Improve your conversion rate by arousing emotion in your readers.
High-arousal emotional events cause you to home in on the arousing stimuli. They’re better encoded and better recalled than non-arousing events. For example, Slack’s awe-inspiring content relating it to Mars exploration robots:
A study on why certain content goes viral found that strong emotions had a lot to do with it:
- Awe-inspiring articles were 30% more likely to make the Most Emailed list.
- Sadness had the opposite effect on virality. Sad articles were 16% less likely to make the Most E-Mailed list.
- Positive-valence; good emotions like joy and love articles tended to do best.
- But articles that evoked anger or anxiety were also more likely to make the Most Emailed list.
Here’s how Jonah Berger summed it up in Contagious: Why Things Catch On: “When trying to use emotions to drive sharing, remember to pick ones that kindle the fire: select high-arousal emotions that drive people to action. On the positive side, excite people or inspire them by showing them how they can make a difference. On the negative side, make people mad, not sad. Make sure the polar bear story gets them fired up.”
Use autobiographical elaboration and relate content back to the reader, to make it easier for them to remember your message.
Autobiographical elaboration is the process of relating emotional events or words to yourself. Relating yourself to emotional experiences is a powerful way to remember them, especially if they are negative or positive. For example, take this Indigo & Cotton copy: it’s pretty neutral, but it elicits positive-valence in the form of humor and amusement. Furthermore, it forces you to use autobiographical elaboration to process it, and that makes it memorable.
Use semantic elaboration to connect your content to other concepts in the mind of the reader, to make your message more memorable.
Semantic elaboration involves thinking about items’ meanings and their relations to other items. It builds a sort of web of associations, so that if a person thinks about one thing, they’re likely to also remember the item they connected to that thing. For example, Slack’s homepage uses awe (positive valence), and relates its communication tool to Mars missions, making it pretty memorable:
The classic example is Susan Boyle: high-arousing emotions like anxiety and stress are common with competitive shows like Britain’s Got Talent, and her introduction gave much to be anxious about. However, that quickly changed to surprise and awe when she started singing. Inspirational ads are another example of high-valence and high-arousal events. They inspire positive action.
Chubbies is a master of low-emotion positivity. Every brand touchpoint is funny, from their homepage to their product copy, and to their packaging:
Another common place for humor is 404 pages. Here’s an example from Modcloth:
Create emotionally-charged negative content to provoke greater memorability and sharing.
Negative political campaign ads are the best example of this:
Negative valence, high-arousal ads are often used by charities as well, to spur action. This ad from the ASPCA invokes anxiety and anger, prompting organizational support and donations:
However, this is a risky tactic. It means you’re pushing negative and anxiety-inducing emotions, not what most people want to experience.
Build low-emotion, negative content to boost readers’ desire to take action to remove the negative stimulus.
Consider charities who depend on donations to solve, almost always, sad issues. Studies suggest that when you’re sad, you’ll seek happiness as quickly as possible, regardless of the long-term implications.