The most compelling videos aren’t necessarily the most informative or data-packed; the ones that appeal to the rational side of our brain. They’re often the ones that affect us on an emotional level. Data seems to support this conclusion, showing that people don’t always make rational, fact-based decisions, and that makes emotional video ads more effective. Even simple training or in-flight safety videos that include emotion are more memorable and more likely to be shared.

An effective use of emotion in a short video format can get the viewer’s attention, tell a story, and convey a message, all in a way that affects the viewer far longer than facts or statistics alone. In short, emotion is an incredibly powerful tool and one which video producers shouldn’t neglect.

Facts alone are not effective

The people your video is targeting are rational adults, and they can make decisions based on the facts, right? Not as much as you might think. People aren’t decision-making robots, and every one of use is bombarded with data and decisions daily. Emotion plays a critical role in helping us to sort through this information.

Emotion is deeply ingrained in all of us, and it can make all of the difference when it comes to getting someone’s attention and making a lasting impression. According to a study of more than 1,000 ads by Pringle and Field, those with emotional content performed almost twice as well with audiences – boosting profit by 31 percent – compared to purely rational ads – which improved sales by only 16 percent.

In a world where people face a deluge of information, it’s no surprise that emotional content stands apart. The emotional parts of our brain often work far faster than the logical, rational parts, and that gives companies a chance to boost their message to the front of peoples’ minds. In many cases, we form a strong first impression before we’ve had a chance to process the facts – as artist and designer Anthony Burrill succinctly put it, “I Like it. What is it?”

Emotion as a communication tool

Some topics and messages naturally lend themselves to an emotional video. Stories of love, life, and death, as in this insurance ad or this healthcare company ad, for instance, invite emotion and are able to effectively leverage it to share their message. Similarly, stories about helping others, such as this Co-op ad can evoke emotion in the viewer. But – beside the fact that a world of bland, purely factual ads would be boring – why does making the viewer feel a certain way make the message more impactful?

According to Jonah Berger, in his excellent book, Contagious, the use of emotion helps people connect to the people around them. “The fact that we both feel the same way helps deepen our social connection,” he writes. “It highlights our similarities and reminds us how much we have in common. Emotion sharing is therefore a bit like social glue, maintaining and strengthening relationships.”

Berger says “Emotions drive people to action. They make us laugh, shout, and cry, and they make us talk, share, and buy. So rather than quoting statistics or providing information, we need to focus on feelings.”

However, even topics that don’t seem to lend themselves to the use of emotion – such as health and safety or search engines – can still be effective if they use a story to touch the viewer’s heart. The ArcelorMittal health and safety video is an excellent example of this: it takes something so mundane that it risks being forgotten, the need to consider safety in the workplace, and uses a human story to make it more memorable.

Which emotions make people share videos?

Another way that emotions can be particularly powerful is in motivating the viewer to share the video and spread the message. Berger’s research in Contagious finds that the most effective ads target emotions based on their physiological arousal, not simply whether they are positive or negative. This explains why ostensibly sad videos are often among the most shared.

Consider that while anger may be a negative emotion, it can be a powerful motivator. Sadness, on the other hand, is a negative emotion which doesn’t arouse an active response. Excitement is a positive emotion which encourages action, whereas contentment is positive but does not. Berger found that “simply adding more arousal to a story or ad can have a big impact on people’s willingness to share it…More anger or more humour led to more sharing.” That’s why he concluded that, “When trying to use emotions to drive sharing, remember to pick ones that kindle the fire: select high-arousal emotions that drive people to action.”

Let’s use anger as an example. According to a study by the University of Pennsylvania, co-authored by Berger, anger is the emotion that led people to share content most frequently. Ads which provoked anger led with 34%, beating awe-inspiring at 30% and anxiety-inducing at 21%. Anger, particularly at an injustice or preventable problem, can be mobilised into action or a change of behaviour on the part of a viewer in service of a greater cause, as in the emotional video for Dogs Trust, “Why I left you”.

Making an effective emotional video

Telling a complete story which the audience can connect with in such a short format means that everything – the music, the lighting, and the acting – must be perfect. That might seem like a lot to handle, but fortunately there are professional corporate video production companies who can bring your vision to the screen.

If you want to create powerful, emotional video content for your company, get in touch with our MD Jamie.