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Right In The #Feels: 13 Examples of Emotion-Focused Marketing

Samuel Hum
Samuel Hum
January 8, 2015
2 min read
Right In The #Feels: 13 Examples of Emotion-Focused Marketing

What makes a message memorable?

According to Chip & Dan Heath's Made To Stick, one of the best ways ingrain a message is to make people feel strong emotions while engaging with it.

Consider the following ad by Nike:

This ad features an underdog, someone who isn't special. Someone like us.

His similarity to us makes his story relatable, and we can feel his drive to succeed.

This is (part of) what makes a good narrative.

According to Made to Stick, eliciting emotions isn't just about being a tear-jerker. It has to make people care about something.

When we feel and care for something, we're much more willing to act.

In particular, Chip and Dan highlight four ways to appeal to the emotional side of us:

  • Focus on an Individual - We feel more for a visceral picture of a starving kid than a "100 kids die from starvation daily" statistic.
  • Establish an Association - Allow people to associate something they do with something you want them to care about.
  • Appeal to one's Self-interest - Tell customers what they stand to gain, not the features your product has.
  • Relate to one's Identity - We buy things that appeal to our identity: who we are, and what we value.

A. Focusing on an Individual

A quote by Mother Theresa found in Made to Stick goes:

If I look at the mass, I will never act. But if I look at the one, I will.

When we focus on an individual, we can immediately relate and empathize with him/her, as opposed to imagining the suffering of 100 starving children.

Focus your brand message on a single character to utilize this principle and encourage action through empathy.


1. Goldiblox's female engineering role model

Goldieblox is a toy aimed at young girls with a passion for building stuff.

The brand focuses on Goldie, an intelligent girl who solves puzzles using basic engineering and problem-solving skills.

Goldie serves as a role model for her target audience, inspiring them to pursue their passions in engineering.


2. Nike's "Find Your Greatness" campaign - The common man

This Nike ad challenges the mainstream understanding of "greatness". Greatness isn't a genetic trait, nor something possessed by a selected few.

An overweight boy then comes into focus, jogging slowly but never stopping. It tells us that achieving greatness is everyone's game.

Focusing on the underdog, the common man, can be far more effective than the use of a celebrity. Celebrities are hard to relate to, while the underdog can be any one of us.

Learn more about it in the following video by emotional branding expert, Graeme Newell:


3. Guinness' "Friendship" ad - The true spirit of friendship

A bunch of guys playing wheelchair basketball makes you feel a sense of admiration and respect for their drive.

That is until the game ends and everyone one stands up, save for one guy who's really wheelchair-bound.

The realization that his friends stand by him no matter what delivers the ultimate emotional punchline.


4. Under Armour's "I Will What I Want" campaign - Misty Copeland

The narration tells the story of a ballet candidate who's rejected due to not having the right body and being too old.

She turns out to be Misty Copeland, professional ballet soloist for the American Ballet Theatre.

Another excellent underdog story, we feel inspired to follow our dreams, no matter what.


5. Save the Children's "Most Shocking Second a Day Video"

The video reimagines how Britain would be affected by war, through the eyes of a little girl.

It paints a picture of how children (especially those caught in the Syrian war) are the biggest victims of conflict.

The ending message: "Just because it isn't happening here doesn't mean it isn't happening" is a powerful motivator that encourages us to act.

B. Harnessing the Power of Association

One of the more effective ways of getting people to adopt your brand/message is to to associate it with something they already care about.

This works well either for something that no longer has significant meaning, or something relatively new on the market.

A fine example in Made to Stick shows how an advocate associated sportsmanship with "honoring the game".

6. Listerine - the self-made solution to bad breath

Listerine antiseptic - It's Breath-taking!
Listerine antiseptic - It's Breath-taking!

Before Listerine was known as an antiseptic mouthwash, it was used for anything from cleaning floors to curing Gonorrhea.

Reach for Listerine!
Reach for Listerine!

But in the 1920s, Listerine started positioning themselves as a cure for chronic halitosis, aka bad breath.

Their ads dramatized how people were turned off by those with bad breath, then presenting Listerine as the solution.

Even though bad breath wasn't a big deal then, Listerine became a multi-million dollar company in less than 10 years.

Listerine essentially made bad breath a problem, and then sold the problem-solver.

7. De Beer's "A Diamond is Forever" campaign

De Beer A Diamond is Forever Emotional ReferralCandy

Similar to Listerine, the perception that the diamond engagement ring was the symbol of love and commitment was planned.

During the 1930s economic depression, the sale of diamond rings weren't looking good. Moreover, the perception then was that diamonds were the stuff only super-rich people could afford.

Diamond cartel De Beers sought to change that perception, by running a series of ads with the slogan "A Diamond is Forever". It sold the idea that diamond rings weren't simply jewelry, but the ultimate symbol of love and promise.

Blowing two month's salary on a ring was ridiculous, but spending it on a promise of your never-ending love made perfect sense.

Our perception of diamond rings being the ultimate form of engagement rings today is proof that new associations can be made, and maintained for as long as you desire.

C. Appealing to our Self-Interest

When selling your product, you may be very keen to show your customers what your product can do. But from a customer, they might not always understand or care about features.

Instead, they care about how your product can benefit them.

People may not know the difference between a two-blade and a four-blade shaver, but they know that they want a smoother and more comfortable shave.

That's what's important.

8. Superfood Grocer

Superfood Grocer Emotional ReferralCandy


Superfood Grocer provides wholesome smoothie packages and recipes for creating the ultimate super-smoothie.

I like how they say you can "train harder and recover faster with super nutrition". This beats only focusing on what goes into their smoothies and their respective properties.

9. Bulletproof Coffee

Bulletproof Coffee 2 Emotional ReferralCandy


Why drink regular coffee when you can drink Bulletproof Upgraded Coffee?

Accordingly, Bulletproof Coffee "makes you feel lean, focused, and energized", without all the usual aftereffects of regular, non-upgraded coffee.

D. Relating to our Identity

When we predict consumer behavior, we might assume that everyone lays out all possible choices before coming to a rational conclusion.

Sure, some of us do that, but we mostly don't. We choose items based on how they make us feel, either after using it, or simply being associated with it.

We buy things that appeal to our identity: who we are, and the image we want to project.

10. Thousand Dollar Shave Society

Thousand Dollar Shave Society appears to be a parody of the Dollar Shave Club, choosing to appeal to customers with more refined tastes and a lot more money to spend on shavers.

It sells the idea that a man who shaves with a thousand-dollar kit made from animal parts is more manly.

He also exudes the kind of confidence and assertiveness to "make babies on purpose".

Thousand Dollar Shave Society Emotional ReferralCandy

11. ThinkGeek

ThinkGeek Emotional ReferralCandy

The geek culture has taken a resurgence in recent years, from the movie adaptations of comic books to sitcoms featuring socially-awkward nerds.

Those fans are also the perfect customers for ThinkGeek, which sells comic, movie and video game-related merchandise.

Nothing appeals more to our inner geek than hoodies with logos from our favorite comics and games.

12. GoPro - This is your life. Be a Hero.

GoPro Emotional ReferralCandy

GoPro cameras are personalised "cameramen" for extreme sports fanatics and daredevils.

But GoPro wants you to see yourself differently

They want you to see yourself as a hero in your journey of life. Their cameras are there to help you document every step as you embark on those epic quests.

13. Dove's "Real Beauty Sketches" campaign

This video by Dove tells us how differently we look at ourselves in comparison to how others view us.

We are our greatest critics, and our own judgements affect whatever we do.

Dove encourages us to accept our own natural beauty, that we are more beautiful than we think.

Bottomline: Appealing to emotions can be far more powerful than logic.

A study by Carnegie Mellon University found that when people put on their analytical hats, they tend to donate lesser to a charitable cause.

While logic helps us to make wiser choices, emotions drive bigger actions.

If you have a product that you feel is life-changing, it only makes sense that your customers should feel the same!

Think about how your product can appeal to your customer's emotions, and you can begin to build true brand loyalty. And drive customers to talk about you with their friends.

Stay tuned for more posts about the other principles of stickiness:

  1. Simple
  2. Unexpected
  3. Concrete
  4. Credible
  5. Emotional [you are here!]
  6. Stories
Samuel Hum
Samuel Hum

As a finalist in Esquire's Best Dressed Real Man contest, Samuel is ReferralCandy's fashion eCommerce expert and resident sartorialist. He is obsessed with human behavior, social psychology, and handstands. He is also the lead calisthenics trainer at Weightless.

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