How brands use feelings to get people to buy their products and services

Harvard Marketing professor, Theodore Levitt has been famously quoted for saying “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.”

This statement is a comment on Marketing Myopia, which is when a business suffers from marketing from the standpoint of selling a specific product or service rather than trying to fullfill a customer’s actual need.

And if you dig into this a bit deeper, like Seth Godin has with this example, you find that most needs come from an emotional place. The person who needs the quarter-inch drill, who needs the quarter-inch hole, who is hanging up a shelf to hold books is actually doing it because it will make their spouse happy to have an organised space, which in turn makes them feel good!

So what does this all have to do with your organisation’s products or services? Everything. It has been proven by functional magnetic resonance imaging or fMRI that consumers tend to primarily use their emotions when appraising brands. Rather than considering information, like brand attributes, features and facts, emotions control their final decision – even if it is subconsciously.

Therefore, when you go to launch a new product or service and build a campaign, the most impactful way to communicate will be to evoke some emotions and speak to the underlying reason customers would want to engage with your business in the first place.

The use of emotions in marketing so far

Human emotion is founded predominantly on four emotions: assertive-anger, aversion-fear, satisfaction-happiness, and disappointment-sadness.

Over the years advertisers have known to use emotions as a catalyst for steering sales. And if utilised well, emotions can be really helpful in consumers understanding the advertising message and in return make the final decision to choose your business.

How to Build Relationships with Video

With this in mind, it has been found that the use of positivity in recent years has resulted in an increase of sharing and engagement, rather than evoking anger. In 2010, a study found that the articles that were shared the most from the New York Times were positive ones over negative ones.

However, that doesn’t mean negative emotions aren’t drivers too. Let’s take a look at how each of these four types of emotions have been used in previous advertisements.


This is the age of instant gratification; therefore most people are looking to feel high levels of happiness as soon as possible. This emotion focuses on bringing people together, connection and engagement. Advertisers use this emotion to match their product or service with a positive experience.

Brands like Coca-Cola, Pringles, and MacDonald’s use images of people smiling and being happy, enjoying their products because that is what they want to be associated with – good vibes and happy people.


Anger is a negative emotion, which can create a bad association with the brand or product. However if done right, anger can be used by advertisers to nudge people and push them into some action. Anger makes us think and reconsider what we currently do, as well as ask ourselves important questions.

This kind of emotional advertising is used to anger the public about certain issues, like political candidates, environmental issues and government policies.

While negative communication is less common in advertising than positive ones, viral success occurs when there is an element of anticipation and surprise.


And lastly, the use of sadness by advertisers may be strategically selected when they want to evoke compassion from their customer and/or give it back to them. If you want to show your customer that you care about them and their needs, or want to connect the viewer with someone else’s story, sadness can be a great emotion to play on.

You will see this often used by life insurance companies, investment companies and NGOs who use storytelling at the core of their campaign.

The use of emotional advertising is one of the most effective techniques used by advertisers if you want to grab the attention of your target audience and convert them into users. The perfect balance of information with the use of the right emotions will give you a competitive advantage and result in brand commitment, which is what we are all after in the end!

If you’d like to work on a strategy behind a video communication concept, reach out to our team of specialists. We’d love to help!

Share this
quick quote