People don’t buy for logical reasons, they buy for emotional reasons. – Zig Ziglar

Does your content fail to convert? Are you finding that no matter what you write or produce, your social shares flag and your bounce rate stays high?

It might not be down to what you have to say but how you say it.

People are emotional creatures, a lot more emotional than logical by far, and tapping into that emotion could be the key to generating more success with your content.

Bland is forgettable

Have you ever listened to a song and then instantly forget it? What about a movie that you watched the other day, can you remember what it was about?

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If something is bland and uninteresting, or simply doesn’t elicit an emotional response from you, you’re more likely to forget what it was about.

That goes for your content too!

Content and media that brings joy, scares you or angers you is much more likely to be remembered and discussed for a longer period of time, and generates a response from you that uninspiring content has no chance of doing.

Expert internet marketers have known this for a long time, and their sales pages often focus on evoking several different emotions from a visitor, subconsciously bending them to take a specific action.

More recent research suggests that eight emotions might even be overkill and that there are really only four: happy, sad, afraid/surprised and angry/disgusted.

Understand your target audience

As a marketer, using emotions in your copy is an effective and relatively cheap way of improving conversions.

The important thing is to make sure that you fully understand your target audience and niche.

For example, using the fear of embarrassment might work just fine for an older audience (no one likes to be embarrassed), but it would likely work better for a younger audience who are more prone to comparing themselves to their peers.

Just as using emotional content can garner results, it’s also wise to realise that not everything needs to specifically target a person’s emotions.

Nobody wants, or deserves, to be reading a set of instructions and end up bawling their eyes out in sadness, or punching their monitor in anger.

Emotional States

It might come as a surprise, but according to the psychologist Robert Plutchik, there are only 8 basic emotions joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, disgust, anger, and anticipation.

Plutchik wheel

Source: Wikipedia

Every other emotion is a derivative or extension of these base emotions.


Happiness is a state of mind we all want to be in.

If you’re looking to get your content shared, then targeting this emotion is definitely the way to go. Research suggests that people are much more likely to share content that evokes joy and excitement than content that is sad or depressing.


Getting your audience to trust you overcomes a remarkable amount of objections when it comes to selling people things.

Take Apple for instance. They are so admired by their followers that they can get away with removing things like basic ports from their computers and selling people dongles with the port on.

Trust often takes time to build, but within a sales pitch you can still generate a level of trust: citing security, awards and expertise builds trust.

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Fear is a strong emotion, one that can and is used to great effect in both online and offline marketing.

The idea isn’t to simply scare someone, but to tap into their existing fears and offer a solution to that fear.

The health niche is especially good for this type of emotion, from selling sun screen based on people’s fear of skin cancer, to the make money online niche focusing on the uncertain world markets and loss of job security.


You don’t need to get down on one knee, or jump out from behind a sofa shouting happy birthday to surprise someone.

The surprises can be smaller, but just as powerful such as a discount on your products or free access to paywall content.

The key is that whatever it is you do it must be unexpected (otherwise there’s no surprise!).

Surprises that a person appreciates (rather than the scary sort) can help increase brand awareness, loyalty and trust. After all, if you suddenly got a free gift from a company, you’d likely remember that and talk about it.


Why would you want anyone to feel sad? It seems counterproductive, but eliciting a sadness response is key to enhancing other emotions.

Sadness can release Oxytocin into the brain, a chemical which has a role when it comes to social bonding. This can increase empathy and help people connect with you as a person and even a brand.

Charities don’t show you pictures of happy children in war torn or poor areas, without making sure you see the sad state of affairs too. Sure this is reality, but the way it’s presented evokes sadness on behalf of the children.


I’m putting these together as they often work in tandem. Anger and disgust are great motivators of people to take action – often without fully thinking through the process of why they are taking action.

These feelings can be directed at the individual themselves, showing them parts of themselves they feel disgusted by or that anger them. This could be a physical problem like blemished skin, or it could be something more abstract like a lack of productivity.

Another great use of anger is to discuss a particularly polarised topic – you can’t please everyone so it’s a good way to target those like-minded people.


I love getting mail, not email, but honest to goodness physical mail. I love the anticipation of receiving something, no matter how mundane or amazing, and that anticipation is often better than the delivery!

Teasers are perfect example of a marketing strategy using anticipation, especially in an email marketing campaign.

Anticipation causes dopamine to be released into your brain giving you a natural high, and research suggests that we only anticipate positive events, meaning that you can use anticipation to lead into the pitch. Getting them to anticipate something requires a positive message so this emotion plays nicely with joy.

Mix and match for better effect

The eight emotions alongside all their variants give you plenty to work with, but people are complex creatures and a single emotion is rarely enough.

Mixing and matching the emotions, leading the visitor on a roller-coaster emotional ride can help you direct the user to take a particular action.

Take a typical marketing spiel in an niche like health and you will see a familiar pattern of fear, sadness, trust, surprise, and joy as the visitor is taken through a story and brought to the eventually conclusion that this product can fix all the bad things just talked about.

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The Bottom Line

People are emotional creatures and a savvy online marketer like you needs to take advantage of those emotions and use them, subtly or blatantly in your content and marketing.

Bland content leads to bland sales, so why not change the way you produce your content and inject a little joy (and anger, sadness and surprise!) into what you create.

Just remember to test, test and test some more both to find the right balance of emotions and what’s right for your audience.

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