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The Heart and Mind of Marketing:


Understanding Emotions vs. Feelings
for Impactful Campaigns

7 AUG 2023 | by jeremy marentette
It’s no secret that in marketing, the ability to connect with audiences on an emotional level is often the secret sauce behind successful campaigns.

But what exactly is at play when we talk about emotions, and how might they differ from feelings? The distinction, though subtle, is crucial. And knowing it can help us craft more effective marketing campaigns.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

– A quote generally credited to Maya Angelou.

This quote has always resonated with me, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized it wasn’t referencing emotions – but feelings. These terms are often used interchangeably, even though they refer to different aspects of our human experience.

In this post, I’ll delve a bit deeper into emotions and feelings and uncover how understanding this distinction can empower marketers to create campaigns that resonate deeply with their audience.


Emotion is a complex psychological and physiological response to an external or internal event. It involves various components, such as: behavioural expression (e.g. facial expressions), physiological arousal (e.g. increased heart rate), and cognitive appraisal (e.g. evaluating the situation). Emotions are innate and universal; for instance, happiness, sadness, anger, and fear are emotions experienced by people across different cultures and societies.


On the other hand, feeling refers to the subjective experience and personal interpretation of emotions. It is how we internally perceive emotion, coloured by past experiences, beliefs, and individual perspectives. For example, two individuals may experience fear (with similar physiological responses) but interpret this emotion differently as feelings – one may feel anxious while the other feels exhilarated.

Feeling and emotions in marketing campaigns

Now let’s discuss three ways that understanding the distinction between feelings and emotions can help marketers craft more impactful campaigns:
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1. Tailoring emotional triggers

While it may seem obvious to evoke emotion through marketing, the real challenge is navigating the complex landscape of both universal and personal emotional responses. Rather than casting a wide net with emotional triggers, marketers should understand their audience deeply to identify common emotional experiences. But, it’s also crucial to consider how these emotions can translate into a myriad of personal feelings due to individual backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences. This will allow for the strategic use of emotional triggers that speak to the collective yet considers individual emotional nuances. It can also inform which emotional triggers to avoid.
Audiences today value authenticity. This authenticity can be communicated by acknowledging the complexity of human emotions and feelings. Instead of oversimplifying emotional responses (e.g., ‘this product will make you happy’), marketers can portray a range of emotions associated with the product or service, acknowledging that people often experience a mixture of emotions. The portrayal of emotional complexity can make a campaign more realistic and thus, more authentic. Also, by displaying a deeper understanding of how emotions can translate into various feelings, marketers can further build trust with their audience. A sense of emotional insight can indicate to customers that they are truly understood, enhancing the perception of authenticity.

Example: Leveraging emotions and feelings in recruitment

Imagine a tech start-up, TechFuture, struggling to attract and hire talent due to an intensely competitive labour market. Initially, TechFuture relied on posting detailed job descriptions on the various job portals and the company site. However, the company noticed that this approach was not resonating with the prospective candidates they desired to attract.

To turn the tide, TechFuture decided to revamp its hiring strategy by leveraging emotions and feelings.


      • Surprise/Excitement & Adventure: TechFuture created videos that showcased the innovative projects they were working on, highlighting cutting-edge technologies and opportunities for growth. The aim was to evoke a sense of excitement and adventure in potential candidates.


      • Happiness/Contentment: They shared visuals of their modern, cozy office space with ergonomic furniture and communal areas where employees could relax, aiming to leverage emotions of happiness, contentment, and feelings of comfort. They went outside the office and into the region where the company operates to show the peaceful lifestyle their employees enjoy outside of working hours.


      • Curiosity/Inspiration: By sharing success stories of employees who grew and thrived at TechFuture, the company aimed to inspire potential candidates with the possibilities that awaited them.



      • Belonging & Connection: TechFuture featured testimonials from current employees, who shared personal stories of how they felt a sense of belonging and connection within the company culture. One employee might share how the team collaborated on a complex project, while another might talk about the friendships they made.


      • Safety & Security: To evoke feelings of safety and security, the company shared information about its comprehensive benefits package, including health insurance and retirement plans. They also highlighted policies such as flexible work hours and remote working options.


      • Personal Fulfillment & Pride: TechFuture showcased its commitment to social causes and how employees are encouraged to participate in community service and sustainability initiatives. This aimed to evoke feelings of personal fulfillment and pride in being part of an organization that values giving back to society.


As a result of this holistic approach, TechFuture experienced a significant uptick in applications from highly qualified candidates. Moreover, the candidates who came through this campaign aligned more with the company’s culture and values. This example illustrates how understanding and leveraging both emotions and feelings can create a more powerful and resonating appeal beyond simply listing facts, features and benefits – ultimately solving challenges in unexpected domains such as recruitment.

Bringing it all together

By understanding the nuances between emotions and feelings, marketers can craft campaigns that not only evoke the desired emotional responses but also resonate with the subjective experiences of their target audience. This can result in more authentic, personalized, and impactful marketing campaigns that audiences remember by how they felt – even if they can’t recall what’s been said.

Jeremy Marentette

chief executive officer

As a seasoned marketing professional with 20+ years of agency experience, Jeremy leads Insight Studio’s client services, operations, and business development portfolios. A strategic and creative problem solver at heart, he’s happiest when he sees his team excelling and clients smiling.

Jeremy Marentette

chief executive officer

As a seasoned marketing professional with 20+ years of agency experience, Jeremy leads Insight Studio’s client services, operations, and business development portfolios. A strategic and creative problem solver at heart, he’s happiest when he sees his team excelling and clients smiling.

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