Targeting Specific Emotions in Your Customers

targeting specific emotions

Anxiety and excitement have a lot in common. They produce similar symptoms: your heart beats faster, your breathing speeds up, etc. According to Psychology Today, “there is very little physiological difference between fear and excitement.” There are plenty of self-help articles based upon the idea that through cognitive reappraisal, you can turn your anxiety into excitement. The idea is it’s easier to get from anxiety to excitement than from anxiety to calm, so by simply telling yourself “I’m excited” when you start to feel nervous, your perception is changed from a negative emotion to a positive one.

A strong link between nervousness and excitement

This idea is referenced in a popular video by motivational speaker Simon Sinek, in which he shows the benefits of cognitive reappraisal. Sinek discusses the difference in elite athletes’ interpretation of the stimuli associated with both nervousness and excitement: they’ve learned to perceive the physiological symptoms in a positive way, describing themselves as excited, not nervous. He suggests trying this approach to your own life as a way of framing things in a positive way, and says it worked well for him in multiple instances. Further, this article in The Atlantic discusses how “anxiety and excitement are both aroused emotions. In both, the heart beats faster, cortisol surges, and the body prepares for action. In other words, they’re ‘arousal congruent.’ The only difference is that excitement is a positive emotion‚ focused on all the ways something could go well.” The link between excitement and nervousness is thus clearly documented and widely understood.

So what about the reverse? Can’t you just as easily turn from excitement to anxiety or nervousness? Excitement is so close to negative emotions such as anxiety, nervousness, fear, etc. that there is a real danger of crossing into unpleasant territory. If the line between nervous and excited is simply a matter of interpretation, how can you know whether others will interpret their emotions positively or negatively? Further, how can you be sure you aren’t missing the mark with your emotional connection to your customers? It begs the question: should you really be trying to excite your customers, or is there a better option for forging an emotional connection?

The emotions you should be targeting in customers

How you communicate to your customers impacts how they feel, whether it’s negative or positive, nervous or excited, etc. The emotions you appeal to are crucial when it comes to customer loyalty. Recently, we completed a study on customers of a subscription box program to determine the emotions primarily associated with the brand/product. The overwhelming majority expressed feelings of excitement, and yet their emotional attachment to the brand wasn’t nearly as strong as it could have been had the company targeted a stronger emotion such as pride or joy.

Not all emotions are created equal

To ensure you’re targeting the correct emotions in customers, it’s important to move past simply “pleasant” or “unpleasant” and into more specific emotions. Emotions have different levels of passion, a deciding factor in the overall strength of emotional connection your customer will have to your brand, product, etc. The chart below shows the positive emotion spectrum, with the strongest (or most passionate) emotion level being “loyalty.”

Levels of Positive Engagement

In our example, the excitement customers feel maps to the “energy” channel, which is the lowest passion-level in the “joy” group of emotions. The goal, therefore, is to increase the passion level to “joy,” in order to bring the needle closer to the ultimate strength: loyalty. Increasing the passion level within the emotion channel (excitement to joy) is a feasible option once you’ve identified your customers’ specific emotions.

Too many companies look at results from studies like the one mentioned above and assume that getting customers excited about their brand is enough, but actually, that’s the difference between good and great. Would you rather settle for customers that are simply excited, and risk the positive emotion being easily changed to a negative (nervousness), or solidify that connection between customer and brand by targeting joy instead?

Joy beats excitement in customers

It’s important to consider which emotions your customers feel about your brand, and to go deeper than simply aiming for “positive” or “negative” feelings. The blurry line between nervousness and excitement is a prime example of how targeting the wrong emotions in your customers can damage your emotional connection with them. There is a much higher risk that what you see as exciting can be perceived as anxiety-filled by your customer, making them associate your brand with nervousness instead of the excitement you were aiming for. Instead, work to evoke stronger passion levels within target emotion groups. The more you solidify the emotional connection between your customers and your brand by aiming for the right emotions, the more successful that relationship will become. The key is to increase passion.

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