Rational Vs. Emotional Triggers in Online Marketing – Which Approach is Better?

Oct 19, 2016
Shuki Mann

An Ikea advertisement shows a mother and son (about 9 or 10 years old) going into an Ikea store where the son seems to expertly choose furniture pieces. They eventually make their purchase, load the furniture in the truck, and in the next scene, a young gentleman is seen telling his mother, “Mum, I’m only moving around the corner.”

In another advertisement, this one for Red Barn Furniture Outlet, the narrator can be heard describing the wide selection of the company’s products and the benefits or advantages of their products. At the same time, pictures of these products are shown on the screen:

Completely Different Approaches To Sell Products

These two advertisements obviously use two different approaches to promoting the company’s products. They also illicit different types of emotions from the viewer.

Watching the Ikea commercial brings about an ”aww-like” reaction from the viewer, because the ad clearly depicts how much the mother loves his son and how the Ikea products are used to show that love.

It leaves the viewer feeling positive (happy, inspired, and peaceful), and the advertisement’s ending was also pleasantly surprising and is likely to bring about a smile from the viewer.

On the other hand, the Red Barn Furniture Outlet commercial doesn’t really illicit much emotions from the viewer.

Yes, the viewer is informed about the company, but this is no different from how other furniture companies promote their products. It comes off as sort of generic and doesn’t really leave an emotional impact on the viewer.

Rational vs. Emotional Triggers in Marketing

The two commercials appealed to the viewers in different ways. The Red Barn Furniture Outlet commercial used the rational appeal while the Ikea commercial used the emotional appeal.

Rational appeal communicates with the consumer’s rational logic by listing the product benefits or providing proof to convince the consumer of the product’s superiority. On the other hand, the emotional appeal communicates to the consumers’ gut feeling.

Is One More Effective Than The Other?

From our experience at Conversioner, the emotional appeal works much better than the rational, however most of the digital marketers prefer to use the rational approach when promoting their products.

It is said that people buy on emotion then justify their decision with facts, which means that they feel before they think.

Research also claims that rational persuasion requires that the audience make an active effort to receive and evaluate the information. It requires the conscious mind to be engaged and for the audience to be motivated enough to process the information.

In contrast, emotional persuasion relies on the audience’s subconscious mind, which runs on auto-pilot when it comes to the receipt, processing, and evaluation of information.

As such, the decisions that are made at the subconscious level are based on the person’s gut feeling, instincts, or emotions.

Research further shows that people are exposed to over 3,000 ads per day on average, so that it would be impossible for the conscious mind to rationally process the information in these ads even if the brain were actively engaged 24/7.

Neuroscientists say that the act of thinking uses up three times more energy than less challenging tasks, and that the brain is on idle mode when in the non-thinking state 95% of the time.

As such, people are more susceptible to emotional appeals since their brains are mostly in an idle, subliminal state.

In this regard, the Advertising Education Foundation recommends that for emotional appeals to be effective, they should subliminally excite the singular expectation, dream, hope, belief, or thought that gets the target audience’s attention.

What are the effects of emotional triggers on sales?

There are various factors to consider in ensuring the effectiveness of emotional triggers on your sales.

Some of these include the target market’s value systems and age. As such, it is important to gain a good understanding of the emotions and needs of the consumer groups that you want to target.

Using the right emotional appeal touches the people’s cores, making it easier for them to later recall your sales message.

As an example, an automobile company can appeal to parents by having an ad where parents discuss how car features can keep their children safe.

An example is Mazda’s commercial, which shows a young couple taking their newborn baby home in their Mazda car:

Emotional appeal also makes the audience associate the product to positive emotions.

As an example, consistently including photos of happy families in your ads will make people perceive your brand as family-friendly. In this regard, you can use ads to shape your target market’s perception of your brand.

A good example of this is the ad “Android: Furever”, which went viral upon its release. Although it does not show any textual content, it powerfully delivers the message of diversity, which the company espouses:

Research shows that advertisement can significantly influence consumer behavior.

The more frequently your products are associated to positive emotions, the more likely that your target market favors your products over less known competitors.

So How can you use emotional appeal in internet marketing?


Having established the importance and effectiveness of using emotional appeal in traditional marketing, there’s no reason that it can’t be used effectively in internet marketing as well.

There are ways to tap into your target market’s emotions and these should be integrated into your internet marketing strategy, particularly in content marketing.

Note that you have around two seconds to get your audience’s attention, which means the first 2 sentences of your content.

Your goal is to draw in the audience with the first sentence and to lure them down the page. You should then engage them and continue to feed their emotions throughout the remainder of your content.

In this regard, if your aim is to increase brand awareness, build relationships, and share practical and valuable information, then you should compel and engage your audience’s emotions to the point that they will want to share it.

However, if your aim is to move the audience to the next step towards purchase, then you can use sales psychology and neuroscience to stimulate the emotional response needed to achieve specific actions.

For example, a consumer may be moved to purchase a product in order to relieve a pain they’re feeling.

After getting the audience’s attention, the next step is to engage them with your content. You can do this by continuously appealing to their emotions.

Experts indicate that some commonalities among viral content include the presence of the following emotions very early on in the content: positivity; shock and awe; and anger, fear, and anxiety.

In particular, when people feel entertained or when they feel good by what they read, then they are more likely to share what they have viewed or read.

Similarly, data or facts that shock people have more chances of being shared. As well, people tend to want to share the things they’re angry about or fearful of and to even comment on it when they share it. In turn, this leads to more sharing and commenting.

After the audience experiences the initial emotional attraction, logic kicks in a bit, and by this time, you should be presenting the practical and useful aspects of your content.

For example, you can address the problem that your audience has and show how you, as an authority, can resolve that problem.

If you use simple and clear language, along with engaging media, then your audience will see inherent value in your product and move on to making a purchase. If, however, your goal is to increase brand recognition and brand awareness, then you would want your audience to share the content.


It is clear that you can effectively promote your products and services online by triggering your target market’s emotions.

Although this is a traditional marketing technique, online marketers should also adapt it to their initiatives because that is how the users decide what ad where to buy.

Rational Vs. Emotional Triggers in Online Marketing – Which Approach is Better? 5.00/5 (100.00%) 5 votes
Shuki is the CEO & founder of LIXFIX - a digital agency that specializes in conversion rates optimization. LIXFIX works on improving conversion rates for medium/large customers around the world, primarily in the fields of Forex, eCommerce, Travels and Lead Generation. Simultaneously to running LIXFIX, Shuki is the organizer of the unique analytics conference 'All Things Data'.