The Art and Science of Emotional Engagement
Consumers primarily use emotions rather than factual information. This is as true for brand-created content as it is for traditional advertising spots and banners.
The Science of emotion and how we can use it in an empathetic way to create more meaningful content.
Science of Emotion
Emotional engagement is affected by a number of scientific principles that directly impact content creation. Here are four key areas:
Designs often fall into patterns of sameness around the latest trends.
However, designs that evoke the greatest emotional response tend to involve something out of the norm.
Elements of surprise can prevent your content from being filtered out by Broca’s area in the brain.
The potential to increase interest, memorability, and persuasiveness in consumers.
Color can have a powerful impact on a viewer’s emotional response.
Studies have shown that visuals in color can increase people’s willingness to read a piece of content by 80%.
Using specific colors can have a significant impact on mood; for example,
Red evokes strong emotions,
While yellow can foster happy feelings, and
Blue creates a calm, trustworthy atmosphere.
A large body of research confirms the emotional power of visuals —
Visual Teaching Alliance quotes David Hyerle’s field guide that 90% of all information transmitted to the brain is visual.
In fact, images can increase trust and belief in the information being conveyed — a known phenomenon that comedian Stephen Colbert calls the truthiness effect.
Images can also evoke specific emotional responses.
For example, photos of people have been shown to increase empathy, and photos of attractive people, especially women, tend to be more engaging than other types of imagery.
Most consumers have an unconscious aversion to being persuaded. When they see a piece of branded content, they become immediately resistant to the message. Experiments have shown that a more subtle inclusion of branding can increase views by as much as 20%.
Mobile video views exceeded desktop views for the first time ever. We now live in an age of mobile video, and it’s time we embraced it.
Art of Emotion
Knowing the science that impacts our audience’s emotional response is useful. However, it takes an artful approach to turn this science into impactful, engaging content.
It’s all too easy for brands to misuse psychological levers in an attempt to make an impact on viewers or readers.
As content creators, how do we walk the line between good emotional engagement and audience manipulation? It takes empathy, continuous refinement, and above all, a relevant story.
1. Start with your audience’s motivation
What does your audience really want from your content?
Depending on their motivation, the emotions you cultivate and the way you go about cultivating them will differ.
2. Inspire trust with a believable story
Build a visual storytelling strategy.
This is where brands often fail when trying to craft emotion-driven content. If your story isn’t believable, your audience won’t trust you.
If they don’t trust you, they’ll discount any emotions they feel from your piece.
Content from brands is particularly at risk for a knee-jerk emotional shutdown because consumers are used to manipulative advertising tactics that play on their emotions.
To engage viewers, your story has to be relevant, and it has to be genuine.
3. Invite people to actively participate
The best stories pull in the audience, immersing them in the action. Allowing your viewers to actively participate provides an even deeper channel for emotional connection.
With interactive content, you can put people in the driver’s seat, allowing them to follow their own path, answer questions, drill down for more information, and explore topics through multiple lenses or perspectives.
This, in turn, provides you with insights on what your audience cares about.
Think of ways to get readers to actively participate instead of passively consume.
Interactive content can include assessments, polls, surveys, infographics, brackets and contests.
4. Create a full emotional arc
If advertising is a soap-opera episode, your content marketing should be a drama.
A quick-hit emotional high may drive engagement fleetingly, but without a thoughtfully crafted emotional arc, your audience will quickly lose interest in your story.
5. Use data to optimize your approach
Refining your approach and figuring out the precise topic, tone, and slant that resonates with your audience requires testing.
As you publish new content with an emotional thread, look closely at your performance metrics to uncover what’s working and what isn’t.
Emotion is the key to driving strong engagement with your content.
Using the science of emotional resonance and the art of creativity, you can design stories that appeal to your audience in a meaningful, real way.
These stories will inspire your audience to share and keep them coming back for more and give them a reason for their emotional engagement.