Digital marketing can be an impersonal practice. There are screens, devices, and hundreds of other things that stand between you and a user, which makes finding a way around that distance difficult. But if there's one way to short cut that distance and fortify your impact on a user or customer, that short cut is emotion.

There is arguably no greater way to fuel your marketing and advertising efforts than by incorporating emotion. We as human beings have an exceptional capacity for feeling things like sadness, empathy, happiness, anger, and surprise, and that's exactly why some of the most viral marketing campaigns have played on those very emotions. People are receptive to emotion, and the use of it in digital marketing has the potential to create engaging, impactful, and high-converting content.

Why It Works

The efficacy of using emotion as a marketing tactic isn't just an opinion, it's a fact. One compelling research study even found that:

  • Emotional campaigns outperform non-emotional campaigns on almost every metric, including (but not limited to) revenue, profit, and share gain.
  • 70% of viewers who experienced a strong emotional response to an advertisement were highly likely to buy the product.
  • Videos that elicit strong emotions are twice as likely to be shared over those that elicit a weak emotional response.

It all comes down to creating a connection with your audience. In digital marketing, employing emotion bridges the gap between brand and consumer. Establishing that connection has become crucial to the success of many brands who reach their users almost exclusively online, making it as imperative as any other step in the new business cycle.

With the prevalence of popular culture, the viral spread of buzz words and issues, and the receptiveness many users have for campaigns that pull on the heart strings, there has never been a better time to incorporate emotion into your marketing strategy. Here are a few of my favorite examples of how other brands use emotion to target and connect with their audience.


When Airbnb started offering their Trips feature, they needed a way to make it look appealing and new while still aligning with their existing brand image. Airbnb has based their brand around immersing travelers into different places and cultures, staying away from the touristy hotels, and providing their customers with experiences. As evidenced in this ad, they bolster that exact image while introducing an exciting new feature. By inspiring customers to further submerge themselves into their destination, they create both excitement and interest-two powerful emotions that will, at the very least, cause users to further investigate the offerings of the ad.


Love, more than many emotions, is particularly compelling among customers. That's how a commercial for a stick of gum has managed to earn over 20 million views on YouTube alone. What Extra does in this commercial is takes an emotion, Love, and applies it to a product, Gum, to create a story. The result? A winning formula that inserts more meaning and emotion into a piece of gum than you even knew was possible.


Reminders can be wildly successful at pulling people back to recurring events. Take this commercial for the Olympics, for example. The Olympics will likely get watched regardless of whether or not there are commercials promoting it, which makes the strategy behind this ad even more brilliant. A powerhouse actor and easily identifiable voice, Morgan Freeman, narrates the recollection of an unforgettable Olympic moment, when Kerri Strug won the gold with an injured foot. Morgan Freeman reminds us of how incredible that moment was, and the viewer re-experiences all the awe, excitement, and pride felt when it happened the first time. There's a dramatic build-up to the event, the reliving of the victory, and Morgan Freeman helping you associate all of those emotions with Visa, proud sponsor of the Olympics and the only card accepted there.


Sometimes, using emotion in digital marketing can have a unifying effect on an audience. In this commercial, Apple leverages one of their products, the iPhone, as a tool that connects people from all walks of life, in all different corners of the earth. The ad shows portrait after portrait of happy people experiencing life all over the world, and supplements that feeling of connectivity by overlaying a recitation of Maya Angelou's poem, Human Family. In doing so, they position their product as a facilitator of the great human family, and remind viewers that the commercial was made up of portraits of people far different than you and in different corners of the world, but that you can now suddenly relate to because this commercial shows that they also can take pictures with an iPhone.


Getting a reaction from users is probably the most widely practiced usage of emotion in digital marketing. By exploiting a sensitive subject with emotion, you can spark conversations, reactions, and engagements from any given audience. For a perfect example, look no further than the digital marketing that came out of the 2016 presidential election. Regardless of your politic beliefs, Hillary Clinton's "Mirrors" commercial is a perfect example of sparking a reaction. By layering audio recordings of her opponent's rhetoric about women over images of young girls looking at themselves in mirrors, she effectively sets up a compelling attack of Trump's character while also pulling at the heart strings of viewers.

Putting It All Together

The main takeaway of all this is that emotion is the glue that binds products, brands, and consumers. Were it not for the use of emotional appeal in all of these ads, they wouldn't have the impact that they do. More than ever, consumers and users are aligning themselves with brands that reflect their personal values or speak to their dominant emotion. When it comes to digital marketing, you have to find a way to use that to your advantage. Whether it's the ads you use to draw people to your website or the content on your website, use Emotion. It will only strengthen your connection to your customers.