Speaking with Emotion: How to Increase Conversions with Words

Jul 28, 2015
Netta Gal-Oz

Have you ever read a book that made you cry or laugh out loud? Although you are reading words on a page, they can bring about strong emotions in you as they paint pictures in your imagination.

Words are a powerful tool that stirs emotions and can directly increase conversions. We can feel the impact of words from the heart palpitations we get from a newspaper headline, a song on the radio, a book, or the words of a bully. Words can truly change lives.

So while we discuss imagery, color psychology and layout in messaging, it is also critical to discuss the words we use. But words on their own are not what makes them memorable. What makes words stay with us are the feelings they bring about in us. So in order to understand what words to use, we need to understand what emotions we need to convey. In conversion optimization, this means we need to understand the emotional triggers that motivate our target audience and for that we need emotional targeting.

What is Emotional Targeting Anyway?

Emotional targeting, is a methodology in which we recognize the emotions that motivate our audience into taking action (buy, sign up, leave an email), and then focusing on turning those emotions into triggers within our marketing strategy and design.

First, you should recognize your target audience. Next, hypothesize the emotions that will speak most to your target audience. After that, write and design your marketing strategy based on these emotions, and then – test!

emotions chart

The Basics:

Let’s start off with some general rules:

1. Shorter is Sweeter:

  • Our brain can only hold a limited amount of information at a time, so the shorter your message is, the more likely it is to stay in your reader’s brain! (Think Elevator Pitch, but shorter!)
  • “ The human brain can really only hold on to four things at a time, so if you go on and on for five or ten minutes trying to argue a point, the person will only remember a very small part of that. “ Researcher Andrew Newberg
  • Longer messages cause readers to skip over words to try to get to the point. In fact, users have time to read a maximum of 28% of the words during an average visit, and the real number is more likely 20% of the web page! (Nielsen Norman Group)
  • You want to think of your message as a headline – use it to catch your target audience’s attention. Once you have their attention, they will be willing to read more, because they want the facts! But your initial interaction is meant to catch the attention of your target audience, and to weed out those who aren’t interested in reading more. (Scientific Advertising, Claude Hopkins)

2. Define Your Emotional Triggers

  • How do you want to make your user feel? Do you want to catch their attention using Fear? (Don’t miss out!) Empowerment? (Just Do it!) Hope? (It’s just around the corner!)

3. “How does this make me feel?”

  • After every sentence you write, read it again and think about what emotions it brings up. Sometimes a difference in one word can change the feeling of a whole sentence.
  • If you feel you have been working on something for too long, ask someone in the office, or in your family, how the sentence makes them feel as well.

Baby Feelings

4. Consider Your Product

  • There are some emotions you do not want associated with your product, or don’t suit your product.

5. Match Copy to Image

  • Remember that words complement the image you use. Since a large percentage of our brain is geared towards visual, it is important to match the feeling we’re trying to stir in our visitors with a suitable image.

Turning Our Words Into Actions:

Now that you have defined the emotions you would like your reader to feel, let’s provide some examples of words for different emotions we can use, along with some relevant examples from well-known brands. We can make our readers feel all kinds of different emotions.


You can use negative emotions such as Anger to get your users to relate to a cause and donate, like here for example:

Keywords: Words that increase feelings of anger include: severe, shocking, enraging, atrocious, tragic, unfair



Fear of loss can motivate people to purchase different products. For example, fear of death or sickness. Look at what this insurance company did with their advert:

Life Insurance

Or what a company that helps smokers quit used in their ad:

Quit Smoking Ad

Another way to use fear is to play on the emotion of FOMO or “Fear of Missing Out” in advertisements and convey a sense of urgency.

Keywords: “Limited Offer” ,“Don’t Miss This!”, “Sale Ends Today!”

The word “Limited” raises in us the feeling of Loss Aversion, which refers to people’s penchant for choosing to avoid loss over acquiring gains.

In this image, the words “Flash” and “Hurry! It won’t last long” create fear that one will miss out this sale.

Flash Sale Ad

Urgency and Instant Gratification

In today’s world where people expect their page to load in 3 seconds or less, urgency does not always go with fear. It can also go with positive emotions like feeling content or calm, which are associated with instant gratification.

Keywords: Words such as “Now”, “Tonight”, “in one hour or less”, or “within 10 days” appeal to that instant gratification trigger.

In this image, the advertiser speaks directly to the buyer’s need for instant gratification  - you can sleep better as soon as tonight!

Sleep Better Ad

Happiness and Joy

You can also use your words to portray happiness and joy, if that is what you think your audience should feel when they use your product. We are all familiar with at least one company that consistently advertises its’ products with feelings of happiness and joy (and they use the right colors for it too!).

Keywords: Enjoy, fun, delight, sunny, eager, cheer, satisfy, and play

Coca Cola Ad


Empowerment is another popular emotion many marketers want their users to feel. You want your user to feel capable of using your product, or empowered by your product. You may feel that your target audience are leaders who enjoy doing things first, who want their feelings of superiority to increase.

Keywords: Motivated, brave, capable, bold, inspired, can, do, choice, and daring.

In this image, CoverGirl says girls can – sending an empowering message to girls and women.

Empower Ad

This image, which was a symbol of women empowerment during WWII, signifies both a sense of community and a sense of empowerment (Yes you can combine two emotions in one which is very recommended at times).

we can do it


With today’s health craze, one great way to impact customers is to mention health, freshness and environment. Using the right words can show your target audience that your product is the healthy, refreshing, new choice.

Keywords: Boost, cure, vitalize, vibrant, natural, well, wellness, live, energize, fresh, good, and flush.

The use of “good” repeatedly makes you associate this juice with positive, healthy thoughts.

Tastes Good Ad

You want healthy and positive things in your home, and Tide knows that.

Tide Ad

McDonalds is fighting their “Junk Food” stigma and using words that will make us feel healthy when eating there (note how they changed their colors from red to green).

 McDonalds Ad


Hope is another important trigger to use in marketing strategies. Hope is a strong driver of purchases, since everyone wants to believe they will get better  (and if you can buy something that will do it for you, then why not?).

Keywords: Bright, future, success, hopeful.

The word Imagine activates a part of our subconscious brain that starts picturing, for example, our life with an HD TV screen.

Hope Bright Ad

Obama used Hope in his campaign as well, along with empowerment. These posters along with the “Yes We Can” moved a nation to act and vote for a change.

Hope Obama Ad


You want to create a sense of belonging when looking for people to join your newsletter, or subscribe to your site. Some people use a support community to help sell a product as well. Using numerical examples such as the amount of money raised, or amount of people who are in the community can also help create this feeling.

Keywords: join, together, us, community, belong, love, gather, connect, with, home, and family.

McDonald’s (below) used these emotions to help promote their restaurant chain and turn it into a “family establishment”. They used both familiarizing words like “your” and “family” to make it feel like home. Notice the “we do it all for you” at the bottom too.

McDonalds Family Ad

In this ad, you wouldn’t know it but Microsoft is the advertiser. This makes you feel as though, if you use Microsoft, you’re at home, you have a family feeling, it brings you together with others.

Microsoft Family Ad

Here, Nike is inviting users to “Join the challenge”, making it both a competition with yourself, and becoming part of a community. Nike also use the term “your”, personalizing the ad.

Nike Challenge Ad

Other Successful Emotional Words

Some words that can trigger emotional reactions that are not attached to a specific emotion are:

  • You – Making it about the consumer.

  • Because – People like to have a reason for what they do (check out Robert Cialdini’s, the Psychology of Persuasion)

  • Discover – feeds our need for being the first, as well as our strong sense of curiosity. Additional words that raise curiosity are: secret, confidential, sneak peak, “be the first to know”, and banned.

Our emotions are complex. We want to feel loved and supported, yet we want to feel in control. We want to be unique and to gain others’ attention, yet we want to belong and be a part of a community. We search for peace and balance, yet we seek challenge and success.

And the list goes on.

But once you create your target audience personas and prioritize the emotions you want to reach, choose your words wisely. Choose fitting images and colors, and write copy that will have your users doing what you want because it’s what they want.

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Netta Gal-Oz is a Web Strategic Planner and Marketing Analyst at Conversioner. With BA’s in Psychology and Communication, and a passion for marketing, Netta helps businesses understand their competitors and market opportunities using research and data analysis, and with this and emotional targeting, builds strategies to increase conversions. She is an avid reader who loves cooking and baking. You can follow her @ngaloz21