Leveraging data to create emotional intelligence for marketing

Think about a photograph or painting you’ve seen that made you laugh out loud.  Or moved you deeply.  Think about looking at a fashion magazine and how you think of yourself wearing those pants to work or your next night out.  Images invoke an emotional reaction in us and when they do they often stay in our minds for an extended period of time.  How can you leverage this when utilizing data?

When you “know” someone, maybe your best friend, you are taking in data all the time on what makes them happy, sad, angry, etc.  When it comes to buying them a birthday gift you know what will make them happy.  How do you make that happen with your customer?  In this case data can help you understand the customer so you can give to them the images and offers that invoke that emotional response or Emotional Intelligence (EI).

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to understand behaviors and match them to a particular situation. It helps marketers target customers in the right place, at the right time and get to know them on a deeper level. And data is at the forefront. Data helps marketers to identify the types of emotions you should focus on when marketing to consumers. There are six universal emotions that marketers target when communicating to consumers: happiness, anger, disgust, sadness, fear and surprise. All consumers are emotional, and the type of emotion varies from consumer to consumer. Think about the multiple campaigns the Department of Transportation is continuously running to educate drivers of the dangers of texting and driving. These campaigns are targeted to instill fear or worry about the dangers of texting and driving and also help to remove the sense of urgency of having to immediately respond.  I recently saw a billboard while driving on a local highway that stated: “Your LOL’s and OMG’s can wait.” So true. Clearly, a billboard placed on a highway in which hundreds of drivers pass by daily is a ‘targeted’ location, but can marketers target consumers based on EI as it relates to everyday marketing? Yes, and the power resides in your data strategy.

To infer the emotion from data you often need to combine data elements to tell the story or use pre-defined consumer segments like our Niches. Consider these scenarios and what type of images or words you would use for your own product to resonate an emotional response with the following grouping of data elements:

  • Male only in the HH
  • Age 30
  • Income $40,000
  • Drives a 10 year old Honda Civic
  • Enjoys running & cycling


  • Male & Female in the HH
  • Ages 50 – 60
  • Income $150,000
  • 2 Teen drivers in the HH
  • 1 travels for business
  • 1 enjoys cooking

Marketers continue to advance their data strategies each year. The key is having an omnichannel strategy that’s integrated with multiple data sources. This intel when fueled with data analytics results in a predictive engine. Marketers leverage the data intelligence to learn the behaviors, the preferences of each individual consumer so they can connect with them on a 1:1 level. Changing a print piece can be costly but typically you just need to identify one of the most important elements to provide them with the rest of the offer.  If you identify that some of your best customers are family focused and have young kids in the house then show an image of a family with young children enjoying one of your top selling products for that customer segment.  In email for your customers, you can change images a bit more easily and you can change the subject line to call upon the emotion with something like, “You and the Kids together!”

Data has proven results. When planning your campaigns, focus on the emotions. Emotions can be measured and used to drive engagement, loyalty and sales. Think long term. You’re not trying to sell one product, you’re trying to sell your brand, and that’s a relationship you can profit from again and again. So don’t make your marketing just about the logical reasons why your product is better, make it about how the product will make the customer feel. Show, don’t tell. And lastly, focus on the emotions of those who are already satisfied with your brand. Don’t try to appeal to someone who isn’t at all connected to you. You’ll only alienate the (valuable) ones who care.