27 Strong Emotions to Better Your Message

We’re played by our emotional responses everyday. From the joy we feel when seeing a person we love, the way an old film brings us back to our childhood, to the fear when a spider pops out of a sink drain, we are beholden to our initial response. This is just as true and vital to marketing. Commercials and ads can play to our emotions, our snap responses and drive us to respond. The fear of spiders can drive us to hire exterminators for example.

Paul Ekman identified six basic emotions of anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise. Robert Plutchik expanded upon this to eight and created opposing pairs which were joy-sadness, anger-fear, trust-distrust, and surprise-anticipation. Plutchik’s eight basic emotions also had gradations of severity.

However in a 2017 UC Berkeley study, scientists identified 27 different emotional states. These states revealed interplay and connection between each other. Some states less connected to others. For example, feelings of craving were less likely to be tied to any of the other emotional states, while romance and sexual desire had obvious strong interplay. The full list of emotional states are as follows:

  • Admiration

  • Adoration

  • Aesthetic appreciation

  • Amusement

  • Anger 

  • Anxiety

  • Awe

  • Awkwardness

  • Boredom

  • Calmness

  • Confusion

  • Craving

  • Disgust

  • Empathic pain

  • Entrancement

  • Excitement

  • Fear

  • Horror

  • Interest

  • Joy

  • Nostalgia

  • Relief

  • Romance

  • Sadness

  • Satisfaction

  • Sexual desire

  • Surprise

The Berkeley study was able to elicit these emotional states by showing their subjects a series of videos and having them report their feelings. Through the same medium, advertising can also elicit the same responses in viewers and achieve a desired action. This can mean a product buy, a vote, a donation or even the boycott of a product.

Taking a look at just a few examples, we can see the interplay of emotions as well as how these emotions work toward achieving a specific goal.

It’s a common trope that sex sells, and often companies playing on the emotion of sexual desire alone find themselves scrutinized by critics of the practice. In this Carl’s Jr. ad, they attempt to make it more playful with drawing amusement through innuendo and sight gags. There may even be some feelings of admiration and adoration from employing Charlotte McKinney who had a known fan base on Instagram. This is common and even more amplified when using larger celebrities in advertising. This all leads to the invocation of feelings of craving for the actual burger itself and the “all-natural” nature for those concerned with steroids and antibiotics. There is another emotion being played upon many may not feel and most won’t notice, but the soundtrack is operating on the emotion of nostalgia. The song is “Stranglehold” by Ted Nugent and can serve as a trigger and feedback loop into the sexual desire emotion due to the sexual nature of the song.

Anti-smoking ads are a common example of ads employing negative emotional states to gain their desired goal. In this campaign by the CDC, we can see fear, horror, surprise, disgust, and empathic pain being played up. Surprise with the initial smash cut transferring from the image of a beautiful woman to what she has become. Horror and disgust quickly follow as they’re tied to the initial shock. These feelings can give way to fear for oneself and empathic pain for what Terrie deals with. All of these emotions are aimed toward the goal of not buying cigarettes or other tobacco progu

Travel ads can be a bit of a scatter gun approach playing on a massive amount of emotions in a short amount of time. The most obvious in this ad are the awe and aesthetic appreciation for the architecture and nature wonders of Japan. This goes even further with admiration for the people of Japan and their skill as chefs, artisans, archers, et al. If you’re a sushi fan, you may find yourself craving their cuisine. The ad even creates a point of calmness with nature and relaxation, but it does so by surrounding the this segment with high-speed, frenetic excitement. All of this is built under an umbrella of trying to generate interest, and discovering something new. Plus, there’s always the possibility the viewer has been to Japan in the past, and this ad has just generate a great feeling of nostalgia.

Some ads, though, can miss the mark. When they do, they wind up generating unintended emotions and driving people away from the product, service or message. An infamous example being this ad for a new line of Mountain Dew products. The ad’s intention was for amusement and sell the idea of three awesome things together. However, the ad was met with feelings of confusion, awkwardness, and in some cases people felt disgust toward the odd mascot.

Emotional triggers are key to pulling in the audience, but without guidance the message can be lost. The 12 Master Formats of Marketing are the templates for implementing these emotional triggers. Pairing the right mix of emotional triggers with a well defined vision and format will increase the success of any marketing campaign.

Who Will Be the Top Retailers of 2023?

As a part of our 2021 Future of E-Commerce poll, we asked people to predict the future of some of the top retailers in America. They were all part of Internet Retailer’s Top 25 list in 2016 and were publicly traded companies. We asked survey respondents to judge whether or not they thought these companies would outperform the S&P 500. These were the results of the poll:

It’s easy to see and understand why most put their faith into Amazon. At the time of the survey and currently, they are the largest online retailer. They account for ~50% of all U.S. e-commerce sales and 5% of all U.S. retail sales.

Other companies like Walmart, Apple, Home Depot, and Costco have proven strength in brick and mortar retail as well as maintaining a strong online presence. It’s no surprise survey takers were optimistic in their performance. For some companies, there seemed to be little to no hope. Companies like Office Depot, Sears and Macy’s had been failing to compete in both e-commerce and retail stores.

To check in on the progress of these companies, we took the stock price of what the companies opened at in January of 2016 and weighed the percentage of change against their opening price in January of 2019. This was then set against the performance of the S&P 500 to see if companies were over or under-performing.


The baseline starts with the S&P index’s performance. Since 2016, the S&P 500 grew from 2011.71 to 2568.11; an increase of 27.65%. All other companies looking to be considered a winner would have to have matched or beat this growth in their stock price.

Obvious winners were companies people already believed in like Amazon which grew by 166%, Wayfair at 113%, Walmart at 53%, and Apple at 48.5%. While a third of survey respondents were confident in Etsy, I doubt anyone expected a 532% growth in stock price from ~$8 to $53. Perhaps even more surprising were Best Buy and CDW. Less than a tenth of survey takers believed in either of these companies, yet they both posted a rise in stock by 85% and 94%, respectively.

For the losers, most of these companies were obvious to survey takers in 2016, as well. Williams-Sonoma, Office Depot, Macy’s and Sears have all posted losses since. Sears the worst with losing 99% of its stock value. Sears plummeted from $20.07 a share in 2016 to opening up 2019 with a mere 0.17¢.

Other surprising losers being Target and L Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret and Bath and Body Works. Almost a third of survey takers were high on Target, but continued store closures have hurt the store and they posted a loss of 4.6% over the last three years. In the same time, L Brands had fallen by 69.5%. Only a tenth of respondents were up on the company, but few probably knew they would underperform the likes of Office Depot. Recent poor press and social media outrage has only further damaged the company.

Nordstrom, The Gap and Groupon should all be noted as companies not posting losses. They simply did not experience enough growth to outperform the S&P index. Nordstrom experienced a five year low dipping to $36 a share in May of 2018. Since, they’ve been on the recovery and opened 2019 at $49.77. Groupon has never shown significant growth since falling February of 2015. The Gap only grew slightly in 2018, only to come back down entering 2019.

Perhaps noticeable by their absence from the current chart are Staples and HSN. In 2017, Staples was bought out by an investment firm and removed as a publicly traded company. The same year, Liberty Interactive, parent company of QVC, completed the full acquisition and merger of HSN with QVC. I included the data for Liberty Interactive over the three year time period, and they fell 22%.

Now’s your opportunity to let your predictions be heard and take the 2023 Future of E-Commerce of Survey. Tell us where you think retail sales will be in five years and more.
Click the link to take the survey now: https://forms.gle/icJhnZJ3nHBtggT77

Will E-Commerce Growth Explode by 2023?

2023 E-Commerce Survey

In the past, we’ve asked e-commerce professionals to give us their predictions on the future growth of e-commerce. By looking five years in the future, we can actually see a reflection of current attitudes. For example if people are bullish on the future of drone delivery, they will respond favorably to their future.

2021 vs 2022 E-Commerce Total Sales Predictions

Taking a look at past surveys, we can see noticeable differences in respondents from the 2021 survey to the 2022 survey. In 2016, most people thought e-commerce would account for 10-20% of the the total market share by 2021. Few thought it would account for more than 30% and almost no one thought it would amount to less than 10%. This is very telling of reasonable, expected growth.

Survey takers in 2017 were far more bullish of e-commerce sweeping up to 30% and beyond of total retail sales. Over 60% of survey takers thought e-commerce would carve out this large piece of the pie by 2022. Interestingly even though almost no one thought this in 2016, almost 4% of survey takers thought e-commerce would stagnate or fall to under 10%.

What are the actual numbers telling us, though? The reality is e-commerce is steadily growing. When you remove fuel sales, automobile sales, and sales at restaurants and bars - (those overwhelmingly dependent on physical POS) - e-commerce accounted for 10.5% of total retail sales in 2015. This share grew to 11.6% in 2016, 12.9% in 2017, and 14.3% in 2018.

Percentage of E-Commerce Growth

While the actual share of total retail sales taken by e-commerce has continued to grow, the percentage of e-commerce growth over itself in the past few years has generally plateaued to a range of 14-16%. This growth is reflected in the U.S. e-commerce sales themselves. In 2016, e-commerce sales were $394Bn. The continued growth was followed by $453Bn in 2017 and, in 2018, sales crossed the half trillion mark. If the economy continues on the same course, there’s nothing to suggest U.S. e-commerce sales will grow more than 15% every year.

Current growth trends don’t seem to indicate e-commerce accounting for 30% of total sales by 2022. It’s much more in line with respondents to the 2021 survey. So what made people so bullish in 2017? Perhaps it’s the continued reports of store closures? Maybe it’s simply personal biases of lives lived nearly entirely through e-commerce? Most major metropolitans nowadays allow for someone to live nearly entirely outside of brick and mortar stores, save for aforementioned gas stations, restaurants and bars. Or maybe they really do see a coming wave of e-commerce adoption and shift in the retail space.

Now’s your opportunity to let your predictions be heard and take the 2023 Future of E-Commerce of Survey. Tell us where you think retail sales will be in five years and more.
Click the link to take the survey now: https://forms.gle/icJhnZJ3nHBtggT77