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Emotional Intelligence in Marketing


The amount of information marketing professionals have at their disposal is unprecedented. These days, we can discover almost every aspect of a consumer’s lifestyle and buying habits, and use this information to influence their purchasing decisions. With this wealth of information for sales and marketing, marketers should be able to form deep connections with potential customers with ease, right?

Unfortunately, in many cases creating strong relationships is difficult. Despite having incredibly detailed information on their prospective buyers, many brands fail to connect with consumers. In fact, only one in three consumers believe their favourite brands truly understands them and only 35% think the emails or messages they receive are providing relevant and useful content.

So where does the disconnect arise? Why are brands failing to understand their audience with all the data about customer behaviour, the marketing funnel, and demographic segmentation? One of the most obvious reasons is that brands neglect to understand the power of Emotional Intelligence (EI). In this article, we flesh out three compelling reasons, showing the how and why sales and marketing often miss the mark, forgetting a fundamental aspect of messaging that provides greater impact, resonance, and meaning.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to be intelligent about your emotions, as well as the emotions of others. Author, Dr. Daniel Goleman, describes EI as being comprised of five key components:

  • Self-Regulation
  • Empathy
  • Social Skills
  • Motivation
  • Self Awareness

Emotional intelligence is an intangible in each of us. It affects how we manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions that achieve positive results. Individuals with a high level of EI are incredibly valued in businesses; people who demonstrate high EI make $28,000 more annually (on average) than their counterparts with low EI.

Unlike your IQ which is fixed, your EI is something flexible which can be improved through continuous self-betterment with some effort.

Let us examine how we can leverage the benefits of EI regarding dealing with our prospects, clients and even members of our communications teams.

Emotional Intelligence With Potential Customers

Chances are, everyone reading this has been on the receiving end of “spam”. If by some miracle you are unaware of the term, spam refers to unsolicited messages repeatedly sent to large groups of people, typically for the purpose of advertising. These messages usually have little or no relevance to the individual on the receiving end, making spam an annoyance to all, including the economy. In fact, it is estimated that spam emails cost businesses more than $20 billion per year.  

Then came the emergence of Big Data. Marketers were suddenly able to identify their target market’s interests, passions, buying preferences and so much more. It should have put an end to spam messaging. Digital messaging is slowly returning to its terrible roots. Due to poor practices by marketing professionals, more and more emails are being marked as spam and failing to reach prospects. There are some obvious reasons as to why this is occurring.

A) Listening Skills

A common mistake being made by marketers is their failure to hear. For example, a brand may have identified their target market and then quickly developed what they believe to be a perfect message to their recipient. But the marketing team did not pay attention to what their demographic was saying on social media platforms, for instance. It turns out their email marketing message completely misses the mark, and most of their prospects didn’t even open the email.

To avoid this classic mistake, professional communications can benefit from Emotional Intelligence, particularly the pillars of Empathy and Social Skills. If this marketing team had paid attention to what their target audience was saying on social media channels before developing a message, they would have been able to understand the needs and wants of their prospects better.

B) Consent and Regulation

Another mistake often made when trying to attract potential clients is a tendency to abuse freely available data. It is worth remembering that when members of your target audience have no previous interaction with your brand, yet you go out of the way to get personal information on them, such as their email, the intent to solicit lacks consent. In other words, purchasing lists would be an example of this kind of behaviour, as would accessing their email off of an unrelated database. If you have access to the contact information of an individual and it feels wrong, chances are it is a bad choice.

To avoid situations like this, marketers must remember the EI pillars of being self-aware and self-regulation. If you are not generating the leads you need, then perhaps it is time to rethink your brand’s marketing strategy. Instead of cold-emailing unqualified leads, try to introduce context. Imagine you work for a company that sells fancy cakes. One of your lead generation strategies is to send emails to people who visit a popular designer pastry website. The emails that you send are personalized and friendly and also include a recipe for a cake. As well, the email contains invitations to visit the website to learn more.

In the example above, the people being emailed are already somewhat qualified (interested in high-quality pastries), so the email sent would not be cold and received with hostility. Your brand also offers the recipient value in the form of a free recipe which begins to establish a positive brand reputation as soon as the email is opened. Finally, the email includes an invitation to your brand’s website. This is your call to action, and it is the action that you want the recipient to take from the email.

C) The Pareto Principle

Emotional intelligence is used for far more than just digital targeting. Once you have attracted, a client is when EI arguably becomes the most useful. I am sure many of you have heard of the Pareto Principle – the theory that 80% of effects are caused by 20% of the causes. In marketing, this refers to 80% of your profits coming from 20% of your customers. This principle only serves to emphasize the importance of nurturing customer relationships using EI. Listening to your client’s needs and wants as well as empathizing with their struggles will ensure you will retain their business going into the future.

Retaining customers is also cost effective. Studies have shown it costs five times more to attract a new customer than it does to keep an existing one, and only 13% of firms place on emphasis on acquisition versus customer retention. Utilizing EI in your strategy costs you nothing (beyond paying your emotionally intelligent team members more), and drastically improves the consumer’s Customer Experience.

Branding with Emotional Intelligence

One of the most powerful tools brands use is the ability to develop an emotional connection with their audience, and this can only be done with a high degree of emotional intelligence.  As Douglas Van Praet, author of Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) Marketing wrote, “The most startling truth is we don’t even think our way to logical solutions. We feel our way to reason. Emotions are the substrate, the base layer of neural circuitry underpinning even rational deliberation. Emotions don’t hinder decisions. They constitute the foundation on which they’re made!”

This quote illustrates one of the critical components of consumer buying behaviour; People buy with their emotions, and brands know it. Their ultimate goal when marketing is to generate a positive brand image in the mind of the consumer. This is done through marketing campaigns using various advertising platforms. If one were to take a look at the most successful marketing campaigns from each year, it would be clear that high-performing strategies are the ones which use EI efficiently. Developing emotional advertisements and storytelling are two of the most crucial strategies in brand development.

Branding through Emotional Advertisements:

A study conducted by the University of Glasgow suggests humans have only four base emotions:

  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Afraid/Surprised
  • Angry/Disgusted

If we take a look at some of the most viewed advertisements over the last several years, there is a clear trend of companies trying to align their brand with at least one of these emotions. While it might seem obvious a brand wants to be seen as “happy,” this is not always the case. Clever EI used by marketers has allowed for the creation of some wide-appealing and effective advertisements.


“Sadvertising” is a trend where brands create emotional ads which tug on the heartstrings of viewers. By implementing EI, these ads create a positive impression in the mind of consumers by humanizing the brand. In the President’s Choice advertisement we can see how what starts out as a bleak, somewhat depressing scene, eventually turns into a happy, loving affair. This transformation takes the viewer on a journey where a negative experience is avoided and is resolved positively which resonates well with audiences.


Ok, full confession, I made this word up. But it fits! Invoking outrage from your target audience may not be a conventional style of advertising, yet when done properly it can be incredibly efficient. Let’s look at Audi’s Super Bowl commercial from this year:

Audi addresses the gender pay gap in this advertisement, trying to invoke anger from the viewer at this inequality. By the end of the ad, however, Audi brings it back to offer an optimistic vision of the future.

As you can see from these examples, using emotions other than “happy” is advantageous in branding, but it is important to always bring the message back to an uplifting note. Brands do not want the last emotion their audience feels after watching a commercial to be a negative one, as this will lend itself to negative brand perception. It could even become a customer subconsciously opting for a competitor because they witnessed a sad brand advertisement that left them with a sad feeling. This underlines why emotional intelligence is so important in branding. If you are aware of what will emotionally resonate with your target audience, you will be able to use it to your brand’s advantage.

Brands Tell a Story

Storytelling is another emotionally intelligent strategy that brands use to interact with their audience. Essentially, brand storytelling is the process by which a brand takes a consumer on a complete journey with the end goal being a customer-brand connection. There are many different ways in which brands use EI for storytelling purposes, and we’ve written about it at length previously. Let’s look at a few emotionally intelligent brand storytelling examples.


Nike was the first to utilize the power of storytelling with their 1999 Michael Jordan Retirement commercial. The minute-long commercial shows various clips of Jordan’s career and ends with a picture of a young Michael Jordan with the Nike Swoosh in the bottom right corner.

Instead of trying to sell a product, Nike sells the story of a man who went on to become a superstar. Nike’s brand, like in the commercial, is just an accessory to the story. By using the Self-Awareness pillar of EI, Nike puts themselves on the sidelines as their ads serve as the platform to tell athletic stories. The level of self-identification caused by the ad is a remarkable study in EI brand storytelling. Indeed, Nike has stuck with this strategy of having their brand take a backseat to the story, and it has paid off. Currently, Nike holds a larger share of the world’s shoe market (20%) than any other brand.


Airbnb revolutionized the hospitality industry, and it is also revolutionizing brand storytelling. Their content is focused solely on homeowners and the Airbnb customers who rent from them. The “stories” page is exactly what it sounds like; a place where users can document their adventures while using the service. These stories typically feature a small blog as well as videos produced by the Airbnb team.

Similar to Nike’s approach, Airbnb allows the stories of these individuals to take centre stage while their logo sits off to the side somewhere. Airbnb uses EI to pick and choose which stories it wants to showcase. For obvious reasons only welcoming, friendly homeowners are shown, and they typically have a passion for meeting others. This lends a “welcoming” persona to the Airbnb brand.

EI in regards to interacting with team members

Being able to be emotionally intelligent with your clients and brand is a critical component of marketing. However, one of the most fundamentally crucial aspects of marketing is working together with your team as one cohesive unit. If there is a disconnect amongst your staff, then it will be next to impossible to do any effective marketing or be productive, at the least.

Why is it so important to use EI with your coworkers? Your marketing team is the people that you see every day during the week, and if you aren’t getting along, then your best work is simply not getting done. By being self-aware, self-regulating, being empathetic and motivated, you will be able to operate harmoniously in a synergistic marketing environment.


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