Emotions – the Secret Sauce of Successful Marketing

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Can emotion improve your email strategy? 

? No, I’m not suggesting you should be an emotional wreck when running an email campaign. I am talking about understanding the emotions of your customer and how to apply this understanding to improve your email revenue. 

If your recipients emotions are only vaguely in the back of your mind when you’re setting strategy, composing copy and developing designs, you need to promote it to the frontal lobes — stat. Otherwise, you’re ignoring one of the best tools to improve clicks, opens and conversions. 

Remember the last time you made a significant purchase? Even though you methodically reviewed features, prices and styles, in the end, statistically, you likely made the decision siding with your heart over your head. We’re all human, so emotions are the driving force behind most of our choices. ?

With all the complexity of our feelings, there are two primary emotional angles we can use when trying to convert a prospect. We define these angles by the primary feeling we want to evoke: Pain or Desire

Keep in mind, we can use both angles, even in the same email targeting the same segment. The angle we use mostly depends on the type of promotion we want to send out. It is also a good idea to A/B split test both approaches to see what works best for your audience. 

But let’s start at the very beginning…. 

Your email’s introduction should have “the hook” and “the agitation. The hook is the first short statement in an email with which we grab someone’s attention using just a few words. The amplification is a follow-up to the hook, it is a bit longer and emphasizes the points already mentioned in the hook.

Angle 1: Pain

With the Pain approach, our hook is the description of the prospect’s problem. We want to walk in someone’s shoes and relate to their day-to-day pains. The hook must be short, it can even include some clickbait elements. But don’t be too obvious; use it subtly (Always remember to deliver the “bait”, otherwise you appear untrustworthy). With the Pain approach we are focusing on negative emotions which are usually more powerful than positive ones. 

Considering pain points – you have many to choose from. Let’s pretend we are pitching a job-seeking service:

Good Pain Hook Example: 

✔️Stuck in a job you don’t like?  


Bad Pain Hook Example: 

You don’t hate Monday; you hate your job. 

Stay away from obvious pain points that can be irritating, too pushy or are too much of a cliche. 

After the hook we continue with the agitation to amplify the point.  We aim here to get an even stronger emotional response than we got with a hook. The idea is that if our prospect wasn’t convinced by the hook, we emphasize it and make it more powerful. We can do that by explaining what the problem means for our prospect and by emphasizing its consequences. We should be careful not to appear judgemental or callous. Always handle someone’s problem the same way you want to package up and deliver their solution: with care.

Good Pain Agitation Example: 

✔️If you aren’t careful… 

You might stay in a boring job which will leave you with an unfulfilled life.  


Bad Pain Agitation Example: 

If you aren’t careful… 

You will stay in your pathetic job which will leave you with a life full of misery. 

This went way too far. Remember: never insult the prospect.

Angle 2: Desire

With the Desire approach, we try to paint the ideal picture for our prospect. Being visual is very powerful because it sparks our customers imagination and emotion. Visualization is the juice that keeps it interesting. Here, we relate to their wishes, needs, fantasies and ideal self. But keep it real. Without realism, the prospect can’t identify with the image you’ve so carefully portrayed.

Good Desire Hook Example:

✔️Everybody deserves enjoying their work. We’ll get you there together!


Bad Desire Hook Example: 

We’ll get you any job you want! If Donald Trump is president, then anything is possible! 


If you are not realistic, people won’t trust you. It is important to know where the line is and not cross it. 

The agitation is again used for a more powerful emotional response. In this case, we can go into more detail – paint them a vivid picture of the ideal situation. You can also describe how our customers will feel after we deliver our promise. Remember to keep it relatable and realistic.   

Good Desire Agitation Example:

✔️We’ve all thought about it, right?

Doing what you love. Earning your living while having a smile on your face. 


Bad Desire Agitation Example: 

We’ve all thought about it, right?

Earning six figures while laughing in your Ferrari.  


Because this example is unrealistic, the pitch seems insulting, breaking trust. Stay in touch with your audience. 



Converting your potential customer depends on their emotional journey. The examples above show how you can grab and hold your prospects’ attention by verbalizing what they feel at a visceral, or even subconscious, level. There is nothing more compelling.

Don’t forget that in order to be effective, you need to really know your customers and product, and you need to constantly test different techniques and approaches. If this has inspired some ideas or you want to know more, just comment below.


Maks Levstek and Tom McClintock, Hustler Marketing


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