3 Super-Persuasive Emotions You Haven’t Used (To Influence Sales)

Even this title uses one of them! Read on to discover which potent emotional traits your business is overlooking — before keen competitors beat you to it

Sam Hurley
March 25 2019

Did you know that humans ‘feel’ first, and ‘think’ afterwards?

It’s been scientifically proven:

“The emotional part of our brains is able to process sensory information 80% faster than the cognitive section.”

(Rephrased from Source: How Brands Stay Hot)

That said — if you run your own business, or your work involves any aspect of marketing or sales, it’s a key fact you must acknowledge in your quest to continually attract new and repeat customers.

I’m referring to a fundamental component (and mighty driving force) of human behavior:


Notably, our symbolic hearts and minds are certainly closer connected than the old ‘head or heart’ saying suggests.

By the end of this piece, you’ll extensively understand why choosing to lead your brand with the power of emotion makes your job far easier from the outset.

“Studies in neuro-imagery show that when evaluating brands, consumers primarily use emotions (personal feelings and experiences) rather than information (brand attributes, features and facts).”

(Source: Psychology Today)

It’s all extremely fascinating — so open your mind and get ready to immerse yourself in the depths of emotion-driven growth.

The right side of our brain is the magic area on which to focus. Its intriguing attributes are wonderfully demonstrated below by Visme:

In contrast, if you’re dismissing the ‘right brain’ and not leveraging human emotion to sell — you’re also missing a big, central piece of the customer experience (CX) jigsaw.

A comprehensive study into the perception of consumers revealed that satisfied customers are primarily the result of positive experiences.

And, check this out…

The Harvard Business Review additionally confirmed that positive emotional bonds with a brand are even more important to consumers than customer satisfaction.

It’s a profound finding to truly evolve your business activities!

So, in order to create a much deeper impact on your audience while crafting a memorable, enjoyable CX — ensure emotion is a top priority.

While you may already be aware of a number of common emotions deliberately portrayed in marketing and sales material (happiness, sadness, pride etc.), I’m going to unveil several of those potentially lesser-known, and sometimes misunderstood or applied distastefully.

Try experimenting with these the right way, ASAP. ☺

“70% of people who experienced an emotional response to a brand’s advert were very likely to buy the promoted product.”

(Rephrased from Study Source: Unruly)

Emotion #1: Apply Altruism (It’s Addictive)

Although there are numerous respected definitions that vary by opinion, altruism can also technically be considered a behavior that’s encouraged by an array of emotions.

For simplicity, think of altruism as the end-goal of these positive emotions.

But what is it, exactly?

Altruism is a subset of kindness; when we selflessly act to improve others’ wellbeing and/or state of mind, even when this may result in an actual or perceived cost to ourselves.

Brands directly apply altruistic techniques like this:

Altruism originally denotes helping other beings without any expectation of reward — although ‘reciprocal altruism’ is a term used by psychologists to describe a form of altruism that involves a level of anticipation for return gestures…

It could be said that brands’ efforts typically derive from the latter.

But regardless of motive and eternal arguments as to whether true altruism exists in the business world, studies have actually proven altruistic behavior to breed further kindness, becoming contagious.

Not a bad thing at all in our world today, right?

Some of the desirable feelings associated with altruism are joy, satisfaction and gratitude; it essentially makes us feel good.

[This should have just sparked a eureka moment in your business brain!]

Pleasant feelings are precisely what keep people coming back to buy again and again.

No theory here — science backs up the case once more — altruism is addictive because it stimulates the production of dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin inside our bodies (each of these related to feeling pretty damn awesome).

Aiming towards the top right section of the ‘Wheel of Emotions’ is recommended:

(Robert Plutchik’s ‘Wheel of Emotions’)

For example, the underlying message to customers via the below Pampers packaging is that by choosing their brand, you help babies other than your own — so caring parents will naturally feel a combined sense of admiration, belonging, and accomplishment from their purchase decision.

This type of ‘cause marketing’ creates remarkably strong loyalty because a customer begins to identify with a brand, rather than merely buying its products or services.

The brand psychologically becomes a part of their life, and even their self-image.

When such magic happens, it’s difficult for similar brands to make an impression and interrupt the addictive relationship.

You can connect such amazing emotions to your business by applying altruism, leading to not only a potentially enhanced brand perception — but more exposure and sales, even if you are genuinely not concerned with these by-products (when they are specifically so).

“People want the companies they do business with to ‘do good’, make the world a better place, and to advocate on their behalf — making them feel as though they belong to a larger community or a grander mission.”

(Source: Ethical Corporation) 

It’s relatively straightforward for B2C brands to become socially responsible in a sensible way that is easily communicated and embraced by the public; the manufacturing process and usage of many products is closely linked with either environmental or human cost, so efforts to reduce this cost are usually the first port of call.

But what about B2B brands that wish to become openly altruistic?

Well, I bet you’ll be surprised to hear that emotions actually play a deeper role in the buyer sales cycle than they do in consumer sales…

A hugely impressive six-year study across 30,000 data points confirmed it:

“B2B buyers who have an intimate brand connection are approximately 60% more likely to consider, purchase, and pay premium rates.”

(Graph & Rephrased Stats Source: Colin Shaw via Beyond Philosophy)

It’s clear that whatever your industry, your audience is physically programmed to respond to emotion.

Heavy research and planning will ensure altruism works for your brand, without the possible negative effects.

And you must take this into account.

While big mistakes can be made in this territory no matter who you’re selling to — B2Bs can find it especially precarious because it’s often harder to connect corporate business to a relevant cause without stirring up any skepticism.

The worst possible scenario is being recognized as a shallow brand with ulterior motives, so either be authentically dedicated to helping others, or avoid beginning a journey on this path at all…

Dabbling is ill-advised.

For instance: Let’s briefly switch to B2C brand, Gap. They decided to offer ‘support’ to those affected by hurricane Sandy (note the included hashtag, for extra visibility):

To make matters worse, the deeply insensitive tweet was simply removed — and Gap seemingly didn’t respond to the majority of public uproar.

Instead of a catastrophic and evidently self-serving attempt like this, check out B2B brand Adobe and its devoted 2018 campaign that actually helped others following another equally devastating natural disaster:

The video highlights how Adobe’s student program, “The Future is Yours”, focused on restoring the damaged family photos of Hurricane Harvey victims.

It’s a flawless example because Adobe is seen to be assisting both students and people who are suffering through a major world event — the students being the key connector here, rather than a direct corporate attempt at social responsibility that could perhaps otherwise breach the unwritten ‘self-serving’ rules.

Don’t just dive into altruism. Carefully strategize it like any other business activity.

Before we continue to the next powerful emotion, I’ll leave you with an inspiring quote regarding altruism in our modern era:

“1 in 4 people either always or often buy ‘solely because they believe in the brand’s values and want to support them’ — while 67% do this at least some of the time.”

(Rephrased Stats & Image Source:
2018 Survey of Young People & Social Change)

Emotion #2
: Construct Fear (Very Wisely)

You might initially be thinking, “How on earth does a reputable brand use fear to sell?”

Although worlds apart from altruism, fear can surprisingly be even more influential.

The truth is, popular businesses utilize this emotion all the time.

[Countdown to another eureka moment, starting now.]

It’s the concept and delivery of fear that matters — of course, telling your customers you’re going to beat them up probably isn’t going to win you additional sales.

The types of fear I’m referring to are (usually somewhat) soft variations that engage customers’ subconscious minds without them paying deliberate attention to what’s taking place.

Would you have given these fear-inducing taglines a second thought?

  • Gillette: “The Best A Man Can Get”
    If a guy doesn’t shave with Gillette, they aren’t living up to the expectation for males.
  • L’Oreal: “Because I’m Worth It”
    Targets the aesthetic insecurities of people.
  • Apple: “Think Different”
    If you don’t buy Apple products, you think the same as ‘normal’ people.
  • Nike: “Just Do It”
    Lose out if you don’t commit in time or don’t take an opportunity.
  • FedEx: “Absolutely, Positively Overnight”
    Fear missing a deadline.

How about this one?Echoing Gillette’s approach, Jared’s plays on a masculine fear of feeling inferior, brought on by choosing another (supposedly less luxurious) brand.

They are all seemingly subtle taglines on the surface, but psychologically commanding when you dissect them.

The scientific reason why massive brands apply this emotion so frequently is quite simple:

Fear is one of the strongest emotions because it has been helping us survive since the days of cavemen; we’re hardwired to keep ourselves safe. Fear is what activates our ‘fight or flight’ response in situations we perceive to be dangerous.

(In other words, face the threat or run.)

This intense emotion is primarily induced by a small cluster of nuclei in the brain, collectively known as the amygdala:

So, fear in marketing and advertising can easily prompt a response from the amygdala, successfully tapping into this automatic mechanism within us.

The key is to inspire the optimal balance of fear — too little and it’ll be ignored, too much and you will either anger or repel people (i.e. the ‘fight or flight’ situation).

An ideal outcome is driving people towards your pleasurable offering because it steers them away from the pain you magnify.

That said, it’s no accident that taglines are created in such a way.

“Eliciting fear allows your brand to be seen as the one good thing in a dark world, meaning your customers will lean on you more when things take a turn for the worse.”

(Rephrased from Source: HubSpot)

Fear encourages customers to clutch on to what’s comfortable, which therefore increases brand loyalty.

There have also been studies that uncovered the need to share fearful experiences with others — even when those ‘others’ are brands — rather than humans!

During scary films, participants felt greater connection to brands that were somehow present at the time (like a bottle of Coca Cola, or a tub of Butterkist popcorn).

How very interesting.

But while you have to be careful deploying altruism — acutely factoring fear into your material can dramatically up the ante.

Some dare to tread where others won’t:

It all depends on your brand’s purpose, and your specific audience.

Get it wrong and you may be viewed as extremely manipulative in a highly personal manner, leading to all sorts of dire consequences.

And no, I’m not scaremongering

In 2015, Nationwide’s Super Bowl ad to promote conversations about child safety and preventable injuries in the home was an incredibly dicey crossover of attempted altruism and fear — one that was immediately labeled insensitive, disturbing and depressing.

The attention-grabbing video featured a young boy who talked about all the things he’ll never do, ending with the line, “I couldn’t grow up because I died from an accident.”

The CMO of Nationwide resigned from his position just a few months later, solely due to the public’s far-reaching negative reaction.

Speaking of scaremongering — don’t make it an unpleasant face of your for-profit brand:

A point aptly described by Campaign:

“As marketers know all too well, ‘Project Fear’ won’t win hearts or minds.”

It really isn’t worth it in the long run.

[I covered lots more unpopular brand tactics like this, here.]

There is a very, very fine line between clever fear marketing or advertising, and promo that quickly becomes classed as offensive.

Be subtle, elegant, and intelligent.

Understand the human mind as best you can, before embarking on a quest to experiment with fear…

Also, it’s a great deal safer to stick with less-obtrusive strategies.

Remember at the very beginning of this guide, I stated the title applies a certain emotion?

If you hadn’t already guessed, it’s the fear of missing out (FOMO):

* 3 Super-Persuasive Emotions You Haven’t Used *

Did it make you want to click and read?

FOMO is an entry-level technique to dip your toes in the water — as you’ve seen, it needn’t be sinister or complex — and it’s mighty effective.

An astonishing 56% of social media users experience the feeling regularly:

(Full Infographic Source: MyLife via Cision)

And it unquestionably entices people to buy on impulse:

“60% of millennials make reactive purchases because of FOMO.”

(Study Source: Citizen Relations)

Another valuable reason to use FOMO is its flexibility; it’s not as restrictive like the other forms of fear marketing, purely because it’s less risky when done right.

I mean, you can pretty much just be as blatant as you want about your brand’s application of the technique:

(Screenshot Source: Rue La La)

Limited time offers, countdown timers, displayed stock levels and exclusivity — they are all common FOMO methods designed to surge sales via the emotional mechanism of fear that naturally takes place inside of us.

You can find more illustrative examples and ideas like those, right here.

(Screenshot Source: Neil Patel)

Follow three steps to ensure your FOMO efforts pay off without causing any damaging impressions:

  • Communicate a relatable ‘threat’ that is neither too forceful or weak
  • Convince your audience that your product or service is the solution to this threat
  • Make it easy for your audience to convert and become customers (via clear CTAs)

Emotion #3
: Acknowledge Greed (& Leverage It)

Thanks to the relatively new ease of sharing either our genuine or self-professed fruits of success via the internet and social media, excessive desire is much more common today than a few decades ago.

During frequent exposure to the depicted celebrity lifestyles some may lead, you probably wouldn’t be blamed for feeling somewhat envious while simultaneously ‘wanting more’ every once in a while…

After all — along with fear (and stupidity), Einstein claimed greed to be one of the greatest forces that rule the world.

(Image & Quote Source: Goodreads)

It’s no wonder thriving brands also inconspicuously latch on to this emotion to win sales.

Many of us won’t admit to feeling greedy, but we all have an element of this stigmatized emotion within us.

Think about it: Discount deals, Black Friday, buy one get one free offers, product bundles, gambling, and get rich quick schemes.


But they are each highly prominent in today’s society because greed instinctively drives us to desire more than we already have and/or need.

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every person’s needs, but not every person’s greed.”

(Rephrased from Source: Mahatma Gandhi)

Notably, we want the best and most of everything without investing heaps of effort, time or money — and we are always on the lookout for high perceived value at low apparent cost.

You might not even need 1.2GB of data — but hey, it’s free!

And that’s precisely the mindset that ensures businesses make money while promoting in this manner.

Like fear, greed-focused marketing and advertising is clever because it usually flies smoothly under the customer’s conscious mental radar — it’s yet another automatic function within our brain.

Fear and greed can also often go hand-in-hand, with a dash of social proof, scarcity and urgency added to the persuasive mix for good measure.

Here’s an ideal display of this collection of cognitive techniques:

Did you figure them out?

= Social Proof

#2 = Urgency + Scarcity

#3 = Greed

#4 = FOMO / Urgency

Hotel comparison sites invest heaps of resource into testing their pages for maximum conversion rate — so it’s a good idea to at least have a play and absorb how they work (although some of their tactics can be deemed too pressurizing, or even deceitful).

Check out a ‘greedy’ B2B example:

(Screenshot Source: SendinBlue)

On the complex topic of ‘free’, there are a few significant points to be aware of here.

This seemingly magical, greed-focused word can work wonders some of the time, while actually repelling potential customers in other situations.

For instance, take these scenarios:

  • Overuse of ‘free’ (or even any use of it!) in the enterprise B2B space isn’t going to do you any favors because it can damage trust when substantial amounts of money and savvy buyers are involved — they want premium value rather than cheapness, and there’s a big difference
  • On the other hand, buying one chocolate bar and getting another ‘free’ is quite attractive to anybody who eats chocolate (and I don’t need a link to attest this one!)

Several pros and cons to keep in mind:

  • ‘Free’ can dramatically increase conversions and sales, but also lower them
  • Free trials and freemium products have the potential to work very well indeed
  • However, decreased loyalty and therefore lower customer lifetime value can be an issue with these particular models
  • ‘Free’ can also drastically surge the number of irrelevant leads and/or tire kickers who waste a lot of your resources with no end result

As with any marketing campaign, you must continuously split test a range of call-to-actions and monitor the changeable outcomes that ‘free’ prompts from your audience.

Promoting a B2C brand? Try this:

In contrast to enterprise B2B, using bigger numbers alongside freebies will likely enhance their perceived value and really hit those consumer greed glands.

An extra ‘free’ entry added to the below lottery promotion would likely increase the amount of people willing to give it a try:

Here’s one I made for the purpose of demonstration…

Do you find this CTA more tempting, with the existing reassurance of knowing it’s a reputable, global company?

I can almost sense your greed. 😉

A few delightfully quick changes can lead to surprising uplifts in sales.

Another popular greed-oriented method applied by SaaS (Software as a Service) companies is comparative, visual placements of ‘free’ and ‘paid’ options:

Similar to the lottery example, brands aim to make potential customers feel like they are going to be appreciably rewarded for either little or no investment.

It’s a method that relies on anchoring — a technique where much higher-priced items can be found deliberately placed next to lower-priced options in order to create the perception of better value:

> Luxurious Diamond Ring: $2,999
> Ultra-Rare Sapphire Ring with White Gold: $11,500

The most expensive (and sometimes deliberately unrealistic) option makes the cheaper price and/or product seem like a real bargain buy, meaning you obviously bag an amazing deal as a customer…

Look how costly the ring seems on its own!

Luxurious Diamond Ring: $2,999

Anchoring is also used to attract leads that can be nurtured (via a free package option), or to highlight how much value can be obtained by purchasing the full product or service.

Check out how Wistia cleverly positions its video hosting packages, complete with patterned shading to further emphasize how much extra can be gained via the ‘Advanced Plan’:

As above, a trio of packages or options has been proven to be the sweet spot when displaying price anchors.

Above all, context is your prime concern — understand your audience’s greed, know their tolerances, and work towards that coveted sweet spot of emotional harmony + conversion optimization.

You’ll know when you achieve it, because sales will soar.

But please, please, PLEASE — no false advertising or get rich quick schemes.

There are far too many of those already. 😉


It’s certainly been emotional.

If there’s one key takeaway for you, it’s this:

Emotion creates memories.

Getting married, passing a driving test, bagging a promotion — under normal circumstances, people never forget these events or the emotions that bloom from them.

This embeddable nature of emotion grants a powerful opportunity to you as a marketer, salesperson or business owner.

Yet, it also presents a considerable element of risk…

Bad memories produce negative emotions — don’t be the brand that conveys these feelings because you will find the road to redemption a very tough and winding one.

If you have the financial resource, why not circumvent this hazard altogether by actually tracking how your audience is reacting?

“Enhance your products and services with algorithms that measure the current state of the human using them. With Synsis™ empathic AI embedded in your tech, it can be trained to understand your users and respond appropriately.”

“Marketers — know whether your videos will fly or flop using the speed and scale of AI. We’ve taught computers to read emotions and measure attention using webcams, enabling marketers to transform the impact of their content. We also use AI to analyze the word-for-word sentiment of viewers’ custom survey responses.”

“Formed from a collection of artists, branding experts, designers, neuroscientists and engineers, Lightwave’s specialty is designing high-end creative and technology solutions that enable brands, artists, sports teams and agencies to measure, analyze, visualize and utilize emotion.”

“The Emotion Analytics Market is set to rake in around $25Billion by 2023.”

(Rephrased from Source: Reuters)

Sam Hurley

Sam is a passionate 'people connector', Personal Branding expert & Founder of OPTIM-EYEZ. He has achieved success for SMEs, national and international organizations, while being ranked as the world’s #1 digital influencer by Webinale, #2 most influential digital marketer by Onalytica and world’s #3 content marketing influencer by ScribbleLive. Sam loves a high-octane action movie and his all time favorite supercar is the Lamborghini Aventador! Catch him on social for cosmic amounts of Digital Marketing tips.

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