At last week’s Insights Association NEXT conference in Chicago, Anne Beall of Beall Research shared her firm’s research into how emotions affect purchase interest, repeat purchase, and brand advocacy.

“Consumers don’t think their way through the marketplace; they feel their way,” Anne said. “Emotions provide a rapid, actionable assessment of a situation or environment and are strongly linked to behavior and memory.” Because of that connection to memory and behavior, brands want to link to emotions.

She shared some commercials and ad campaigns highlighting this:

  • A Coca-Cola commercial focused on “taste the feeling”, showcasing sharing life with loved ones.
  • A Michelin commercial making tires emotional: because “so much is riding on your tires,” the Michelin brand demonstrates care about protecting your family.
  • A Ben’s Beginners campaign for Uncle Ben’s Rice claims defining moments together (for parents with their children, and for parents remembering their own childhood) as part of the message “Families Learn to Cook Together.”
  • A Tylenol campaign “For what matters.” Even though Tylenol’s active ingredient is the generic acetaminophen, a placebo effect kicks in. “Our beliefs affect our behavior, which affect our perceptions,” said Anne. “Psychological research has demonstrated how our beliefs become self-fulfilling prophecies. Using Tylenol leads my mom to be more active, which leads her to be happier than if she had taken acetaminophen.”
  • Tesla’s Dog Mode, added in a software update, lets dogs remain in the car with the air conditioning running, and the display says “My owner will be back soon”; this campaign led to positive word of mouth and contributes to the emotional journey of Tesla ownership.
  • For GoDaddy, Anne helped them move towards emotional response and identification, with a new campaign about empowerment, selling websites and domain registration by emphasizing people’s ability to write their own stories and shape change in themselves and society.

Anne’s firm designed two surveys of 1,000 Americans each to understand how emotions related to interest, purchasing, and recommendation of brands, analyzing 17 brands spanning 16 categories. The key finding is that the emotional response to a brand and emotional identification with the brand leads to 70% of the decision to purchase.


Emotional Response

Emotional Identification

Purchase Interest

The amount one expects to feel happiness, delight, and pride when owning/using a brand

The degree one associates a brand with good memories, important experiences, and personal values

Repeat Purchase

Overall feeling when using a brand

A brand one feels proud to own/use

Brand Advocacy

Overall feeling when using a brand

How one felt when using a brand the last time, when talking about the brand to family

With purchase interest, “maybe we love it first and then buy it.”

How can you use this information? Anne challenges you to:

  • “Include desired emotions in your brand briefing.”
  • “The desired feeling you want people to have for your brand.”
  • “The emotional associations you want to create with your brand.”
  • “Defining moments you want your brand to claim.”
  • “Touch points that engender emotional brand moments.”

“Consumers with a strong positive feeling about a brand spend more money, buy more frequently, and show more loyalty.” They select answers like “this is the only brand I buy” and “I buy this brand more than others” at higher rates.

How does emotion interact with NPS? “Promoters tend to feel extremely positive about brands, where detractors tend to have a neutral feeling, not a negative feeling (usually).”

Interestingly, looking at reviews, the more emotional words in a review, the more predictive it is of likelihood of purchase.

In conclusion, Anne said, “Engage their hearts, and you’ll engage their wallets.”