How to Use Emotional Triggers to Increase Conversions

converting hearts and minds feature image

Mary Rose Maguire is the managing partner (with her husband) of Maguire Copywriting. Before she began her own copywriting agency, she produced copy in various corporate industries for over 25 years. The bulk of her copywriting experience has been produced for businesses selling to other businesses (B2B).

She found that her clients had a terrible time with contemplating the concept of emotional copy, much less understanding how to use emotional triggers in a way that generated conversions.

“I’ve been trying to tell them that even though they’d like to believe that their buyer is making the purchase based on logic, they (the buyer) are really are making their decision with their heart. Therefore, even B2B copy needs to be emotional on a website.

She went on to detail the specific emotional triggers that have proven successful for her clients’ conversion goals:

“Some of the emotions I’ve slipped in (when I can) are: frustration, fear, greed, and powerlessness. I also used a headline that addressed uncertainty and instilled doubt. These are NOT the emotions that a security administrator wants to experience!

“I did this for my former employer years ago in an email that ended up bringing in four new security projects (our list was small, around 700). Keep in mind that this was a new approach that I took to an email list that in the four years I worked there, never converted.”

Mary Rose concludes that based on her strategy, she successfully found that emotional triggers do work. It was all simply a matter of addressing the pain of the prospective buyer.

Mary Rose’s company website includes flames in the background. This is an emotional trigger that was added on purpose. She wants her prospects to absorb her branding strategy. Specifically, she wants her prospects to know that her copy…sizzles!

Yes, logic might have led your prospects to your website, but make no mistake: Their emotions finalized their decision that led to your conversion. Likewise, you can’t count on your product or service features and benefits with doing the heavy lifting. Instead, lean on the most effective, most easily-tapped into strategy: Emotion.

As a marketer, you’re launching campaigns of your own. You’ll want to use every reasonable weapon in your arsenal to convert prospects into leads, or sales. It should be no surprise that most purchases actually come from an emotional place. Knowing this, you’ll understand the power that emotional triggers can have on your online revenue?

Let’s take a look at some successful emotional triggers that will allow you to start converting like a military general.

Why Do Emotions Trump Logic On The Road To Conversions?

Hubspot author Emma Snyder quoted Steven Pinker in trying to explain why people ultimately make emotional buying decisions. He goes on to explain what it all comes down to:

“Choosing which to focus on depends on your buyer’s personality (what will resonate most with them?) and your offering (what most closely reflects your value proposition?) Once you’ve determined which emotional lever to pull, use the following tips to create a tear-jerking, heart-stopping, chest-puffing presentation your prospect will never forget.”

Now, let’s take a look at winning conversion campaigns that implemented the use of one or more emotional triggers.

Altruistic/Philanthropic Trigger

Toms Shoes has an altruistic trigger
Toms Shoes has an altruistic trigger

There will always be consumers who shop consciously. They care about social causes, and they want to ensure that they’re directing their money towards companies who practice social responsibility. One such company is TOMS Shoes.

TOMS Shoes practices social responsibility by donating a pair of shoes to a child in need for every shoe purchase that a consumer makes. We all imagine that there are places in the world where many children lack shoes, and it can feel overwhelming for a first-world consumer to do something significant to address these needs.

This is why TOMS uses the tag-line “One for one” on their websites. In their logo above, you’ll see that they lead with a philanthropic trigger, stating that “It starts with one”. You might notice that they’ve also used the encouragement emotional trigger.

When people feel overwhelmed about an issue, it’s human nature to avoid it altogether.  TOMS addresses this conversion obstacle by encouraging prospective consumers to start addressing the issues of children living without shoes by completing one manageable task: Just purchase one pair of shoes.

The implication is that the consumer can certainly purchase one pair of shoes, and yet that single purchase could make all the difference in the daily lifestyle of a severely-impoverished child. When the message is framed this way, the prospect has no choice but to think to themselves, “I can do this! And, maybe I can purchase more than one pair of shoes, too, so that I help out even more children!”

Fashion Forward/Sense Of Belonging Trigger

Old Navy appeals to your sense of belonging by being trendy yet accessible
Old Navy appeals to your sense of belonging by being trendy yet accessible

Old Navy is known to be a family brand of clothing that’s at once fashion-forward, and approachable. It’s the type of casual fashion brand that promises to make families living on Main Street, USA feel that their sense of style can compete with the clothing styles of people living in New York or LA.

This is why Old Navy has approached its fall consumer prospects with the tag-line “Fall’s Favorite Denim”.

The implications are obvious. If the prospective consumer wants to gain a sense of belonging with those who are on point with seasonal fashion trends, then they’ll purchase a pair of trendy-yet-affordable Old Navy jeans.

This is an efficient emotional trigger to use when you clearly understand your brand, who your targets are, and what their inner motivations are.

Inspirational/Self Actualization Trigger

Udemy is a platform where adults can take courses for professional development or personal improvement. The company understands that converting prospective students takes a lot more than presenting them with a catalog listing of course offerings.

They realize that they’ll vastly increase their chances for conversions when they appeal to a prospective student’s aspirations. Notice how they spur the prospect’s actions by addressing their inner thoughts.

Taking a course with Udemy can lead to self-actualization
Taking a course with Udemy can lead to self-actualization

The copy leads you to an affirmative decision by urging you to “Say yes to success!” You’ll also notice that the logo further impacts the prospect’s emotions by setting the copy on a bright and cheerful yellow background.

The copy and the color scheme on the yellow ad were carefully choreographed to illicit an immediate positive response, but you might also notice a different trigger if you look closely.

There’s the use of shame as an emotional trigger, too.

While the tag-line “Say yes to success!” is at first glance inspiring, it also addresses the reader’s inner insecurities about taking steps to become more successful. If you don’t get started with Udemy, are you saying “No” to success? What type of person chooses to buy a pizza, a tee shirt, or a pet hamster over investing in their future success?

Udemy is betting that the type of prospect who cares about becoming successful would rather invest in a $15 course – and gain a sense of personal pride – than live in the shame of knowing that their usual frivolous purchases were more of a financial priority.

Udemy trends even deeper with the self-actualization angle in another ad.

By now, only someone who has no personal goals or ambitions could say no to these CTAs
By now, only someone who has no personal goals or ambitions could say no to these CTAs

Be aware when using shame as a trigger. Shame is best left in the hands of the highly skilled or talented marketer. No one loves being shamed, so we usually avoid shame at all cost. Having prospects avoid your website or your landing page is the opposite of what conversion is all about, so if you must use shame, then apply it with a very gentle hand. It usually goes down better with a heaping dose of encouragement, as Udemy has done.

Pride/Self Actualization Trigger:

L'Oreal's famous tagline
L’Oreal’s famous tagline

Anyone who came of age in the 1970s and beyond is familiar with L’Oreal’s now-famous tag-line “Because You’re Worth It”. The phrase was coined in 1973 by a 23 year-old female copywriter who was tasked with capturing the emotional energy of the times.

Specifically, the brand wanted to appeal to the sensibilities of the new woman, the type of woman who took pride in her abilities of juggling career and family. More to the point, the tag-line appealed to women who were finally realizing the ability to earn their own discretionary income instead of asking their husbands or fathers for a spending allowance.

In 2015, women take it for granted that they can self-actualize themselves into the career and lifestyle of their choosing, yet they still struggle with placing the needs of their families, friends, and employers above their own. They still need to be reminded that they’re allowed to spend discretionary income towards their beauty goals simply because they hold intrinsic personal worth.

The message is loud and clear. L’Oreal was and still is a brand for the woman who takes pride in her personal appearance, and her personal brand. This is the cosmetic product of choice for women who want to feel actualized, smart, and proud of themselves.

The product line is the choice for ladies who unapologetically want to look and feel beautiful, on their terms. According to L’Oreal,

“…we know that an astonishing 80% of women recognize and respond to this positive phrase and powerful sentiment.”

Wow! Think of your conversion numbers if 80% of your visitors were able to emotionally identify with your message!

Urgency Trigger

Save the Children's landing page and CTA promote a sense of urgency
Save the Children’s landing page and CTA promote a sense of urgency

This Save The Children landing page features a boy from a third-world country who is seemingly so overcome with hunger, he can only bury his anguished face in the palm of his hands. Is there anyone who views this photo who could say that they aren’t the slightest bit moved by the image of a young child who has given up all hope of a satisfying meal, let alone a happy, satisfying life?

Certainly, the average person who reads this landing page can’t begin to wrap their mind or emotions around the possibility of a child suffering with hunger on the same level as this child.

As if the image doesn’t do its job of creating urgency, Save The Children goes a step further in it’s verbiage:

“Refugee children are frightened, homeless, and many have witnessed unspeakable horrors. You can help them,” (emphasis are mine).

Save The Children informs you of other reasons why this boy is burying his face in his tiny hands. Further, the organization plainly lets you know that there are immediate steps that you can take in order to make the boy’s pain and suffering end, immediately.

But, in case you’re still unclear about what to do, there’s the bright red button that reads:

“Donate now.”

Save The Children has operated as a non-profit since 1919. They’ve had almost a century to perfect their strategy of winning over the hearts of their prospective donors. Barring personal poverty, there’s no way that any prospective donor can look at this landing page and not feel the slightest tug of their heart.

There’s a great chance that this sparse yet highly effective landing page will convert readers into organizational donors.

Win your prospects heart and minds with emotional triggers, and you’ll find yourself winning marketing campaigns where logical arguments haven’t succeeded.

About the Author

Terri Scott headshotTerri is a five-year content marketing storyteller and editor. She loves writing marketing and entrepreneurship stories during the day while dabbling in culinary and creative arts at night.

You can view her work at, and she’d love to hear from you @Positive_Twist.

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