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Mission Control / Digital Marketing

Mastering Emotion in Digital Communication: Case in (Exclamation) Point

How much emotion is too much — or too little — in digital communication? We dive into why emotion matters in digital marketing and how to execute the right emotional tone for your brand.


By Rachel Adams

There has always been a void between how language is used and how language should be used. But, historically, this void has remained small in written communication — traditionally perceived as the more formal of communication mediums. That is, until recently.

With the introduction of email, and then text messaging and other more casual methods of communication (think: Twitter and Facebook), written language in digital form has become more about the message that’s being delivered — and less about the package it arrives in.

And, over time, digital communication has evolved into what, arguably, could be considered its own language.

Take, for example, the use of punctuation, which, alongside the rise of technology, has witnessed the evolution of one the most beloved and functional grammatic devices of all time: the period. For nearly a decade, the role of the period in communication has been hotly debated, starting with The New Republic’s inaugural article documenting its transition from a “full stop” signal to an emotional statement. Since then, The Washington Post, The New York Times (in a witty piece sans periods) and Medium have all weighed in on the period’s newfound role in modern communication as a tool that conveys annoyance, frustration and related confronting emotions.

And let’s not forget about what could be the most impactful disruption to the written word: the emoji. Originating in Japan in the 90s and officially added to Apple iOS keyboard in 2011, emojis ushered into digital communications a new way to impart emotional nuance — with or without words. Now, roughly 10 billion emojis are sent each day.

This evolution has added complexity to digital marketing efforts, leaving organizations to figure out: How much emotion is too much — or too little — in digital communications?

70% of users who experience a strong emotional response from an advertisement are very likely to buy the product, compared to only 30% who experienced a moderate emotional response.

How to Use Emotion in Digital Marketing

First, it’s important to note that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Several factors affect the emotional tone of your organization, including its goals, priorities, audience and more. That means every organization’s approach to emotion is unique.

But one thing is certain: Emotion matters in digital marketing. Data from Unruly shows 70% of users who experience a strong emotional response from an advertisement are very likely to buy the product, compared to only 30% who experienced a moderate emotional response.

And on social platforms, using emojis demonstrated improved engagement, including 25% higher engagement on Twitter, and 57% more likes and 33% more comments on Facebook.

By developing an emotional tone for your digital communications, your organization can more deeply engage with its audience. Not sure where to start? These tips can help your organization establish or evolve its emotional tone.

  1. Be flexible. The reality is, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to digital communication. The digital landscape is constantly and rapidly evolving, as are its users. Stay on top of digital trends, be open to trying new things, track performance as you go and make adjustments as needed.
  2. Don’t sacrifice clarity. Clarity is the essence of communication. It doesn’t matter how quippy or evocative you think your Tweet is — if your audience doesn’t understand the message you’re trying to send, your Tweet won’t be effective.
  3. Don’t betray your brand. Your brand guidelines are the North Star guiding your organization’s tone, voice and design. In your quest to grow emotional appeal with your audience, don’t compromise the integrity of your brand by developing a communication plan or marketing campaign that contradicts your brand guidelines.
  4. But sometimes, evolution is essential. If your message isn’t resonating with the audience you’re trying to reach, it may be time to reevaluate your branding. Technology evolves and so do the people who use it — your brand should evolve, too.

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Rachel Adams Overlay Blue
Rachel Adams Editor

Rachel is an editor, content enthusiast and grammar fiend. With nearly eight years of editorial experience, she’s served on numerous print and digital publications representing a range of industries — a feat that’s honed her ability to create content for various audiences and objectives. At Casual Astronaut, she helps develop and direct content strategies that drive engagement and success.

Rachel is an avid reader of books and blogs. She spends her free time fixing or replacing items destroyed by her dog, Penelope, and cat, Kevin. Thrift stores are home-away-from-home for Rachel, who loves outdated furniture, vintage electronics and funky sweaters.

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