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The Hidden Secrets of Emotional Marketing

Updated: Apr 30

Have you ever wondered what the secret of emotional marketing is? Can others influence our emotions and actions without us noticing? What are the key factors that drive our decision-making methods?

As humans, we need to be part of a group and society for our mental health and survival. Communication is crucial for achieving this, and marketing serves as a vital form of communication. Advertising experts continuously seek new ways to convey their messages to potential audiences. However, this task is far from simple, as they face numerous challenges. First and foremost, they must capture people’s attention and align with their needs and values to compel them into action.

Marketing also encompasses the art of persuasion and sometimes, deception. Often, things are not as they appear. Media channels, social media platforms, marketing services, politicians, and influencers regularly employ content, videos, and headlines designed to trigger emotional responses. They adeptly manipulate emotions such as fear, anger, sadness, and joy, and entice us to engage further, even when it may not be in our best interest.

The 'Torch of Freedom' campaign serves as a compelling example. While it's difficult to imagine a world without women's rights today, not too long ago, women faced significant societal constraints. The tobacco industry sought to capitalize on this desire for liberation to boost sales. However, smoking among women was once stigmatized as associated with loose morals and questionable behavior. To change this perception, a campaign was launched linking tobacco with the first wave of feminism.

This transformed cigarettes from a symbol of immorality to the 'Torch of Freedom,' fundamentally altering public perception. Edward Bernays introduced this idea in 1928, further attempting to eliminate the stigma in 1989 to increase profits. He famously stated, 'The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society.'

How can the media manipulate our minds? What are their secrets?

They know all about the human memory 

They possess extensive knowledge about human memory. Our memory capacity is limited, with the average person's short-term memory holding between 7-9 items. To enhance recall and store information in long-term memory, it's best to associate it with a memorable event. Our memories are closely linked to our senses—smell, sight, hearing, touch, and taste. Therefore, to capture and retain attention, it's essential to use familiar sensory cues. For example, hearing your favorite song while starting your car may enhance your overall satisfaction with the vehicle

Perception and Memory

Our perception and memory are imperfect. A skilled salesman understands that customers may seek information about a product but ultimately buy based on emotion. Therefore, many companies invest heavily in User Experience and Interface design, utilizing available online data to tailor offerings to individual needs. Advertisers leverage the Mere Exposure Effect, whereby repeated exposure increases familiarity and comfort, ultimately influencing preferences.

Misleading information 101

We are bombarded with information from the moment we wake up until we go to bed. Shortening attention spans make it challenging to engage viewers for extended periods. It's effortless to present a biased version of reality in edited videos to achieve desired outcomes. With the overwhelming volume of information, people often fail to verify its accuracy before sharing it. For instance, social media platforms are rife with misrepresented content, such as fake news videos depicting wars or manipulated footage altering perceptions of events.

Our Unconscious

A study conducted at Yale University in 2008 revealed that holding a hot drink while meeting someone increases the likelihood of perceiving them as warm and kind. Similarly, companies advocating against climate change gain more recognition during hot weather, leveraging these unconscious associations. Our minds frequently operate on subconscious associations, which can lead to unexpected outcomes. For instance, the warmth associated with kindness may also evoke feelings of anxiety.

Impulsive or rational?

We often perceive ourselves as rational decision-makers. However, with an abundance of choices, making decisions becomes increasingly complex. This paradox of choice leads to decision fatigue and indecision. Streaming services like Netflix combat this by offering auto-play options and personalized recommendations based on users' viewing history, reducing decision-making burden and promoting passive engagement.

Words make the world go round

Language plays a crucial role in shaping our perceptions and emotions. News channels strategically frame stories to influence audience reactions. Linguistic choices can introduce bias, altering interpretations of events. Paying attention to these linguistic nuances can enhance media literacy and critical thinking skills. For example, different terms like 'economic migrants' versus 'refugees' evoke distinct emotional responses, shaping public opinion.

How can we keep our eye on the goal and not get caught in Emotional Marketing?

To navigate the realm of emotional marketing, understanding our own needs and desires is paramount. By consciously selecting content that aligns with our values and long-term goals, we can resist manipulative tactics. Recognizing the pursuit of pleasure and fear of missing out allows us to make informed choices and safeguard against undue influence. As consumers, we hold the power to shape our experiences and perceptions, thereby reclaiming control over our emotional responses.


Bernays, Edward L. Bernays, Propaganda (Brooklyn, NY: Ig Publishing, 1928), 9.

Amanda Amos and Margaretha Haglund, “From Social Taboo to “Torch of Freedom”: The Marketing of Cigarettes to Women,” Tobacco Control Vol. 9 No. 1 (2000): 4,


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