5 Influential Ways to Use Emotional Triggers in Video

5 Influential Ways to Use Emotional Triggers in Video

13min read  

15 Oct 2019

Most marketers will agree that they are constantly searching for ways to make their content more engaging and exciting. In fact, 41% of marketers agree that it is actually the most challenging part of their jobs.

In order to diversify their content library and keep audiences engaged, many marketers have started to generate more video content to solve this issue. Video marketing offers a lot of benefits for businesses, such as generating more traffic, boosting conversions, and building greater brand awareness.

But while this medium is certainly more engaging than say a written blog post, many are still having a hard time getting their audience to watch from start to finish – and take the intended action.

Consumers these days have a very short attention span. It only takes a mere matter of seconds before they’re on to the next thing, especially when they are scrolling through videos. In fact, it’s very common that you will lose about one-third of your viewership after just thirty seconds.

That is, unless you can really capture their interest.

This is where emotional triggers come in.


What Are Emotional Triggers?

In a nutshell, emotional triggers are actions or elements that prompt an emotional response. Studies have found that in TV ads, the intended emotional response impacts a person’s drive to buy by a factor of 3:1 when compared to the ad’s content itself. This is often why the most popular or memorable commercials usually are ones that either share a heartwarming story or are funny or sad.  

We see brands use emotional triggers all the time to manipulate consumer emotion into taking action – and once you recognize these “tricks” you will soon be able to spot them in just about every piece of advertising you come across. 

These “tricks” are things that get us emotionally or intellectually invested in the content and using them can help you to connect with your audience through video.

Think about the movie previews that you see in the theatre; often these commercials will draw you in almost immediately because they use various psychological tricks to grab your attention.

For instance, a scary movie will keep you on edge wondering what will happen next. 

Take the new “It Chapter 2” preview as an example here. The use of creepy music, dark colors, and menacing shots of the terrifying clown instantly makes the viewer nervous – and curious as to what will happen next. 

A thriller or action movie will get your adrenaline pumping, whereas a drama or romance will draw you in with attractive characters that get your heart pumping for different reasons. 

The “Mission: Impossible” trailer gets the audience engaged with unresolved action shots that viewers can’t look away from right off the bat. 

On the other hand, this trailer for the classic movie “The Notebook” builds up interest more slowly with romantic shots that get you invested in the characters and storyline.

Well, the same goes for marketing videos. Have you seen those super sad videos about homeless puppies living in squalid conditions that need your help? Or what about the videos trying to get you to donate to help solve world hunger? Or have you watched an inspirational ad that had you ready to change your body by working out intensely for 90 days straight?

Or, probably most commonly, have you watched a food or restaurant ad that suddenly had you craving French fries and burgers even though you weren’t that hungry before?

How do you feel after watching those?

By tapping into psychological triggers, you can get your audience far more invested and interested in your content and influence them towards a purchasing decision.

Now, emotional triggers come in all shapes and sizes.

Let’s discuss five of the most common psychological triggers that are used in marketing - and how you can use them to promote your own brand through video.


1. Fear

Fear-based marketing is a tactic we see all the time from organizations that typically sell products or services intended to offer protection.

Now, fear-based videos don’t necessarily have to be scary to prompt action; but they should get your audience thinking about the “what if’s” and how they can protect themselves in case something bad happens.

Insurance companies are one of the biggest proponents of the fear tactic.

For instance, Allstate’s famous commercials featuring the character ‘Mayhem’ are certainly humorous and revolve around rather exaggerated circumstances. But it does still get the viewers thinking about whether they should purchase more insurance to keep them protected in the case of an accident, medical emergency, or, in this case, a car theft.

This fear-based tactic is seen in marketing all the time. In fact, there are many worldwide industries that are fueled almost entirely by fear.

Healthcare companies use it to sell us hand sanitizer and vitamins to keep us from getting sick. Skincare companies use the fear of getting old to sell wrinkle creams and anti-aging products. Web security companies harp on the dangers of having your data stolen to encourage secure online payments through their services. These are just a few that come to mind.

The reason why this works so well is that it gets the audience invested by looking for the solution. They resonate with the fear and they want to know how to stop it – providing the brand with the perfect opportunity to promote their product or service.

Fear-based marketing works best by convincing your audience that a product or service is a necessity in order to protect them from something bad. This can be anything from embarrassment to financial ruin; the key is to make it relatable and realistic to be most effective.


2. Novelty

People crave uniqueness and self-expression because it gives the brain a feeling of inclusion and belonging. This is actually one of the things that drive us to share certain posts on our social media. We want to show others a reflection of ourselves, so when we find content that resonates with us or aligns with our personality, we want to share it.

On the other hand, novelty also makes us feel connected with other people by finding similarities. This is why Apple releases new iPhone and iPad models every year and people feel like they HAVE to buy them because as much as we want to stand out, we also feel the need to fit in.

One way that brands use novelty in video marketing is by combining these two motivations to show the consumer that they can stand out while simultaneously fitting in to the status quo.

You can see a great example of novelty in many of Apple’s videos, such as their AirPod commercial that really took a whimsical and unique spin to promote the new product.

In my humble opinion, AirPods are the spitting image of Apple novelty items. 

They do not necessarily offer the highest quality of sound compared to other headphones, and there are plenty of less expensive wireless earbuds on the market. But, their commercial certainly entices viewers to consider purchasing the new AirPods - simply because they are cool and represent the novelty appeal of owning a trendy Apple product. 

This tactic works well for products that can be easily customized, such as items that can be created with custom prints like t-shirts, phone cases, or coffee cups. It is also quite useful for products that can be used to reflect one’s personality, such as clothing, jewelry, or cosmetics.


3. Curiosity

Have you ever started watching an interesting video when all of a sudden you realize it is an ad or product promotion? More than likely, you were invested in watching it because the video captured your curiosity and you needed to know what was going to happen next.

Appealing to the sense of curiosity is what gets people to delve into research and start their buyer's journey. A brand's ability to do this is what cuts through the noise and reels people in organically.

A great example here comes from Blendtec – the brand that created a rather viral YouTube video called “Will it blend?” to promote their powerful blender. Their host Tom puts in all kinds of products into the Blendtec to see how well it holds up. This will certainly pique a viewer’s curiosity.

After all, who hasn’t wondered what will happen to an iPhone X that gets thrown into a blender?

Buzzfeed is also well-known for creating videos that are designed to appeal to this psychological trigger. You will also notice that it is the headline and thumbnail for each video that makes you want to watch it.

For example, their “Worth It” channel makes people curious by wanting to know whether it is really worth it to spend $95 on a salad or not. The title alone gets the viewer invested and interested - without them realizing that the video may actually be a promotional ad for a restaurant.

Worth It channel

Source: BuzzFeed

Curiosity-based marketing tactics are fantastic for getting your foot in the door with potential customers. It can be a highly engaging form of native advertising that provides viewers with a satisfying ending by appealing to their desire to learn something.


4. Social Proof

This appeals to the herd mentality of humans (or peer pressure). If a group of people does or doesn't do a certain thing, it’s natural to assume that it must be something good or bad. This is also a reason why customer reviews matter so much for marketing purposes.

Consumers want to know what other people think about a product before they buy it because that approval matters to them – whether they want to admit it or not.

Social proof dictates trends, as well as the subsequent actions. We see social proof at work all the time with online reviews, influencer marketing, and so on. It is also another reason why social media is quickly becoming a popular sales channel.

In fact, one study found that 74% of consumers bought something as a direct result of seeing it in a video on social media.

Some of the best ways to build social proof naturally into your videos are by sharing customer testimonials or creating content with influencers that can sway consumer sentiment. These kinds of videos are often highly emotional, especially if a customer is sharing their personal experience.

For example, Shopify’s YouTube channel is focused on sharing various entrepreneur’s success stories. This provides social proof to viewers that Shopify’s ecommerce platform is widely used and popular.


5. Altruism

Altruism can either be an extremely powerful emotional trigger or an extremely detrimental one. If used properly, altruism can be a smart and meaningful modality to motivate consumers on the notion that they are helping the greater good. This is why companies launch cause marketing campaigns or weave charitable values into their business model or advertising.

Think of the shoe company TOMs for example. Rather than just focusing on selling cool shoes, most of their marketing revolves around the ways that the company gives back by donating a pair to people in need. 


You can see that these videos are highly emotionally charged – but the point is that it makes customers want to get involved by buying something from the company to support the cause.

Of course, not every business is designed to support charities in such a direct way. However, there are still other “larger” causes that consumers can indirectly support by buying from your brand. 

For instance, Chipotle created videos featuring the suppliers that they purchase products from. This tapped into altruism because it showed consumers that they could support small, independent farms by buying from Chipotle.



It is interesting to see how various brands use these triggers to get us invested in their advertising. As you create new video content, look for ways to integrate these triggers to drive consumer action. 

Jaykishan Panchal is an SEO & Content Marketing Manager at E2M Solutions Inc. a San Diego Based Digital Agency that specializes in White Label Services for Website Design & Development and eCommerce SEO. Apart from helping small and big businesses, he loves to jot down valuable resources for Entrepreneurs, StartUps, Technology Geeks with his knowledge and expertise of 9 years in the industry.

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