I’m hoping the title evoked one or more of your emotions maybe anger “who the hell do you think your talking to” or perhaps fear “oh my god what have I done now” or even sadness “I can’t believe someone said that about me”.

Spending quite a reasonable amount of my time in front of clients, students and delegates in my role as a digital planner and occasional trainer, I find myself trying to read peoples emotions, to pick up on the positive smiles and every so often, the confused looks, I do this (as we all do) to gauge whether I/we are #winning or if I need to explain things further. The thought of these reactions and how I spend my time reading into them lead me onto: How are people reacting to the content we’re creating. What face does your audience pull when they’re consuming your content?

There are only 7 basic emotions that can be read through facial expressions* these are Happiness, anger, sadness, contempt, disgust, surprise, and fear. At the most basic level if your content is not evoking emotion from your audience, you’ve just wasted your time and there’s. Emotions are triggers for interaction; they are the physiological embodiment of sharing (when someone smiles at you they are sharing their happiness). These interactions will drive your content to be shared and discussed amongst their peers.

Below are 7 of the many emotions that your content should be aiming to trigger and some examples of content that has done just that.

One of the most powerful emotions and one worth aiming for first and foremost! Here’s what wall’s ice cream did, remember content does not have to sit online, real world events and tools are used to create content and share experiences.

Anger maybe not an emotion we wish to evoke but use content that can help dissipate anger, by answering your audiences paint points. Take a look how the one dollar shave club have identified a pain point of “expensive shave tech that you don’t need”, answered it, and put a smile on your face.

Drop the weapons was a campaign by the Met Police, they used an adventure video journey to highlight the fact that making the wrong decisions (carrying a knife on you) will lead to a very sad ending. Make the wrong decisions and see for yourself.

How can you expose contempt in an industry? Dove have done a very good job of this by using real world women and exposing their natural beauty rather than how the media chooses to portray beauty. They actually produced a study in 2003 and then revisited it in 2011 called The Real Truth About Beauty and published a report of the back of it, with many other pieces of content.

Quite some time ago the government produced some adverts that looked at the affect smoking has on your arteries, it was really quite visually disgusting.

It’s important not to mix surprise with shock, you can surprise your audience with an interesting fact, one that surprised me recently was a data visualization from David McCandless. Thanks to him I’m no longer as scared of nuclear bombs, (just the idiots who control the big red button). Click the image to see the full visualisation.

The campaign below was actually created by OTM for the movie The Last Exorcism. Viewer discretion is advised. A great piece of content that connected with the audience and drove a lot of conversation around the web, even if I do say so myself.

Obviously there are far more than the 7 emotions that I’ve covered. Below are a few other emotions to get you thinking from Robert Plutchik’s emotion wheel below.

The rule is; think about what emotions you are trying to evoke from your audience before creating your content. Emotions drive sharing, sharing drives a deeper understanding and action, actions drive preference, preference drives decisions, and decisions get business done and sales made.

*K. Schmidt and J. Cohn. Human facial expressions as adaptations: Evolutionary questions in facial expression. Yearbook of Physical Anthropology, 44:3–24, 2002.


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