Getting to know consumer habits and understanding customer motivations is a good way to increase sales and grow your business. These goals can be achieved by analyzing emotions in the publications of Internet users, especially those related to your own brand. In this article we talk about the study of emotions in marketing and their impact on consumer behavior.

Emotions in marketing – are they worth exploring?

Emotions are responsible for certain body reactions and influence a person’s behavior. When analyzing emotions online, we use Robert Plutchik’s model, which distinguishes 8 basic emotions: joy, sadness, anger, disgust, fear, trust, surprise and anticipation. In expression, anger can lead to confrontation or aggression, joy enhances creativity and decision-making.

Sadness speaks of lack and manifests withdrawal, disgust rejects and stimulates flight, and fear also causes the urge to flee or attack. Trust speaks of closeness and relationship quality, surprise is an inducer of other emotions and feelings, and anticipation stimulates the body, preparing it for an upcoming event.


Since emotions are responsible for instinctive reactions, knowing their intensity can help predict consumer behaviour, improve customer service or monitor the brand image more effectively online. Knowing what evokes positive associations in customers, one can shape advertising, marketing and PR policy. Emotions are useful in creating characteristics of customers (persona) or for storytelling.

Researching customer emotions – advantages

Examining emotions in your own customers gives your company insight into consumer behavior. It will be useful e.g. when validating the effects of an advertising or communication campaign or in Content Marketing. It will help in creating tailored messages and more precise targeting of groups, more effective collection of leads, implementation of display campaigns, etc.

By examining the emotions of the recipients, the company may monitor its image and react in advance to the symptoms of crisis.

Emotion analysis versus sentiment analysis – the differences

The two terms are not used interchangeably; this is a mistake. Emotion analysis is the study of basic emotions – the unconscious, instinctual reactions of the brain and body to external or internal stimuli (e.g., thoughts, memories) and their effect on a person’s behavior. Meanwhile, sentiment analysis refers to reactions that are thought out and controlled by the subject: after becoming aware of the action of an emotion, he or she makes a decision that results in a mental attitude – sentiment.

Its study gives a result in the form of positive and negative sentiment, but we get an overall negative result without indicating the specific emotion and the behavior following it. With emotion analysis, we get the percentage score of each of the 8 emotions in the utterance, plus the sentiment analysis and the emotional arousal index.

They can check their own and their competitors’ emotionally charged phrases to determine how customers feel about their products or services, compare them with those of their competitors, and then make changes – to their offerings, their communication, or just their image.

Negative emotions: what can trigger them in marketing?

Negative emotions are conventionally called emotions whose perception is perceived as unpleasant. This perception gives the whole group of emotions a pejorative name, but the emotions themselves are warning signals of danger and are therefore not negative. In marketing or advertising emotions with such overtones may appear as a result of specific actions of brands or companies. What causes negative reactions of consumers?

For example, the use of the message, which strikes at the key values of the recipients of communication, breaks stereotypes, refers to unpopular views. Such slip-ups are the domain of multinationals that cannot predict the effects of actions in culturally distinct societies and do not take into account the mood of the target group. Another example is misalignment of the message with the requirements of the target group: it indicates misunderstanding of the group’s needs and will cause its frustration, which will translate into poor sales results and unfavorable comments on the Internet – and thus a scratch on the company/brand image.

Actions that cause negative emotions can also include overly intrusive PR and advertising, provocative actions (e.g. viral marketing), reprehensible practices towards employees, destruction of the environment, laboratory testing on animals, etc.

Negative customer emotions and their consequences

Customers most often talk about negative emotions through the company’s communication channels – social media, portals, e-mail. They comment under posts or create them themselves, review products and services, write opinions on forums, under articles, etc.

If the company’s message evokes negative emotions in them and these persist, their consequences will include negative WOMM (spreading unfavourable comments and opinions), brand switching (moving to the competition), brand detachment (severing relations with the brand), filing complaints, and even consumer boycotts, organizing protests or taking legal action.

How should a company respond to the negative emotions of its customers?

Negative emotions in your customers cannot be avoided, but you can minimize their effects. That’s why you should choose the analysis of emotions contained in the content. In social listening it will give you an up-to-date insight into the moods of your customers, in brand monitoring – the perception of the brand, it will also help to predict the behavior of consumers. And what to do when the symptoms of crisis appear? First of all, do not ignore them.

Negative moods will not subside on their own. Then accept the criticism and analyze the customer’s point of view – it is possible that the company’s policy was based on wrong assumptions. Finally – take concrete corrective actions, e.g. dialogue with the client, validation of communication or marketing activities, or improvement of the controversial service or product.

Interpretation of results:

The customer felt strongly surprised (62%) by the controversial statement of the maintenance department. She is angry about this (52%), but also feels anger about the careless finish of the apartment she bought.

The high level of surprise also relates to the individual faults that the customer mentions in her comment: the wrong way to suspend the ceiling, the faulty damp insulation around the chimney, the unprotected attic, the lack of a well-functioning but legally executed ventilation of the room with the fireplace or stove, the deficiencies in the electrical system and their repair that does not comply with building regulations, and finally the excessively high prices of additional services.

This state of affairs makes the customer feel sad (48%) and at the same time disgusted (loathing – 40%). The commentator does not know what else will happen to her in connection with the purchase (expectation – 35%), is afraid that things will not turn out well (fear – 36%), but still has hope for a positive outcome (expectation – 35%, trust – 21%). Finally, there is the indicator of joy (22%).

In the present case, it refers to ironic comments towards the developer, who is satisfied with his actions. We also have results for sentiment and emotional agitation – positive – 21%, negative – 45%, emotional agitation – 67%. This last element indicates that the commenter is highly agitated and inclined to take action.

What actions from such a client should be expected? Her emotional state, accompanying negative sentiment, and high arousal rate will likely push the commenter to post negative comments (negative WOMM) on forums, social media, and anywhere else she sees requests for feedback about this particular developer. In all likelihood, she will advertise any faults that arise with the developer, and possibly – pursue legal action.

Author: Igor Starczak. The publication also appeared in the quarterly “Developer & Marketing” (No. 3 / 2021).