top of page
  • Writer's pictureSarah Habsburg

Hoteliers Guide to Emotional Marketing

Every time we buy something, we pass through a process of emotional interaction. “Passing through” the process is a great way to describe it, because it is a subconscious reaction, a gut feeling, an instinct. Ultimately, it is what allows us to feel our buying decision is the correct one and that we should go ahead.

Failing to understand the role of emotion in marketing means missing out on persuasive opportunities to connect with our target audiences.

So, how can we define emotional marketing?

It is first perhaps easier to explain what it is not.

Most traditional marketing strategies speak about ways to showcase product features and included services, immediate, short-, and long-term benefits of whatever is on offer, and rational arguments to persuade customers to buy. This is a linear approach to marketing that can of course generate sales, but emotional marketing takes your brand voice and identity to another level.

Emotional marketing techniques refer to effective storytelling, appealing imagery, and intentional personalisation to build a sense of connection and trust with target audiences.

Ultimately, it is the icing on the marketing cake and is used by successful brands the world over to drive short-term sales and to encourage customer loyalty, repeats and recommendations. It is the shortcut to a) getting people to listen to what you have to say (and sell), and b) to generating brand advocacy.

Is emotional marketing really that powerful?

Yes! It most definitely is.

Getting great at incorporating emotional marketing into your holistic strategy is more far reaching than you could ever imagine. A Nielsen study of 100 ads across 25 brands discovered that the best emotional responses resulted in a 23% increase in sales.

It can even help with SEO. How? Because the more engaged someone is, the longer they stay clicking around on your website, and that is a key factor in how Google ranks your online presence.

We may think we use logic and reasoning, that we control our decision making, but it is actually a complex process that is highly influenced by the way we see the world, our experiences to date, and our level of exposure to the emotions mentioned below.

It is also an immediate process. Our emotional responses happen much faster than the logical responses generated by the other part of our brains. We know how we feel about a product or offer before we can logically process if the features and benefits are of interest to us.

There is also further evidence of the power of emotional marketing in the form of a study conducted by Antonio Damasio, author of the book Descartes´ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain. He looked at the resulting behaviour of people who had suffered damage to the part of the brain that produces and manages emotions. These people were able to live a relatively normal life in regard to daily routines, but they were unable to feel emotion. This resulted in them needing help in making decisions about what to eat or what to wear. They knew that it was time to eat, or time to dress, but they were unable to take the decision about what, because they lacked this emotional component.

In addition, there are probably at least two or three adverts from your childhood that you still remember today. Maybe you can still even sing the jingle, and smell or taste the product. For me it was the Milky Bar kid adverts from the 1980’s. Just by thinking about it, all my senses are triggered. I can hear the music, see the character, feel the packaging, smell, and taste the chocolate. That is power.

Now, I know you are not an international confectionary brand, but the argument still applies. If you don’t do the work to activate senses in your marketing, whether that be via nostalgia and childhood memories, or simply by presenting your target audience with solutions to their problems that go beyond what they thought they were looking for or even needed, you are losing out.

Which emotions are the ones to focus on?

Naturally the positive ones mostly. Though there is room for generating emotions of anger as a lever to influence behavioural change, but as a rule the happy ones influence decision-making the most.

Joy is arguably the most effective emotion at influencing decision making. It is happiness, excitement, and positivity embodied in that intangible feeling of warmth.

Trust is a huge one in the marketing space right now. It is generated by consistency, showing up again and again in positive ways, and by using authenticity, being yourself and getting bold. This is where leaning into your strengths and doing the work to understand your brand values comes in.

Hope is a particularly important emotion that triggers positive responses from decision-making adults across all generations. We all want to feel that we are engaging in positive action that can help ensure the continuity of life on Earth as we know it, and hopefully an even better future.

Aspiration, inspiration, and awe can be bundled together. They are used successfully to motivate someone to buy your product or choose your offer because it either includes something that they want to do, or someone they want to emulate, or offers them a better version of themselves than they are today. These are useful emotions to aim for when marketing wellness products for example.

Fear in the form of FOMO is also a strong emotional trigger, but it should be used carefully and not too often. Fear Of Missing Out marketing refers to last-minute or limited time offers. This sense of urgency generates a strong emotional response and is highly successful in driving customer behaviour.

It is of course important to note that this is not an exhaustive list, and that choosing which emotions to target depends on the purpose of the campaign and the call to action you are hoping to generate. This takes us onto the next point…

What is the best way to get started with emotional marketing?

While critical to generate that sought after sale, it is not just about crafting the CTA based on what you want your customers to do.

It is also about knowing your audience. Understanding what triggers their unique desires on an emotional level is crucial to success. You can read dozens of books about psychological triggers, but if you are not talking directly to the right person in the right tone of voice, you will not succeed at connecting with them.

Start by asking yourself what your audience enjoys the most in your destination. What common problems do they face when travelling? What kind of content would help them find answers to those problems?

Doing the work to truly understand the emotional needs and desires of your target audiences is well worth the time investment, and in my main coaching programme we delve deep on this using information that you have to hand in your business right now.

Once that work is done, what tools can you use to connect on that emotional level?

Storytelling. People are naturally drawn to stories, and the best thing is that there is only you in the whole world who can tell your stories the way that you do. It is much-underused intellectual property that should be leveraged to the full as a way to connect with the kind of customers you want to attract. Creating a narrative around your brand is easier than you think when you work to a framework to generate it.

Define and showcase your values. A past client of mine said it felt like open-heart surgery, in a good way, to do this work! It is a great way to understand what you stand for, and what you don’t. A great example of showcasing values is Google. It says a lot about a company when you read how well the staff members are treated, and Google often talks about flexible working environments filled with spaces for downtime, as well as other non-financial benefits of working for them.

Evocative imagery. Images have an extremely powerful emotional impact on people and can be used in your marketing campaigns to create a sense of emotion and connection with customers. This could lead with a focus on inclusion, or varied images that aim to break seasonality, or even just as simple as inviting people in by showing someone being led by their hand into your property or destination. This example can be found in the work of Murad Osmann at Beringer Vineyards for the Better Beckons campaign.

Personalisation, aka Humanisation. I believe humanisation says it better than the former. It is the combining of insights with the right digital tech that crafts the customer experience at every touchpoint. It cannot however, be successfully done without doing the work mentioned above to truly understand your target audiences.

Utilise emotional trigger words. We talked about a few above such as joy, trust, hope, aspiration, inspiration, awe, and fear. Each piece of marketing content should be set up to evoke one of these feelings so that they have the best chance of triggering the emotional response that drives action. An example is to appeal to the new wave of conscious consumers who don’t want to feel guilty about their negative CO2, environmental, or social impacts while on holiday. You can easily tigger aspiration, inspiration, and hope by showcasing your endeavours to build a more sustainable business and appeal for help in being kinder to the planet by sharing not just your actions but your results.

Create community. We all want to be a part of something. I often hear from clients how hard they find it to encourage loyal customers and get repeat guests. While it is true that some clients will only ever visit your property once in their lifetimes, it is also true that you can become a pillar of your local community if you choose to do the work to build that presence. It is not something that happens overnight, and it requires an “expectation audit” so that you can manage your intended outcomes and match them to the gaps and desires of your local and regional communities. When used correctly, it is a powerful way to break seasonality and build business resilience.

Leverage customer testimonials. This is connected to the section above as it allows your potential customers to feel a part of something therefore increasing trust and credibility as the “right” choice.

Deploy humour wisely. Making people smile or laugh is a great way to create a sense of relatability and engagement with customers. Being consistent is key but it is important to avoid repetition. To do this well, lean into your brand personality to help you define how you should speak about your business to your target audience. If you are an Entertainer brand for example, you can deploy light-hearted jokes to generate those smiles. Sage brands can generate humour by sharing facts that surprise and impress. Caregiver brands can craft humorous responses by offering nurturing solutions to repetitive travel problems for example, while Maverick brand can use humour to be vocal about something that they want to change. It is a whole other channel to craft effective marketing content, and you are missing out if you are not using your brand personality to help define the way you speak about your business. Click here to take my Hotel Brand Personality Quiz.

Consider using virtual reality and augmented reality experiences. I dedicate a whole section to this in my Google Made Easy for Hotels eBook (which you get for free when you go through my main coaching programme). Both VR and AR offer inspiring ways to awaken all the senses and can be an effective tool during your sales process.

In conclusion...

Emotional marketing ticks all the boxes of consumer trends such as a desire to connect more deeply, to be inspired, and to feel important to their chosen brand.

This can only be successfully achieved through intentionally using emotions that matter to your target audience. One of the key takeaways is to do the work to understand your customer, as well as that to define your own values and brand personality.

A great example of emotional marketing employed in destination marketing is the Fill Your Heart With Ireland video campaign that used biometric data from technology to measure the heart rate of two people visiting various sites in Ireland to literally show how each experience filled their hearts with positive emotion. Words used to describe the feelings generated when watching the video were inspirational, authentic, exciting, and credible. Take a look for yourself here.

Found inspiration here? Scroll right down to the bottom and leave a comment. If you would like to receive more helpful, relatable, and actionable content relevant to your business, click here to sign up to my email list. No spam, no bombarding you. Just really useful stuff. I look forward to having you onboard :)


bottom of page