How the Four Basic Human Emotions Influence Marketing

The human psyche is complex. It’s hardwired to an entire spectrum of emotions ranging from vigilance and rage to amazement, terror, admiration and more. Emotions drive the entire human experience. Chances are you can recall the happiest and saddest moments of your life as well as the times you were most angry or afraid. Powerful emotions are intertwined in our most memorable moments in life.

There are four basic human emotions – happiness, sadness, anger and fear. Each one has a unique influence on marketing. In fact, marketing campaigns launched with emotional content may perform twice as well as those with only rational content. Here’s how the four basic human emotions play into the marketing mix.

Joy, Happiness and the Social Share

Joy and happiness are embedded into the human psyche (if you want to get scientific, happiness traits like optimism and resilience reside in the left pre-frontal cortex of the brain). Actually, happiness is simple to understand – technical jargon aside – because it was our first emotional action in life: when we smiled back at our mother.

And surely mom was happy, too, so the primitive “social smile” suggests happiness and joy increase when shared. Maybe that’s the reason campaigns layered with happiness are the top drivers of viral content on social media platforms.

It’s basically an energy exchange. Person A discovers something enlivening and invigorating and passes it along to person B. Person B returns the favor by liking the content or leaving a comment – and the magic of viral marketing begins.

Happiness is contagious – and everyone’s looking to catch the bug. It’s hard for any marketer to ignore the power of spreading a little joy and happiness.

Advertising and the Sadness Hormone

Why do puppies and babies appear in toilet paper commercials – and what does it have to do with the science of emotion in marketing? It may boil down to a little hormone called oxytocin.

Oxytocin is closely linked to sadness. It also promotes a sense of connection, empathy, understanding, trust and generosity. The sadness hormone might be news to you, but advertisers have used it for years to build trust in a product or brand.

More oxytocin released in the brain translates to a more charitable mentality, which in turn translates to more money in the advertiser’s pocket.

Sorry folks, but those cute little puppies and babies cuddling up with toilet paper rolls are nothing more than a shrewd marketing ploy. Did it work?

Fear, Bonding and Emotional Brand Attachment

“Fight or flight” is inherent in the human psyche. The short term survival mechanism has been around since sabre tooth tigers attacked cavemen. In both the present and past, fear plays a role in keeping us alive. It’s also a powerful component in the marketing mix.

Trace back the roots of the emotion of fear. You’ll find the amygdala: the small, almond-shaped structure in the brain. More than any other emotion, the fear central in the amygdala may promote the greatest attachment to a brand.

A universal emotion, fear promotes a deep human connection. It’s no surprise that bonding is one of our favorite ways to cope with fear. But in the absence of a companion, consumers may instead develop a deep emotional attachment with a brand. Smart brands that evoke a sense of fear will forever unlock a unique marketing advantage.

Anger, Stubbornness and Viral Content

Whether you’re hungry, thirsty, in pain or sexually aroused, the hypothalamus is hard at work. And when something (or someone) boils your blood, it’s working, too. Anger may play a particularly important role in viral marketing.

Surely, you’ve tried to win an argument with an angry person. The more intense the anger, the greater the chances you lost that argument. Anger simply makes us stubborn. And it may translate into the online world, too.

Rude, stubborn or otherwise angry blog or social media comments spark intense, long-lasting discussions. Post content that triggers an anger response and you can bet the bank people will respond with passion. Humans are particularly attracted to negativity, especially behind the keys of a computer. Smart marketers make the most of the unrelenting stubborn nature of the human psyche.