You hear little about emotional intelligence (EI) compared to intellectual intelligence, but marketers are slowly catching on to the importance of EI. Emotional intelligence refers to our ability to understand behaviors, moods, and impulses and control them to match a particular situation.

While this might sound like something you’d read about in a New Age self-help book, your emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) could be the difference between a workplace promotion and career stagnation. Similarly, when it comes to business, using emotional intelligence in content marketing could be the difference between a successful campaign and a flop.


Understanding the link between emotional intelligence and viral content is what allowed Neetzan Zimmerman to pull 30 million page views each month before EI became the viral currency of the web. Coincidentally, we’ve previously posted ads that will make you cry, explained the emotional difference between B2B and B2C selling, and explained why storytelling matters. Is your content triggering any sort of emotional response?

Why Does Emotional Intelligence Matter?

Meet Katherine Milkman and Jonah Berger, professors from the University of Pennsylvania, who have broken down the connection between emotional intelligence and marketing into six pillars:

  1. Social currency. Whether it’s pictures of our new dog or a link to the latest viral video, we share things on social media that make us look good.
  2. Triggers. We’re more likely to share information that is easy to remember and stays at the tip of the tongue.
  3. Emotional response. We share when we care.
  4. Public. Since social media can help (or hurt) job hunts, we tend to post a public “front” that maintains a specific public image.
  5. Practical use. We share things on social media that will help our friends and family.
  6. Stories. From funny work stories to emotional rants, we’re inherent storytellers and spread information through the guise of storytelling.

The idea behind Milkman and Berger’s research is that when we share things on social media, it’s because of one of these six reasons – and the key is that each of these six reasons is rooted in emotion. When brands understand why consumers share things, then they can create share-worthy marketing material.

How P&G Mastered Emotional Intelligence in Marketing


When you consider the vast array of product offerings Procter & Gamble is behind, it’s impressive how each product has it’s own marketing “feel.” Expert marketers at P&G have long understood the importance of creating a bridge between emotion and marketing. To do so, they decided to focus on the small details to build a larger picture. Everything from product design to packaging became part of the marketing strategy.

In the early 1990s, the air freshener market was saturated with quality products packaged in plain boxes, akin to those for industrial cleaning supplies. To bring its new air freshener Febreze into the market, P&G created a few goals:

  • Evoke the comforts of home and avoid the sterility of a hospital that defined other air fresheners
  • Chose soft colors to associate the product with warmly lit rooms, linens drying in the summer breeze, and other homey images
  • Give the then-new product a sense of nostalgia

The result? Febreze became the 24th brand by P&G to exceed $1 billion in sales. P&G didn’t accomplish this through sensationalized business blogging or through tear-jerk advertising. Rather, P&G’s repeat success reveals that emotional marketing is all about creating ties that bind, and people care about buying a solution. Consumers want to feel good after making a purchase.

Practical Ways to Generate an Emotional Response on Social Media

As humans, we’re predominantly visual creatures, which means anything with video or text is more likely to get our attention. Images account for 93 percent of the most popular posts on Facebook. Brands that include images in their updates achieve 53 percent more likes, 104 percent more comments, and 84 percent more traffic than their competitors. While captions are certainly helpful, self-explanatory images generally perform best.

Even though many American adults spend an average of 162 minutes on a smartphone each day, they prefer short-form content that catches their attention quickly. Companies that intentionally keep their posts short achieve 23 percent more interaction. Even on platforms that don’t have the 140-character limit that Twitter imposes, writing shorter posts generates bigger results.

If you thought that emoticons were just for texting teenagers, think again. Brand posts with emoticons achieve:

  • 57 percent more likes
  • 33 percent more shares
  • 33 percent more comments

Because emoticons visually showcase emotion on a humanlike figure, fans are more likely to engage with posts that use them. Furthermore, emoticons add personality and human qualities to your brand.

Use Emotional Intelligence Throughout Lifecycle Marketing

While strategic use of emotional marketing is important, it’s equally critical to establish a meaningful relationship with your clients. Again, this requires emotional intelligence, as your brand must understand the emotion your customers are in when they desire your product. To discover the answer, ask these questions:

  • What pains do my customers face?
  • What pleasures will my customers receive by using my product to solve that problem?

By answering these questions, you’ll have an easier time determining what emotions your marketing efforts need to trigger. While emotional intelligence is a serious psychological study, when it comes to marketing, it’s all about understanding what resonates with your audience.

Has your brand discovered the link between emotional intelligence and marketing?

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