Why brands use emotions to get you to buy

Some of the best adverts use emotions to capture the audience. They are often the most effective at getting consumers to buy products and share the ads online. Whether nostalgic, sad, funny or light-hearted, brands use emotions in their adverts to make them more impactful and to allow the audience to connect.

Studies have shown that humans are more likely to rely on their emotions, rather than the information presented to them when making brand purchasing decisions. This means that the emotions evoked by adverts are more influential than the actual content. It’s the reason why even banks and life insurance companies have such emotional adverts nowadays.

The most shared adverts on social media are those that evoke heavy emotional responses from the audience, particularly those that are warm and inspiring, depicting friendship and happiness. This emotional awareness from brands started developing in the 1990s when advertisers started using humour and sarcasm.

How are emotions used in advertising?

There are four core emotions that people can instantly recognise and feel: happy, sad, afraid and angry. These four basic emotions are based on social interactions and are utilised by brands to drive product connection with an audience.

  • Happy emotions – Positivity has always been a successful strategy for advertisers. Brands like to be associated with happiness and happy customers. Happy adverts are also the most shared on social media, proven by Android’s Friends Furever campaign. Another brand that has seen huge success from positive advertising is Coca-Cola, often depicting happy people connecting with one another over their product.
  • Sad emotions – We don’t know why, but sometimes sad adverts really hit home. In the same way that a sad movie leaves you welling up, a sad advert is good at leaving a lasting impression. Often these types of adverts come with an inspirational undertone, such as struggling parents who do anything to look after their children. Humans find it easy to relate to daily struggles and sad situations.
  • Afraid or worried emotions – Fear is a core natural instinct that dictates our fight or flight responses. It’s what enables us to react quickly and appropriately to perceived threats. Fear prompts us to take action quickly, which is why brands (especially insurance and medical aid companies) use it to get us to buy their products before something bad happens. Another effective use of fear in advertising can be found in most drink-driving, speeding and cigarette commercials. 
  • Angry emotions – Most advertisers tend to stay clear of angry emotions to avoid being associated with negativity. However, when it’s used in adverts, it wakes an audience up and encourages them to take action. Adverts that portray an injustice can evoke angry emotions from the audience, forcing them to ask important questions.

The easiest way to engage and connect with an audience is to play on their emotions. Brands will employ emotions in their adverts to cut straight to the core of human behaviour and thought. The ultimate goal for brands is to use emotions to get consumers to buy their products and to remember the brand through emotional associations.


Sorted Design Agency is a creative company that constantly looks for solutions to other people’s problems. These problems come mostly in the visual format, such as graphic design, logo and illustration, but we’re experts in brand development, website design, and digital SEO campaigns as well.


Based in Pretoria and Cape Town, Sorted has been in the content marketing industry since 2006. We assist your company with its corporate identity by communicating core values through content and articles written for your website, blog and news area. This content is supported by AdWords and social advertising, which facilitates wider reach and audience growth. Turn your website into a business tool.


Sorted also owns two other businesses; InkFish Print Studio – a printing company that handles a range of promotional materials for businesses and other services for individual customers, and Pampiri + Kie – a gifts and stationery store selling online and in-store. Both of these companies operate from Cape Town and Pretoria.


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