When you hear the term “emotional ads,” chances are you’re thinking of the cry-and-buy ads like Subaru’s tear jerkers or the SPCA + Sarah McLaughlin ads.
Case in point.
Now these ads are powerful, yes, but you don’t have to move your customers to tears to have an effective emotional ad. Nor do you have to have music and video, or even images in some cases. In fact, there are plenty of businesses just like yours who are marketing with emotion through their ad copy. And that’s what we’ll be diving into today. So read on for 13 types of emotional ad copywriting techniques, 21 ad examples that demonstrate them, and 85+ words and phrases inspired by them to use in your copy.
Click to jump to any emotional ad copy style.
Sometimes the tiniest seed of doubt is all it takes to motivate action. In this Facebook ad example below, Mailchimp writes “Freelancers know they need to hustle to succeed—just don’t hustle too hard. Why?” Then it shares some stats about overworked freelancers generating less revenue. In the ad creative, it also asks the question, “Are you overdoing it?”
Well shoot. Maybe your reality as you know it is not quite what you thought. Are you overdoing it? Better download that report to find out.
No doubt or mystery here. 360Learning takes a firm stand by telling you that traditional elearning “isn’t cutting it anymore” and is “set up to fail,” causing “the greatest learning crisis in recent memory.” If I’m in search of a learning management software, I’m not about to invest my money into something that, according to science, is set up to fail. I think I’ll go’head and do some learning about learning.
In some cases, you can address a pain point in your ad that your customer might not be fully aware of. For example, this ad starts off with “The majority of the day should NOT be spent waiting in the pharmacy.”
Now someone who has never used a different pharmacy than their current one, or even an older individual who might have the patience to wait—might not realize that there’s a better option out there. This Facebook ad copy introduces the pain point and encourages a feeling of assertive pursuit of what you deserve.
Here’s another example. SoFi (one of my favorite conversational tone brands) has a video of a woman being left out in the rain with copy that reads, “Broker leaving you out in the cold? Warm up to an investing relationship wtih SoFi—and pay $0 in commission fees..” Then the Facebook ad headline says “break up with bad brokers.”
And finally, this Google Ad copy from a law firm reads “Don’t let the insurance co. push you around. Take back control. Discuss your rights today.”
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These ads strive to make you laugh while also not really laughing…
In this ad, we see a picture of a wide-eyed cat with ad copy that reads, “That feeling when you forget to download Capital One Shopping and overpaid online.” Then we see a little more urgency below with “You’ll want to check this out ASAP.”
Now this strategy can be used with any emotion, but if you want to convey regret/panic, these trigger words and phrases can work:
These ad examples below are for Talkspace’s Employee Stress Check Report. There isn’t an explicit threat—just stats. At least 25% of employees are underperforming regularly due to stress. More than 40% of employees are likely to consider a job change to resolve stress. Then you’re told you can learn more with the report. Then the subtitle of the report is “The tipping point between retention and resignation.”
See what they did there? Managers and HR employees…we’re not saying your employees are about to quit…but lotssss of them do….so, just sayin’.
You could also just go with a flat-out statement like CallRail does. In this display ad example, it reads “You’re wasting money on marketing.” Then the call to action says “Find out where, free.”
Tell your audience they are…
Now you don’t want your emotional words and phrases to always be prompting negative feelings. Here are some positive examples and tactics to balance things out.
This Facebook ad creative first reels you in by capturing that feeling of dread and defeat. It’s a mother in complete disarray in her living room with text overlaid that reads “My house used to be clean, then school let out…”
Then the primary text reads “That feeling when you realize the house will be a wreck until August…but hey, no need to stress! The Maids can help control the chaos with regularly scheduled cleanings, or a deep clean to reset the house after school starts in the fall.”
In just a few seconds, we go from stressed to relieved, thanks to this cleaning service.
If there’s one thing that every human wants, it’s control, and what better way to convey that than with a play on words. This ad from a local moving company reads “You’re in the drivers seat at Red Rover. You load the unit, drive the truck & we store it!”
Plus, in less than 10 words I know exactly what to expect from this service. This is concise copy that sells.
This one is nothing revolutionary, but it’s a tried and true copywriting technique. This ad by GRIN inspires a mix of curiosity and exclusivity with “We compiled insider tips from 14 leading ecommerce brands. Discover the secrets for yourself.” Words like “insider,” “discover,” “take a peek,” and “secrets” give me the feeling that there’s gotta be something in there that I don’t yet know. And even if I’m a know it all, now I have to download the guide to confirm this.
Evoking a sense of potential or possibility is a great way to approach your customers’ pain points. Instead of saying “we help you do X,” this ad puts the focus on the customer with “imagine being able to compare your surgical data to other US surgeons. Our integrated mobile app puts this data at your fingertips.”
Here’s another one:
The “stop X-ing start Y-ing” approach is a solid way to exude confidence (apart from including a photo of yourself in a power stance on a rock). You’re commanding your reader to take action that is in their best interest. This ad reads, “Stop dreaming about owning your own travel agency franchise and start living it!”
(P.S. Speaking of action 🎬 for more CTA ideas, download our free guide: The 36 Best Call to Action Phrases (Ever))
This ad has a similar feel, but it’s less about telling your customer to go out and get something and more about honoring something that’s already there—or something you know they want to be there. It reads, “You’re an innovator at heart. Your curiosity sparks ideas. Every day at HPE is a new opportunity to make your mark.”
To try this technique, think about how the individuals in your target audience would want to be described. But if you need some starting points:
My core values list can also help you out here.
The ad below reads “You’re justs clicks away from equity-free funding through Shopify Capital—built to flow with your business as you scale.” Then there’s a screenshot in the creative of a notification that reads “You’re eligible for funding.” In another ad for this product, the pretext has phrases like “There’s an easier way to sell online and in person” and “Skip the stress and switch.”
See what’s going on here? Clicks away…equity-free…flow….eligible…easier way…skip the stress. While the Maids approach above uses the pain-agitate-solution copywriting formula, this one just immerses you in the relief of the solution. You’re invited to get a taste of all these green lights, so to speak—not to mention the green theme in the ad creative).
And that’s a wrap! Which emotional copywriting technique are you going to try out? Maybe woo your customers with words of affirmation? Or drop a subtle threat with an eye-opening stat? Here’s the list to recap:
Kristen is the Senior Managing Editor at WordStream, where she helps businesses to make sense of their online marketing and advertising. She specializes in SEO and copywriting and finds life to be exponentially more delightful on a bicycle.
See other posts by Kristen McCormick
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