Please. Make me feel something!

By Mars Dorian, Contributing {grow} Columnist

Recently, I watched a talk that blew my mind.  It was called “Why the best companies make you feel something”.

The speaker, John Kearon, dubbed as the “Steve Jobs of Market Research,” asked the audience which of the following states contributed the most to the success of an advertisement:

A) Purely Logical
B) Logical and emotional
C) Purely emotional

You’d probably pick B like most did, but Kearon claims that PURE emotion is the sole buying decision influencer — because it’s targeting
your oldest and most powerful part of the brain – the fight-or-flight REPTILIAN BRAIN.  Grrrrrrr.

And in order to create the strongest reaction (e.g. making people ACT on your calls to actions), you have to create something that either pisses them off or excites them.

Kearon left his speech with a bold claim (I’m paraphrasing): “We are feeling creatures. Content matters so much LESS than you think it does.  Do something shocking or exhilarating in your marketing, but don’t be bland. If people feel nothing, they do nothing.”

Whether that’s 100% true or not, it made me think about my digital career so far. It also reminded me of this popular quote in the branding world:



This order is important.

social media emotional states

When I write with more FIRE (aka passion), I get more shares and comments.  When I create work that’s more edgy and over-the-top,
I get more (and better) clients.

When you say that’s totally unreasonable, you’re abso-fricking-lutely right. But we humans are unreasonable creatures by default:

Buying a car for 60,000 bucks is unreasonable.  The main reason for getting a car is that it takes you from point A to point B
faster and more conveniently than your feet. But who cares?  A Kia simply doesn’t make you feel the way a Mercedes does.

What about the iPad ? (Ahh, no example without Apple. Those bastards.)  When it launched no one needed it. It was too impractical to create work with it (that’s what the Mac’s for), and the app choice was rather meager back then. But people bought it like it has the cure for death inside. Because it wasn’t YOU who bought it — it was your emotive reptilian brain again. Grrrrr.

Oh let’s forget those high-class products … just look at what kind of content people spread virally online. Cats that fart and hiccup at the same time or a father that pierces his daughter’s laptop with a 44?

Come on, that kind of content has ZERO value, but it DOES evoke a strong emotional reaction in you, whether it’s laughter or disgust.

Totally unreasonable, but totally emotional.

Here’s my claim – in these social media times when everyone’s OBSESSED with stats and data, and how-to content, maybe it’s time to remember WHOM we are doing this all for — real, human beings.  With reptilian brains.

social media make me feel

Try it out for yourself — instead of worrying just about the content, focus more intensely on the emotional part of your marketing strategies :

How to infuse more emotional OOOOMPH into your marketing

  • Be “too.” Some people say my site is too cartoonish and colorful – it looks more like a comic geek’s lair than a visual marketing biz. Well, they’re obviously not my clients.  I attract the RIGHT clients who luv that style. What about you — what can you make “too?”  Too edgy, too colorful, too friendly? Too over-the-top design? Find those edges.  And walk right up to them.
  • Concentrate on the feeling benefit of your products and services. Show pictures, words and/or videos of how people feel after they bought your product or services. What’s the state you want them to feel?
  • Write visual. Using lots of latin-based words makes your ego think you’re one smart something, but it has the emotional power of a vacuum instruction manual.  The easier it is to grab your sentences, the more your audience can picture it. And if they can “picture” it, they can feel it. Ambulate this direction? No. Walk this way.
  • Include conflict. Me versus them. Our group against theirs. Your past self versus your new one. Whenever we include conflict and contrasts in our content, sparks fly. And emotions arise.
  • Surprise. Email clients when they least expect it. Personally welcome every new subscriber to your email list. Send your best customers a real card on special occasions. Create a video for your brand that no one would expect (but still relates to the brand.) When that works, you have their full attention, and you can do something with it.

Remember what Kearon said: If people feel nothing, they do nothing.

So, go beyond the numbers and how-tos, and create an emotional response to make people ACT on your calls to action!

Have you tried this in your company? Are you going to try it now?  How are you going to make me feel something?

Mars Dorian describes himself as a creative marketeer with a moon-melting passion for human potential and technology. You can follow his adventures at

Original illustrations by the author.

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  • SusurrousRing13
  • BRAVO!!! Best post I’ve read anywhere in so long. If we can’t get people to feel something then why do we bother? Pull on their heart and their instincts and we will win.

  • John Rockley

    From the press side of this I blogged a couple of months back have a look

  • iancleary

    I’ve launched a new site a couple of days ago and we have a cartoony type character which represents the brand. Some people don’t like him and some people love him. But I like the fact that not everybody likes him. I just need to figure out if there’s more in the hate camp than the love camp. Even then I need to consider people getting to know and trust the character over time.

    I like a bit of fun so it suits me to introduce fun to the site.

    So making somebody feel something makes me feel good. Maybe I should be more adventurous and keep pushing the humour side of things.


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  • Love this post, Mars. Boring, mediocre content is the rule. I think we all need to “let our freak flag fly” and create really interesting stuff that makes people feel something.

  • it sounds so obvious, but it’s quite the challenge – you always tend to hold back on your best (edgy) ideas, and that’s working against you.

  • if that’s in harmony with your brand, go push it. I believe that’s the only way to differentiate yourself from your competition and sort out the people/customers who love that specific style.

  • Ohhh! I love this. It’s so true, my most successful blog pieces have been the ones that are more raw and have feeling. Thank you for posting this, it was timely for me.

  • de nada, Krysia 😉

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  • So is this why purely emotional campaigns, like the stop smoking campaigns etc, always work? I wonder how emotional a campaign would have to be to invoke the flight or fight reaction in our brian and if it they would pass regulations. A great post none the less, afterall I did act on your CTA.

  • Your moon-melting passion and crazy illustrations made this read a lot of fun, Mars! You’re so right! Me? I love humor or surprises. Make me laugh, or give me a surprising twist, and you’ll have my FULL attention for your article or ad.

    Surprising twist in an ad: How about that new Nike ad with the overweight kid plodding toward the camera from afar? Did that inspire you to quit making excuses or what? They got me!

  • There are times Mars I’ve seen promotions that are too manipulative/predatory (i.e. using soldiers as emotional crutch irks the crap out of me) but marketing towards peoples’ emotions works because it hits us where we live. I just wrote about this – about not following a boring script. Being real, emotional – it’s what’s human and therefore what’ll connect you with other humans. People – damn iPad-wielding, emotional, irrational, illogical people – do the reading, the hiring, the buying. And you’re not going to get everyone – so stop trying and focus on everyone who’s right for you. FWIW.

  • Hey Davina, yeah, whether we like it or not, we’re still heavily influenced by that reptile brain within ourselves – and when it comes to emotions, it’s still calling the shots. I for myself will now focus intensely on creating an emotional reaction – and I see how far it can me.

  • I try to use humor as my emotional kick; figure if I show a little of my silly personality and make you laugh (while learning), then that’s what’ll connect us.

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  • Couldn’t agree more. Thought you’d appreciate some corroboration from the thinking machines over at the Wharton School (Jonah Berger, Kathleen Milkman), whose study “What Makes Content Go Viral” says, in snappy academic lingo, “Results indicate that positive content is more viral than negative content, but that the relationship between emotion and social transmission is more complex than valence alone.” Translation of that and what follows in the study: Making people feel makes people share. Positive emotion is best, but negative is better than no emotion. So yes, Please. Make me feel something!

  • Nike has nag for creating emotion-appealing commercials – that’s why they are the top brand in their category. I think you can always learn from giants like that, especially if they create powerful stuff like that.

  • it’s sounds easy, but’s sooo hard (even for me !)
    You always tend to play it safe and go for the logical option !

  • haha, I think the limits of pushing that emotional zone haven’t been pushed yet – because companies as well as solopreneurs tend to hold back on the edgy, but effective stuff.

  • Awesome post, Annette ! i really enjoyed it! 100% in agreement! It Remembers me a Lot but partially the 6 Stimuli and the 4th Step from the Neuromap(TM) that we in Salesbrain are teaching since 10 years. Best! Antonio ( @mimbrerooo)

  • Hi Mars, this is really something! Thank you very much for your post. I like to talk about the emotional aspect in communication because, as you say, emotions make us react and act. Emotions has been taboo for so long in the business world, where everything shall be measurable and based on facts only. But I can see that lately emotions start to crawl into board rooms as well, making people talk about it like a unique selling point. I’m trying to learn as much as I can about this topic and I’m planning an article series about emotional communication on my blog, starting on september 1st. I will definitely quote your story. Please do come and visit it: Thanks again for sharing!

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  • useradvocate

    The timing of this post is kind of perfect for me. I’ve been working with an online community of software designers and developers to help design the next generation of an open source technology. A few months ago I prepared a lengthy document that rationally explained my position on the way forward. Not much came from it except a deafening silence.

    On the day you posted this (2 days ago from my comment here) I completed a video of the same subject. But with the video I said “Screw it, I’m going to appeal to their emotions!” I incorporated music and more artful techniques of persuasion. The jury’s still out and I’ve been wondering if the video will be well received or rejected – but after reading this post I’m thinking maybe that was exactly the right thing to do!

    Thanks Mars, you made my day!

  • Daniel Cortés

    Hell yes!!

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  • I’ll check it out and write you an email – I like your style

  • Awesome Michael – I’m incorporating this into my work as well – it’s HARD because we’re are soo trained (manipulated ?) to worry about the logical and beneficial part.

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  • Mars,
    I loved this. What really stood out for me is that you are writing and creating content that evokes emotions and you are attracting the RIGHT customers with your style not the wrong customers.

    I think that’s what i’ve been doing wrong. I keep attracting a certain type of person for clients who i have a hard time to deal with rather than writing in my own voice and attracting my idea customer who i would love to work with. ..

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  • Nikita Kalra

    What I have here is a product that is extremely targeted. Targeted towards the sewn product industry. It’s a software that saves fabric.
    Do you think you could give me some tips on marketing that one?

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