Top Emotions that Sell

Justin Xu
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If you are crafting a marketing campaign, then it’s important to understand the top emotions that motivate people to buy.

This might be a simple concept, but the psychology behind it is much more complex. After all, humans are complex creatures.

Now, pause for a moment, and picture all the people that you interact with on a daily basis. They could be friends, family, spouse, co-workers, or maybe even yourself. Then, ask yourself this: What makes them different from each other? How are they similar?

Chances are, it’s their everyday actions and reactions that make them different. You see, it’s a common belief that humans have a logical side and an emotional side. In turn, people often like to put themselves into one of these two camps.

There are people who believe themselves to be deeply logical. They take apart problems into logical sequences, and solve them systematically. These are your lawyers, programmers, and engineers.

On the other hand, you have people that wear their emotions on their sleeve. They deeply value feelings and are very empathetic. Although they might not be so interested in math, they are easily excited by art, music, and culture.

Obviously, these are two fairly extreme examples. Most people fall somewhere in between.

When it comes to selling however, emotions are the primary reasons for making a purchase. It doesn’t matter if you are selling a laptop to a programmer, or a painting to an art connoisseur. Your consumers are human, and humans buy based on their top emotions, not logic.

Science Supports Using Top Emotions to Sell

A study by Harvard University reveals that emotions are the primary driver for decision making. The same research also suggests that people run away from negative emotions, and move towards positive emotions.

For example, someone might run away from pain to try and find happiness.

This is incredibly relevant in sales because every purchase is based on emotional decision making. If a product can stop the customer from feeling bad, and make them feel better instead, then they will buy. Logic comes later in the form of justification.

A Rolex watch serves the same function as a cheap, plastic watch. However, if that Rolex can turn someone from feeling average into feeling like a million bucks, then they will buy.

When you are selling your next product, take advantage of these top emotions to turn window shoppers into buyers.

Painkillers Will Always Sell

One of the top emotions to understand about consumers is pain.

Pain can come in many forms, not just physical. Some common ones are feelings of frustration, stress, and anger. In our modern society, we can see this from people trapped in the so called “rat race”.

There are many people who are incredibly frustrated from working at a job they hate. To make things worse, these might not even be high-paying jobs. People go home feeling stressed because money is tight and they still have bills to pay after working long hours. It’s suffocating.

It’s painful.

As a result, a lot of companies have capitalized on this emotion. Shopify and various Amazon FBA (Fulfillment By Amazon) courses began to pop up. To the people that feel trapped, these are the perfect products to alleviate their pain. They get to quit their job, put in some work up front, and watch the money roll in.

It’s no wonder that there are over 1 million Shopify users. It’s a painkiller.

People Are Creatures of Pride

The second emotion to keep in mind is pride. More specifically, pride in a social context. This includes status, reputation, and a feeling of belonging. All of it comes down to pride. After all, being part of the elite and upholding a high status instills a sense of pride.

It’s no surprise that a lot of luxury products use this emotion to sell. Wearing a Rolex watch, or carrying a Gucci bag sets people apart. It elevates their status.

Prestige brings social value and is an important reason for making a purchase. So, if you are trying to sell high-ticket items, be sure to elevate your customer’s pride.

Fear Is Powerful

Another one of the top emotions is fear.

First, there is the feeling of being afraid that something bad might happen. For example, a person in their 60s might be afraid of their declining health. So, they might buy health supplements. Simply put, there are a ton of products that serve to calm worries.

If you think about it, the trillion dollar insurance industry in the U.S. is based off calming fears. People might buy life insurance to provide security for their family. I may never crash my car but I pay for car insurance every month anyways.

People are buying for the benefits of course, but also for peace of mind and security. It combats the thought of “what if something goes wrong”.

The second common form of fear is the famous FOMO, or “fear of missing out”. This is the emotion of “If I don’t buy now, I’ll never get to buy it again.”

You see this a lot in limited time offers or products. For example, a special event might have limited seating. To add to the scarcity, the event might not take place ever again. Now, the event itself may not entice a large audience. For the targeted audience, however, it’s a race to see who can type in their credit card number the fastest.

This also happens a lot in the gaming industry. A new popular video game gets announced, and it comes with a limited time collector’s edition. For the hardcore fans, not buying means missing out on a product forever. Again, this turns into another race to see who can make the fastest purchase.

When selling, it’s good to calm potential fears. However, if appropriate, you can also invoke a bit of fear.

Improve Self-Esteem Through Values

If your product can improve a buyer’s self-esteem, then it will definitely sell.

Remember the study from earlier, how people run away from negative emotions and into positive ones? People often seek happiness by improving their self-esteem.

One of the ways to do so is through your company values. If your product can demonstrate good values and ethics, then consumers will likely to buy. In their mind, if they buy into good ethics, it means they are supporting the same great values.

A famous example is TOMS, the shoe company. They have a famous slogan of “buy one give one.” Buy a pair of their shoes and they will donate a pair to people in need.

They turned an act of purchase into an act of charity. It makes the consumer feel altruistic, and boosts their self-esteem. A great pair of shoes plus an act of kindness is a fearsome combo.

So, if your product’s values can align with the consumer’s, then they will be more inclined to buy. All for the simple reason that it boosts their self-esteem, and self esteem means happiness.


When it comes to successful marketing, it’s important to keep in mind these top emotions for selling:

  • Provide solutions to people’s pain

  • Boost and nurture their pride

  • Tap into their fears

  • Give value and elevate their self esteem

Remember, people are creatures of emotion, no matter how logical they may seem. No matter what medium you are marketing with, be it video or writing, always pay attention to emotions. To inject more emotion into your next sale, consider using a copywriter who can truly understand your customer.

Justin Xu

Justin Xu is a copywriter and blogger. He is certified by Dan Lok's High-Income Copywriter program, and is on a mission to help your company grow.

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