Apr 05, 2017 / by James Rubec

Emotion and reason are the two key forces that wrestle in every executive, politician and consumer’s mind as they make important decisions. Brands know that emotions are powerful motivators and an emotional campaign can heavily influence buyer behavior. Brands that shy away from emotion as a motivator are fighting with one hand tied behind their backs.


Journalists too, perceive an opportunity for emotional persuasion. In Cision’s 2017 State of the Media Report, which is based on a survey of more than 1,550 journalists and influencers, Cision found that 25% of respondents said that they believe the public values feelings over facts or opinions. However, since journalists still believe the public values facts over opinions and feelings it seems there’s a greater opportunity here: one where brands can use reason and emotion together, to create a compelling, fact-based emotional story that not only evokes an emotional response but also satisfies the brain’s need for verifiable research.

Far from a secret pheromone added to the air in a clothing retailer — or subliminal cues placed in television advertising — emotional, truth-based storytelling plays on a consumer’s state of mind and makes them want to believe. Brands that do it well leverage our memories, fears and dreams to position themselves in the market.

Who’s doing it right:

A powerhouse example is the 2015 Always’ Like a Girl campaign. This campaign juxtaposes the perceptions that the public holds about how young girls run, or throw a baseball and to those that young girls hold naturally, it captures anger and frustration of that perception and channels it into an inspirational message that girls are powerful regardless of what prevailing stereotypes and marketing messages try to espouse.

Like a Girl took a jibe that an 8-year old boy might shout at a classmate and turned it into an anthem. The ad itself has been viewed more than 63 million times on YouTube.



Duracell is “Trusted Everywhere”

A second example of powerhouse emotional branding and messaging is Duracell. Their 2015 commercial The Teddy Bear tells the story of an American service member who sends his daughter a stuffed bear which replays a recording of his voice whenever she hugs it. Comments under the YouTube video emphatically declare the ad as a tear jerker.



Duracell has long used imagery of emergency response professionals, and toys for kids in their advertising. With more than 24 million views on YouTube, obviously the creative had the right effect. The brand promise is that you can trust Duracell with the most important duties; caring for your children with toys, gifts and love, and ensuring devices work in dangerous even deadly situations.

How to place emotional bets

Triggering the right emotional response is as important as having the right message, but how can a brand evaluate the emotional tenor of their audience?

Media intelligence collected through social media monitoring is a secret weapon for understanding any audience. The way people respond to news items and public topics can tell brands a great deal about what attitudes and ideals they hold.

In the 2016 CMO survey, 87% of respondent said they can’t document that social media activity actually creates new customers. Customer acquisition and retention is a definitional issue of what success is, and how to find it, if you are looking for lead generation purely from social media interaction you are missing the breadth and depth of information available to brand managers.

A Harvard Business Review article featured a meta-analysis of social media and its impact on business. The article found that that social media is a powerful tool for understanding the emotional needs of your most emphatic supporters and greatest critics. Emotions are the key to creating more supporters and winning over detractors.

If you aren’t listening to them carefully are you really doing all of you can to bring them on side?

The Power of Listening

Using marketplace listening tools is a critical first step for organizations who want to use emotion and reason together to make an impact with a campaign. They must first use their “reasons to believe”, their original research or their brand story. They must then listen to how consumers interact with their business and understand what the audience hopes to see from them. By gathering insights and data on how the audience feels about their brand, marketers can then better decide what emotions to use in a campaign to meet their audience’s needs.

Understand your audience and build a better content strategy, learn more about how Cision Global Insights can help you do both today.

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About James Rubec

James Rubec is a data geek, a former public relations lead and journalist with a love of content and advocacy. Ask him anything @JamesRRubec and be sure to follow @Cision_Canada.