Emotion-enabled Emotion Technology Emotional Intelligence

Making Your Marketing Crazy Effective with Emotion


Guest blog by Tom Shapiro, CEO of Stratabeat

Nike is a marketing legend. The company that originally sold shoes out of the trunk of a car has been a marketing powerhouse, growing annual revenue through the years to more than $32 billion.

Nike is highly focused on innovation and technology. It continually updates its products. The company is religiously committed to design excellence. Yet what ignited Nike’s massive growth is something much simpler than all of this…EMOTIONS.

Nike has long understood that individuals make purchases based on emotions, not product features or boasts of greatness. The most powerful method for guiding people to action, therefore, is through appealing to their emotions. This understanding has led Nike to build its business through a tour de force of emotional marketing.

Just Do It

Nike’s most iconic marketing campaign, “Just Do It”, says absolutely nothing about the product. It says nothing about the technology. It says nothing about the design. What it does is evoke an emotive response. Rather than being transactional, it’s aspirational and motivational.

And that’s precisely why it’s so powerful.

In a Harvard Business Review interview, Phil Knight, co-founder and former CEO of Nike, said the following about emotional marketing: “From the beginning, we’ve tried to create an emotional tie with the consumer. Why do people get married—or do anything? Because of emotional ties. That’s what builds long-term relationships with the consumer, and that’s what our campaigns are about. That approach distinguishes us from a lot of other companies…”

I still to this day remember being entranced and mesmerized when seeing the “Just Do It” ads on TV for the first time as a child, several decades ago. And now when experiencing anything that Nike is doing, whether in its website, or in social media, or through events, the marketing is just as engaging.

Not Just Nike

A number of other highly successful companies and brands such as Apple, VISA, T-Mobile, Red Bull, Autodesk, Dove, Ritz-Carlton, and P&G invest heavily in emotional marketing and experiences, as well. Apple’s marketing, for example, is continually focused on the heart. Its “Think Different” campaign didn’t even tell the audience what Apple was trying to sell. 


Even today with Apple’s “Shot On iPhone” campaign, the focus is on evoking an emotional response through mirror neurons – showing you aspirational experiences that trigger the viewer’s brain into feeling as if he/she is achieving what they are seeing. Apple’s recent launch of “The Human Family” ad is focused on pulling at your heartstrings, with the entire ad a voice-over by the late Maya Angelou, with only a quick “Shot on iPhone” screen at the end. The ad speaks to valuing the diversity of people, not to product features or to a 20% sale.

Whether it’s a digital or an in-store experience, Apple understands that it’s not about logic. It’s not about CPU speed. It’s not about 20% discounts. Remember CompUSA? They talked about CPU speed and constantly reminded everyone that they had the lowest prices. They also went bankrupt.

Emotion Over Logic

The neuroscientist Antonio Damasio conducted studies of people with damage to the part of the brain that triggers emotions. These individuals couldn’t feel emotions. Although they were functioning adults, if you met someone like this you may never realize that they have this problem.

What Damasio uncovered, though, has massive ramifications for marketers. He found that these individuals who could not feel emotions found it extremely difficult to make any decisions. In other words, without emotions, they couldn’t make the decision to purchase a product or service. This is because they do not feel strongly enough about one option versus another. What this means for marketers is that if your marketing is not evoking an emotional response from your target audience, you are essentially making it extremely difficult for them to make a purchase or engage with you. (It also means you’re probably wasting your marketing budget.)

Marketers can go on and on about how great their products, services, and people are. But at the end of the day, that’s not what drives a person to action.

Business Buyers Have Big Hearts, Too

It’s not only B2C (Business-to-Consumer) where emotional marketing matters. It’s just as applicable to B2B (Business-to-Business) marketing.

In the research report “From Promotion to Emotion: Connecting B2B Customers to Brands” by CES and Google, purchase intent is found to dip during the purchase funnel when messaging becomes less emotional. The research found that brands achieve roughly twice the impact with a target audience when appealing to the personal value to the buyer including emotional benefits.

Google writes about the B2B experience: “Responsibility for a multi-million dollar software acquisition that goes bad can lead to poor business performance and even the loss of a job. The business customer won’t buy unless there is a substantial emotional connection to help overcome this risk.”

Emotion Detection Technology’s Implications on Marketing

Given the knowledge that emotional marketing is highly effective, companies that invest inemotion recognition technology such as from Affectiva can gain a critical competitive advantage. The technology can provide marketers with emotion analytics and insights to improve their marketing messaging, creative, and execution, as well as to optimize digital campaigns, content, and sites.

Taking it a step further, innovative marketers can build uniquely interactive digital experiences that read and respond to human emotions. Imagine if you sell a product/service and you sense a prospective buyer losing interest during a brand touchpoint. Now imagine dynamically changing the conversation accordingly, calibrating your marketing and calls-to-action based on their facial expressions and reactions throughout the course of the experience. Emotion recognition has the potential be a true game changer.

Emotional marketing packs a powerful punch. Should your company re-focus its marketing and engage on a more emotional level with your audience? In the words of Nike, JUST DO IT!

Tom Shapiro is CEO of Stratabeat, a branding, design, and marketing agency. Shapiro has developed marketing strategies for a range of market leaders, including AT&T, P&G, Hewlett-Packard, Kraft Foods, and UnitedHealthcare. 



Emotion-enabled Emotion Technology Emotional Intelligence