Content & Emotion: How to Create Empathy in Content Marketing

We harp at you weekly about how important it is to produce informative content. Emotion, however, is what drives that message home (and gets people to buy).

Turns out that the mad men of Madison Avenue had one thing right. Although they didn’t often nail the informative part, they knew instinctively that the way to customers’ purse strings is through their heartstrings.

Science has spoken. According to brain researcher Dan Hill, the emotional part of your brain processes information in one-fifth of the time that our conscious, rational self does. Furthermore, the brain signals that travel from the emotional part of our brain to the rational side outnumber those that run in the opposite direction ten to one.

Talk about a shortcut to your customers’ wallets. Now, that’s some clout.

However, it’s equally important for emotional content to have a firm basis in fact. Your content strategy might want to lead with emotion, but even more importantly, undergird your customers’ urge to buy with facts.

In other words, empathy. When you put yourself in your customers’ shoes, you’ll create content that addresses both their emotional uncertainties and rational concerns.

Successful content marketing, after all, depends on what happens after the sale more than the pre-sale hype. If your product doesn’t live up to the hype, your customers will soon turn into your worst nightmare. Negative online reviews, plus the power of word-of-mouth, can ruin a brand’s reputation in a heartbeat.

Maria Ross, writing in Entrepreneur, put it best, “If your sales team doesn’t intimately understand your customers’ lives, how can you expect them to explain how your products or services fit their lives?”

Bingo. The same goes for content marketing. If you don’t show customers how your product will help them long after the shine rubs off their new toy, they won’t recommend it to their friends and colleagues.

And despite all your best marketing efforts, most of your customers’ buying decisions will come down to word-of-mouth. Ninety-one percent of all B2B customers and 74 percent of consumers base their buying decision on recommendations from family, friends, and colleagues. Ross rightly credits Ryanair’s recent soar in profits – from 867 million euros to 1.24 billion euros – to its shedding some of the “many customer annoyances” that drove business away.

That’s the why. “But how do I infuse empathy into my content strategy?” you ask.

Expand your content calendar with content that helps current and potential customers solve the kinds of challenges that keep them up at night, advises expert content marketer Michael Brenner.

emotional content

We agree. It’s simple. With information that helps customers research these problems, teaches them how to maximize their investment in your products, and answers their questions, you can have the kind of empathy that shows that you understand. As with Ryanair, that’s huge.

Use Customer Personas as a Springboard for Empathetic Content Ideas

One of the essential elements of content planning is discovering who your customers are. Using customer personas – fictional personalities that embody your customers’ characteristics – can give you insights into their deepest emotional and physical needs.

Use your content analytics program to dig into the data to identify these customers’ demographics, interests, and problems. Then create content that touches on those areas, only bringing your products onto the scene as a solution to problems or as educational tools that can help these customers learn more about subjects that interest them.

Show them that you not only feel their pain but also understand what sparks their joy. When you create content with emotion as well as facts, you’ll hit that sweet spot – empathy.

Use Keyword and Topic Research to Learn What Your Customers Are Curious About

Look at the type of questions your target customers ask online. These questions can give you deep insights into both their emotional state and their physical needs.

Using a comprehensive content marketing platform can provide you with a one-stop shop where you can research these questions, brainstorm content that answers them, and collaborate on the type of content that best answers their questions. Teams outside of your marketing department are often the best sources of information for answers to customers’ questions.

With content collaboration, you can go beyond keyword research to ask your sales teams what questions and objections customers have. Then, you can pull from your engineers’ and other subject matter experts’ insights on those questions to create content that answers their questions with information they can trust.

Use Emotional Words and Images to Get Customers’ Attention

Customer research tackles the needs and wants of your customers’ emotional connection to your content. But before they get into the meat of it, you need to get their attention. Emotional words can do just that.

Emotional Words

Forget about Grammarly’s suggestions. AI hasn’t quite gotten the knack of human emotion. I don’t know how many times I’ve proofread a piece of content, only to find that the grammar police have targeted me for a traffic stop. Like when I use:

  • “Tough” or “hard” instead of “difficult”
  • “Better” instead of “superior”
  • “There’s more” instead of “additionally”

Use plain talk

Often, so long as you’re not making grammatical errors, plain talk grabs your audience by the heartstrings. Turns out, my choices are often higher on the emotional scale than the AI’s more precise, yet less-feeling choices.

Use active voice verbs

There is one type of word usage that Grammarly absolutely nails – the active voice. When you choose words that show action, it involves your reader in your story. Use “When researchers examined the data” instead of “When the data were examined by the researchers” for best results.

The next time the grammar police stop you for passive voice, take the time to change your wording.

Use power words

Power words, too, that create emotional connections between potential customers and your products can get their attention in a single phrase – or word.

For example, words that convey the fear of missing out (FOMO), like “Don’t pass up your chance,” can drive customers to take the next step in their customer journey. As can “now” or other words that create an internal itch in customers’ brains.

Using the word “you” in your content (See, I just used it!) makes your content personal. When you read it, you automatically feel a connection to the writer and their story.

Emotional Imagery

Pictures – and moving pictures (videos, gifs, etc.) – tell a thousand stories without a word, as one of our regular guest contributors Victoria Greene observed. Not only does content with a visual element pull on your audience’s heartstrings, but it also makes people remember it better – six times as well, according to statistics.

Give your products personality

Victoria tells a story that drives that point home. She says, “I can pick up a pencil, tell you its name is Steve, then break your heart a little by snapping it in two, because people can connect with anything.” Make your audience feel empathy, and you’ll win their hearts.

Don’t believe her? Just watch the ads on TV some evening. You’ll see rabbits and squirrels representing your socked-away dollars on Voya ads, a cheeky gecko that saves you money on car insurance. And yeah, a talking toilet roll that puts personality into even a product as serious – and yucky – as a stool test for colon cancer.

Use bold, brand-forward color palettes

As Victoria pointed out, you can’t see a Halo Top webpage without getting hungry. Their minimalist, perky palette of pastels makes you think, “I want ice cream.” Even if it’s a diet brand.

Coca-Cola is a master of the color palette. Whether it’s their flagship beverage or their new flavors, the colors they use in their labels make you thirsty the moment you see them.

Evoke the sense of wonder with animation or scenic vistas

There’s a child in each of us. The right imagery can take us right back to hot summer days at the beach or rainy Saturdays watching cartoons.

Using breathtaking images or charming animations evoke the sense of childlike wonder in your audience. When you infuse your content with those kinds of emotions, you create a connection that will make your customers identify with your brand – and be more open to doing business with your company.

Now, it’s time to put the power of emotion to work in your content marketing strategy. From planning to collaboration to automation, our platform can simplify you and your team’s day.

And that makes us happy. Simplify your life. Take a 14-day DivvyHQ test drive today.