Are you more likely to share news of a job promotion or a break-up with your friends and acquaintances? Most people are like you and choose to share happy emotions with others. Extreme sadness and depression seeks solitude and anonymity whereas happiness seeks company.

The emotions we feel can be categorized as positive or negative. Positive emotions would include happiness, love, compassion etc. and negative emotions would include depression, stress and anger. So what does this mean for Marketers? If you want your content to be shared and go viral focus on evoking emotions that people like to share. These are not necessarily positive emotions.  In some cases, for example, if you are marketing against child abuse, you may want to evoke the negative emotion of anger. This is because anger is a very sharable emotion and does mobilize people into action. However, this needs to be done very carefully so that the anger is channelized in the right direction and leads to a positive outcome. In this case you would channel the emotion of anger against abusers to protect innocent children. However, for everyday products and services, evoking positive emotions works better.

Maslow’s hierarchy puts the need for self-actualization as the highest in the pyramid of all needs felt by people. Marketing content that is genuinely helpful can fulfill this need for self-actualization. People will share your message when they genuinely believe that the information will help others. It is important to make people feel important and valued. For example, L’Oreal’s slogan of “because you’re worth it” is popular because it raises people’s self-esteem.

How do we find out which emotions make your target audience happy and which don’t? Carefully listening to call recordings (with your client’s permission) is a good way of finding out what makes her happy. The good news is that if you know what makes one customer happy, you also know what makes her friend happy and what makes her friend’s friend happy. Research shows that my probability of become obese is 57% higher if my friend becomes obese. This is an interesting statistic that highlights how people follow relevant others in their behavior. So for example, if you are a restaurant owner, all you need to do is figure out what makes one caller happy and you know what her friends will like. Positive emotions are very contagious and spread rapidly amongst a particular social group that frequently interacts. Many publishers initially refused J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter script. But once the book was accepted, it spread like wildfire. Hence, social word-of-mouth is a powerful marketing tool that you can use to your advantage by appealing to the right emotion in your target audience.

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