The Marketing Secret That Makes Everyone Tick

“When dealing with people, remember, you are not dealing with creatures
of logic, but with creatures of emotion.”

– Dale Carnegie
How to Win Friends and Influence People

The marketing secret that makes everyone tick.

McDonalds is fast food sold cheap, but an emotional feast, too; many people associate McDonalds with youth, fun, friends/family. (Emotions: Comfort, belonging, security, self-reward.)

Imagine this: You want to buy something. Maybe it’s a pricey or important item. What do you do? You get an idea of what you want, read reviews online, weigh the options, and make a calculated, well-thought-out, rational buying decision, right?

Wrong. In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth.

The primordial ooze we call the buying process is anything but rational, at least primarily. With nearly any buying decision, emotions rule first. Deep down…

Your kid wants that new iPhone 5 because she wants to look trendy and techy to her friends.

You want that car because it makes you feel important… or well-to-do… or smart.

Once we’re emotionally sold on something, we then spend considerable time rationalizing our decision, so we don’t come across as flighty or impulsive…

The iPhone has features that could help her if she’s lost, or with schoolwork. And she can always pull out that awesome camera if there’s some sort of emergency that needs documenting.

The car is safe, gets good mileage, and is a solid buy. It will last for years and serve my family’s needs.

How emotions tie into your marketing.

Every successful brand makes and keeps a promise. And with promises come emotion. You buy Apple products because you want to be seen as creative, connected, cool. (Emotions: Curiosity, vanity, envy, belonging.) Lands End = quality clothes, great value, smart shopping. (Emotions: Pride, confidence, security.) McDonalds is fast food sold cheap, but an emotional feast, too; many people associate McDonalds with youth, fun, friends/family. (Emotions: Comfort, belonging, security, self-reward.)

Emotion works in these brands and countless others because it sparks desire, which spurs action.

Think beyond ‘fear’ and ‘greed.’

Many marketers say there are only two emotions worth prodding with a marketing stick: fear and greed. They’re huge motivators, because fear deals with loss; greed, with gain. This touches us on a very deep level, because wrapped in the coils of our DNA is our basic instinct to survive.

But people are a lot more than primal urges (well, most people). When it comes to emotions, we’re actually quite complicated.

37 emotions to choose from!

According to the American Writers and Artists Institute (AWAI), a boot camp for direct marketers, there are 37 proven emotions for marketing. The list includes embarrassment, benevolence, vanity, revenge, desperation, happiness and patriotism. Yet, there is one emotion that AWAI says is particularly powerful and effective. (We just used it).

Curiosity. An emotional heavyweight champ.

Curiosity is a big gun in the marketing arsenal. Used well, it creates an automatic response in your audience’s brain and instantly engages them. Some of the most successful headlines in marketing history were “curiosity” based:

Do you close the bathroom door, even when you’re the only one home? (From one of Psychology Today’s most triumphant direct mail campaigns.)

Do you make these mistakes in English? (From an ad for a correspondence course that ran over 40 years!)

What never… ever to eat on an airplane! (Crafted by Bottom Line Personal—a newsletter that relied on what editors called “fascinations” to pull in millions of readers.)

But, there’s a fine line between engaging and backfiring…

Copywriting legend Gene Schwartz said that your communications should contain emotional words and images—he called them emotion definers. But Schwartz warned that definers should not call attention to themselves…

“When [readers] notice your emotion definers, your [work] becomes either questionable or corny to them, and you’ve lost them.”

Emotions are motivators and can tie a customer closely to your brand. But if you use emotions poorly or in a contrived way, they’ll have the exact opposite effect you’re striving for. Be honest, tread carefully, and connect.

CI-Group, a New Jersey advertising agency, provides digital marketing and advertising consulting to Fortune 2000 companies in a wide range of industries. Founded nearly 30 years ago and based in Whitehouse, N.J., CI-Group is recognized as a top advertising agency specializing in marketing strategies, event marketing, promotions, direct marketing, digital printing, warehousing and fulfillment. Companies seeking an award-winning interactive agency that merges creative strategies with effective tactics should call 908-534-6100 or visit

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