Marketing appeal as part of your content strategy

As small businesses, we’re good at understanding why our products and services are right for our audience, but that doesn’t always translate to our content, which means that we’re missing…

Nervous wide-eye Caucasian woman in front of a computer  keyboard

As small businesses, we’re good at understanding why our products and services are right for our audience, but that doesn’t always translate to our content, which means that we’re missing out on marketing appeal.

Successful content marketing and branding rely on connecting with both customers and potential customers on an emotional and intellectual level. When marketers talk about marketing appeal, this is what they mean. Let’s see how you can apply it to your content marketing.

A few words on content marketing

Promoting your business through your website, on social media, in the media, via advertising, or via guest posts each involves creating content for your audience to consume. Every piece of content forms part of your content marketing efforts and your overall content strategy. Just to be clear, content covers:

Blog Posts Web content Social Media Updates
Podcasts Video Images/Animations
Slide Decks Adverts Letters and Invoices
Emails Brochures Flyers
Fact Sheets Prototypes Demos

You get the idea — any and every medium that you use to promote your products/services and connect with your audience. It’s all part of your content marketing.

Not every piece of content needs to evoke an emotional reaction. Apart from anything else, that would get old quickly and switch off your audience. You need to have intent behind everything that you create.

Engaging & connecting with your audience

Everything you do builds up your audience’s perception of you. But you have to focus on your audience because by knowing who they are you’ll know what their values are. It’s their values that cause the emotional reaction to your content

There are two main types of marketing appeal – rational and emotional. I’m going to split one emotion out because it’s a key part of building relationships with your audience — that’s trust.

Rational Appeal (a.k.a cognitive or intellectual appeal)

A rational appeal is great for getting information out there when something needs explaining. Most rational content is informational and factual – like illustrating how to use a product.

The rational appeal approach can trigger big emotional reactions. I know this from writing the content for my vegetarian blog as well as from working with various causes. Audiences such as environmentalists and human rights activists tend to find the rational approach more sincere.

Emotional Appeal

If you’re promoting or advertising a product or service, then you need to grab people at an emotional level. It’s widely used for case studies, life stories, sales oriented posts and aspirational posts. This is equally true when you’re community building.

A great example of this type of marketing is Charity: Water – in 2017, Sprout Social did a fabulous session on how they use emotions and storytelling as a way to engage with their audience.

The people that were benefitting from the fundraising would share their stories and donators would put on events and share those on social media. Charity: Water believes that by bringing the two together they can connect those that may want to donate to the people that they are trying to help in a tangible way.

The charity uses pictures, videos and quotes to bring the stories of both their benefactors and supporters to life on social media. It’s all about getting the information across efficiently but also effectively so it stays with the reader.

There are plenty of types of emotion that you can tap into both positive and negative. Pulling the fear card sparingly is fine, but overuse of it not good for your brand, neither is anger, disgust, or sadness. Each one has its place. Most of the time you’ll want to connect emotionally to evoke joy, surprise, and anticipation.

Reputation Appeal (a.k.a Trust)

This is what your about page, social media profiles and testimonials are all for. Trust is an emotion and one that needs building up in order for a potential customer to have enough of a comfort level with your organisation to buy from it.

Content with reputation appeal is all about you. It’s the only type of content that should focus on you and not your customer or the product/service. Only use it in these restricted circumstances because it holds no interest or value to your audience anywhere else.

Be cohesive, but don’t be afraid to change it up

You need to take a holistic approach to your content marketing strategy. The content is a reflection of your organisation. The feelings that you evoke with your content must equal the experience your customers receive when interacting with your business.

“People don’t like to feel manipulated, so being sincere in all your messaging and communications is vital”

Think about the context of your marketing efforts. Here’s what I mean by that and a couple of thoughts to go with them:

  • Facebook tends to the emotional, but as a business, you also need to reach your audience on the intellect and reputation levels.
  • LinkedIn tends to the rational and reputational, but in groups, you could bring out community spirit by using emotional appeal.
  • Your website and blog need a mix of all three, and it’s a balancing act. The type of business, your goals, and your audience will dictate the winning formula.

Using a single appeal in a piece of content is the simplest approach. Blending the types of appeal is possible in order to take your audience on a journey, but doing so takes requires care and attention to detail. It’s easy to break the spell by miss steps along the way. For a piece of content with mixed mediums, you need to consider how the text, audio, video, or images all work together.

Do you think that this is something important to think about whilst creating content for your business?




Thanks to Rawpixel and Frank Busch on Unsplash for the images in this post!

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  1. Ian Cleary on 19 February 2013 at 11:43 am

    Hey Kittie, one area I’m not great at is the emotional appeal so this is a reminder to start pulling on those heart strings! Thanks for the reminder!

    • Kittie Walker on 19 February 2013 at 11:49 am

      I know exactly where you’re coming from on that one Ian. I come from a more formal and technical writing background and it takes concerted effort for me to write at an emotional level.

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