“Build something 100 people love, not something 1 million people kind of like.”
-Brian Chesky, co-founder of Airbnb
People buy in the service of their emotions. Thems the facts. Underneath every conversion is the pursuit of alleviating pain, embracing joy, acquiring a salve for sadness, achieving a sense of belonging, and more. As the quote from Mr. Chesky gets at, people need to love what you put out into the world, not just like it because love is a far more compelling emotion than, “I’ll buy that I guess.” And in order to connect with your audience, you need to get to the heart of the matter. Here’s how you evoke emotion in your content marketing.
Understand Your Audience
Before you start weaving emotion into your content marketing, you need to understand what emotions your audience experiences.
You need to be curious. You need to be empathetic. You need to get a little fluffy. And you need to research your audience—gut instinct won’t give you a clear picture.
Your mileage may vary depending on what type of research you opt for—public databases, social media analytics, one-on-one sales calls, surveys—but bar none, the best way to understand your audience’s dreams, goals, pain points, challenges, and concerns is to ask to discover, not confirm. Yes, we’re talking about an audience survey.
Audience surveys yield customizable, targeted insights for YOUR audience, nobody else’s. A survey removes the guesswork and gives you facts, actionable facts, to make your content marketing resonate. If that sounds like a hefty project, outsource it. We’re happy to do research and strategy for you so you can focus on sales, biz dev, and all that other good stuff.
Connect On A Human-to-Human Level
You need to be in touch with emotions to convey emotions. If you don’t understand what sadness feels like, how can you effectively convey it to somebody else? Say your audience fears whether they’re a good parent or not. If you don’t know what fear feels like, how can you describe it? Let’s do a quick exercise.
- Let’s talk about joy.
- What does joy feel like?
- Is it bright? Is it muted?
- What magnitude of energy does it carry?
- What color represents joy?
- What scent reminds you of joy?
- How would you describe the joy, without using the word “joy”?
- Do you know the differences between joy, happiness, and elation?
- What do you do when you feel joyful?
- What do you say when you’re experiencing joy?
In order to connect with your audience, you have to empathize with them. You just can’t do that if you don’t know what emotions feel like, what thoughts come with them, what actions they provoke, and what approach resonates with somebody experiencing them. When you use psychology in your marketing, you’re doing it right.
Tell A Story
Every good story follows a story arc, and your audience’s story should too (more on that below). Let’s use The Princess Bride as an example.
Wesley + Buttercup = Love
Buttercup thinks Wesley is dead and decides to marry Prince Humperdink (he sucks).
Wesley finds out about his love’s plight and begins a (hero’s) journey to rescue her.
He faces challenges along the way. There are creatures of unusual size. Dead father revenge side arcs. Medieval-style torture devices. Fire Swamp. Pit of Despair. It’s a journey, y’all.
No spoilers, but you eagerly follow along to find out whether these two lovebirds get back together or not.
And along the way we feel shock, awe, disgust, happiness, and everything in-between. It moves you.
Infusing a story arc into your content marketing needn’t be as in-your-face as The Princess Bride, but here’s what you need to do:
- Center your audience.
- Weave emotions into your content marketing.
- Take them on a journey through your marketing materials.
That’s it. That’s the story. Sit down and literally plot out a story arc for your audience. Then, plot your pieces of content marketing along that story arc. When they’re facing a challenge, your downloadable PDF is a guiding light. Etc. Etc. Let’s talk about what techniques you can use to bolster the story.
Be Descriptive and Evocative
Which one of these is more appealing to you?
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The second version gets at the emotional value the webinar provides. The dream is homeownership. Budgeting is a challenge to homeownership. It plays on FOMO which evokes urgency—if you want this information, you need to sign up now. It uses more words, descriptive words, evocative words to get at the emotions underneath home ownership.
That’s how you do it.
Sometimes a straightforward explanation just isn’t enough. One of the best ways to evoke emotion in your content marketing is to use analogies. Pull people into the story by making the content relatable and grant them the gift of visualization; it brings your content marketing alive. Here’s an example.
Our new apple cider vinegar soda is like a fresh sea breeze, a dip underneath a waterfall, and the cool side of the pillow—all in one can.
Instead of just saying, “Here, drink this” you can evoke emotion in your content marketing by describing the setting, the sensory input, the actions that then naturally lead to feeling things. What do you feel when you read the description above? Relaxed? Refreshed? Excited? Intrigued?
Paint a picture to evoke emotion.
Speak to the Primary Emotions
If you’re looking for a place to start, focus on infusing the primary emotions into your content marketing.
There are actually many, many emotions that humans are capable of feeling, but speaking in the language of core emotions lays a solid foundation for connecting through your content marketing. Everybody knows what it feels like to be angry. To be afraid. Utilize these first. They’re accessible, they’re universal, and they can be readily woven into your content.
If you want to take it a step further, you can explore the nuances in emotional expression for pinpoint content marketing.
Love = Joy + Trust
Optimism = Anticipation + Joy
Disappointment = Sadness + Surprise
There’s a lot of emotional ground you can cover in your content marketing. So how do you actually tap into core emotions and their offshoots?
- Word choice
- Show don’t tell
Let’s break that down a bit more. If you’re evoking sadness, use words that relate to or describe the emotion. Bleak. Dismal. Tired. Are you tired of dismal interest rates? If you do anything today, abolish words from your content that say nothing at all. Good. Bad. Very. Very good interest rates. Not very compelling, is it?
Your copy will be far more compelling when you demonstrate, educate, and inspire. There’s a huge difference between saying, “Buy our product. It’s the best” and showing your audience your product is the best through a podcast interview with a current customer whose life your product changed. Find the story. Share the story.
When you're creating your content, the consumer of 2022 can see through your lies. They want experiences, relationships with companies that are positive actors in their lives. Create content marketing that’s authentic and you’ll be sure to reach your audience emotionally. Don’t manipulate. Don’t lie. Don’t pretend you understand them when you don’t. People can see right through it.
Use Rhythm and Cadence to Convey Energy
Before we wrap up this blog, one final pointer. We’ve talked about understanding your audience and yourself, building a story through your content marketing, and how to use words to convey emotion. You can also evoke emotion through your sentence structure, length, and variance. Check this out.
She decided to skip work and visit the sea. She smelled vanilla cream in the air. She saw an ice cream shop and purchased a treat. The ice cream was lemon flavored. A seagull grabbed her ice cream before she could finish.
One afternoon, she decided to play hooky at work and visit the sea instead. As she walked, she could smell vanilla-scented cream wafting out of a storefront. An ice cream shop! She purchased a lemon ice cream, her favorite. And as she walked closer to the waves, she felt a puff of wind near her hair, and before she could realize what had happened a seagull swooped down, beak open, and took off with the remainder of her cone—a cruel reminder that she wasn’t the only one who loved lemon ice cream.
Which do you prefer?
Vary your sentence length. Use punctuation to create pauses so your audience can digest the information. Leverage variance to create energy, motion, and, ultimately, emotion.
Start Connecting With Your Audience
In order to connect with your audience on an emotional level, you have to understand your audience first. Who are they? What makes them tick? What scares them? What brings them joy? Sure, you can take notes during sales meetings with customers (valuable), observe likes, comments, and shares on your content (also valuable), or ask for direct feedback (invaluable), but nothing will give you more bang for your buck than conducting audience research.
With a survey designed to understand your audience’s preferences, beliefs, values, challenges, and dreams, you’ll receive high-impact insights that directly feed into high-quality content. Fortunately for you, we’re in the business of audience research. Email us at brainchildstudios.com to learn more.
Founder & CEO
Kiley Peters is the Founder and CEO of Brainchild Studios, a boutique audience research, content strategy, and website creation agency primarily serving brands targeting Millennial Moms or business owners. She is also the Founder of the Work From Home Playbook, a series of online courses guiding aspiring entrepreneurial moms through the steps of starting a virtual business. She also launched the Brainchild Fund, a nonprofit initiative to support women and girls in business and entrepreneurship Follow her on Instagram.more posts by Kiley →
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