There are two new items on my content marketing to do list.
1. Develop a mass oxytocin injection
2. Scare the living daylights out of readers while they simultaneously view a product logo.
A recent blog post by Courtney Seiter, The Science of Emotion in Marketing: How Our Brains Decide What to Share and Whom to Trust, looks at that close connection between content and brain function.
There are four basic emotions: happy, sad, afraid/surprised, and angry/disgusted, according to a study conducted by researchers from the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of Glasgow.
Here’s how it relates to content. Any item that engenders positive feelings, like joy or amusement, can drive action. In the online world, that joy generally translates into sharing an article, image or video.
We have talked before about social capital and how we share in order to raise our profile among our peers. Good news spreads faster than bad online. On a fundamental level, we want those around us to laugh, smile, and get benefit from what we do.
Seiter proposes that this is such a basic social instinct that it begins at infancy, when a baby’s smile inspires joy in the parent.
Going one step further, inspiring awe also promotes sharing, as Jonah Berger found when he analyzed thousands of New York Times articles to extract information on which articles were most shared.
Berger and his team found that science articles are generally more popular than non-science articles, and he postulates that science inspires the positive emotion of awe. Couple that insight with our desire to raise our social profile by sharing items that make us look smart. That’s a pretty solid rationale. If you want to get social attention, the first rule is to create content that motivates people to spread the bliss.
So what’s oxytocin got to do with it? That’s the brain hormone related to connection and empathy. Hugging and kissing drives oxytocin levels up, and it’s an essential part of sex, birth and breast feeding. Hence the concept of a mass oxytocin injection. Speaking of kissing, a recent viral video that’s chock full of oxytocin, showing ten couples making out for the first time, was revealed to be an ad for a clothing manufacturer.
Seiter shares another interesting bit of information (leading to number two on my to do list at the top of this post): the fact that fearful humans are so interested in reaching out for something to cling to in their panic state that they will go so far as to relate to a non-human brand.
If that’s a brain buster, consider Tom Hanks’ sidekick Wilson in the hit film Cast Away and it will all make sense. If you want to inspire customer loyalty, be front and center when people are scared and alone. This won’t work for every brand, and indeed it could be a major distraction from building trust and loyalty.
Regardless of which emotion you aim to engender, know that marketing and social sharing are far more powerful when feelings, mostly good but also bad, are stirred. What can you do to rile them up?
Make ‘Em Laugh or Make ‘Em Cringe: Psychology of Content Marketing