Brands Tap into Emotion with Advertising

If you think about some of the most memorable commercials, whether they are from childhood or they are new this year, chances are that advertisement is one that tugs at the heart strings. Studies show people rely on emotion instead of information when making purchasing decisions, so it is no surprise that this type of marketing can be very successful. It is now believed that there are four basic human emotions which are happy, sad, afraid/surprised, and angry/disgustedTake a look at how brands tap into emotions with advertising to create successful marketing campaigns.


Well, this one should be easy. Who doesn’t want to be happy? Brands are no exception, and being associated with happiness is huge for many companies. They want their brand to be linked to smiling, laughter, love, fun, and much more. By triggering these emotions, brands can bring out the happiness of the consumer and influence their purchasing decisions.

A few months back I saw a video on BuzzFeed which was actually a piece of content marketing from Purina Puppy Chow. The short video provides a glimpse into what it is like owning a puppy, by showing the story of a young single man who decides to adopt a brand new pup. Instead of feeling like you’re watching a commercial, it feels like you’re being told a story, and any story involving puppies is an automatic success!


We’ve all been there. One second you’re laughing out loud watching your favorite sitcom, and the next you’re wiping the tears from your eyes as you see the faces of animals suffering from abuse with Sarah McLachlan singing in the background. Although we can all agree that those long two minutes are terribly sad, we also know that these commercials bring in large amounts of donations for the ASPCA organization.

Tugging at the heartstrings of consumers and creating moving ads can be a great way to connect with them on a deeper level. In this Google Chrome commercial, a father shares memories with his daughter on the web, even though she won’t be able to see them until she is older. The ad is emotional from the beginning, and really gets you when the Father types “You’re Growing Up So Fast.” (I’m not crying, I swear!)


Fear is often used to promote change by showing the scary truth of what could happen. When it seems like nothing else will work, scare tactics can be very effective in getting a message across.

The dangers of texting and driving are something that we often hear about, but it is also something that many people still do. When PSA’s and other informational advertisements didn’t seem to be working, AT&T decided to take a different route. This scary commercial shows a car accident because of texting and driving in slow motion and reverse. It is a bit more graphic than people are used to, and many viewers were surprised when it first aired. AT&T took a risk with this commercial, and used fear to show consumers the dangers of distracted driving.


Using anger in advertising may seem to some like a bad idea. Who would want their brand associated with anger? This may be true, however, when used in the right way it can be very powerful. Like fear, anger is often something that can inspire people to promote change and bring on strength.

In this American Cancer Society commercial, anger does just that. It shows a Mother letting out her anger by chopping a wooden log. You quickly find out the reason behind her anger is that her child is suffering from cancer. The voiceover then says “Anger, just one reason more of us are surviving cancer, than dying from it.” This commercial shows how anger can be used for something positive, like bringing out the strength to survive cancer.

As you can tell, when brands tap into emotion with advertising, it can be great for brand awareness as well as a way to form strong relationships with your consumers. It is key in making your brand memorable to others and to stand out among the competition. With the knowledge that decisions are often based on emotion rather than information, it is very important for marketers to understand the different human emotions and look for ways in which they can use them to connect to their consumer.

About the Author

Cailyn_Chrystal_ProfileCailyn Chrystal is a Project Manager at 898 Marketing.  Cailyn develops strategies and manages implementation of content through social media channels for 898 Marketing and it’s clients, as well as optimization strategies for websites and content. Cailyn is a native of Youngstown, Ohio, and a graduate of Duquesne University where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing Communications.