this storytelling aspect that makes it so powerful.

This ad is one of the best emotional marketing examples because it shows humanity at its best. Still, it’s far from schmaltzy or over the top. It doesn’t speak of titanic efforts or great deeds, but of everyday kindness of which we are all capable and should strive to.

The idea of searching to meet one’s hero is something that resonates with everyone, young or old. The ad is superbly animated, which is to be expected from a juggernaut such as Disney. But, most of all, the ad is impactful because we’re invested in the story from the first second. The branding is scarce, and it’s this subtle messaging that drives home the entire project. We’ve all been the duckling, and we’ve all been inspired to dream by cartoons. At the end of the video, there’s hardly a dry eye in the audience.

Thank you, Mom

This ad campaign by P&G debuted for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. It tells the story of top athletes and how their mothers protected them, supported them, and shaped them into the pinnacle of the human form.

It is a simple, yet powerful message that will always ring true. Everyone, even athletes experience self-doubt, stress, and burnout. But the connection and the unwavering love and support of our mothers will always be our touchstone and the thing we can lean on in hard times. The stories are universal, transcending language and culture. A mother’s love is something that will never change, and honoring them is a beautiful message to send on a global occasion such as the Olympic games.

Reverse Selfie

It’s great to see when big companies want to help tackle important issues. This ad from Dove shows how unrealistic beauty standards damage young girls’ self-esteem, which is a ubiquitous issue in today’s world.

It also ties in with the problem of having too much screen time, which warps and distorts our perception of reality. It’s a brief, yet deep meditation on the impact of social media on the minds of children, and how the idea of beauty shouldn’t be used to weaponize their insecurities for profit.

It's a thought-provoking commercial that, for once, puts people and their well-being ahead of profit. This makes the viewer see the brand as more responsible and in tune with the sensibilities and struggles of their customers.

Unsung hero

This heartwarming ad for a life insurance company does emotional marketing exceptionally well. It’s a simple story about small good deeds amounting to much.

It’s a story in several parts, with the protagonist doing good without expecting money, fame, or even praise and acknowledgement. Still, his actions make the lives of everyone around him that much better.

A cup of tea

Emotional appeal marketing thrives on stories of everyday people. This ad shows the story of a friendship transcending religion and dogmatic teaching. It tells the story of a priest and an imam meeting up for a cup of tea, discussing their faith and being united by a common ailment.

Still, the overwhelming emotion of friendship and love shines through every frame. Their friendship compels them to help one another in the same way. It shows us the power of compassion, understanding, and care for each other. It shows the viewer that our differences are never bigger than what unites us. In the end, all it takes is a bit of consideration and thought to make someone’s life a little better.


This short clip was made by Rainforest Foundation UK, an organization that adopts a rights-based approach to environmental conservation. Environmental charities are one of the best in the emotional appeal marketing game. Their goals deeply affect most people, and they rely on powerful emotional reactions to help their cause.

The ad focuses on the power of legacy and prompts the viewer not only to think about the future of the planet, but also about what their contribution to the world could be. It shows the disastrous consequences of climate change, but it does leave a message of courage and hope. These are powerful emotions that stay with the viewer for a long time and motivate them to take action.

The Beginner

Great storytelling is the basis of great advertising. This Christmas ad by John Lewis tells a story that might seem a bit silly – a middle-aged man hell-bent on learning how to skateboard – until the final reveal of his true motivation.

The ad was made in collaboration with a children’s charity, which gave the serious issue of children in social care programs some much-needed publicity.

It’s a poignant view of parental love, which is one of, if not the most powerful emotion in the world. It’s what drives us to try something we wouldn’t necessarily do, so we could better understand our children. An emotion as primordial and everlasting as this is a strong driving force.


We hope this article has helped you learn what is emotional marketing, and its broad spectrum of uses. It’s one of the most effective tools in advertising, and when done right, it creates the most memorable and impactful marketing campaigns.

I hold two degrees in history, and am currently working on a project of creating a digital library of Medieval manuscripts. I still like to have a foot in the 21st century though, so I write freelance about my other big passion, art and design. All Lord of the Rings references and puns I make are intentional.

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