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Advertising, marketing, and communication activities based on influencing the positive emotions of the audience are used frequently today because they are effective. Why? Such emotions can be easily transferred directly to the brand, and thus build a positive image of the brand. Besides, influencing the emotions of the audience allows not only to better anchor the brand in their consciousness, but also to stimulate them to a certain action. But are positive emotions really always positive for a brand?

Positive emotions are generally those emotions that we experience with pleasure. To put it in scientific jargon, they are pleasant or desirable situational reactions, distinct from pleasant sensations and undifferentiated positive affect. Such emotions include love, joy, satisfaction, contentment, interest, amusement, happiness, peace or delight, among others.

How do they work? Experiencing positive emotions:

  • expands a person’s set of values and beliefs,
  • stimulates openness,
  • makes it easier to find solutions in a difficult situation,
  • makes it easier to get out of one’s comfort zone and pick up ideas or take actions that are not typical for a person.

This very mechanism is used by advertising, marketing and communication campaigns to strengthen the relationship of customers with the brand, encourage them to buy products and services, join newsletters, etc.

Positive emotions – two sides of the coin

However, what specialists do not want to remember is that every stick has two ends. Yes, yes: positive emotions also have their dark side. Take joy – an emotion with a clear positive connotation. As research shows [1], people who intensely pursue happiness have a greater ease of experiencing depressive states, feeling unhappy and being depressed. They also tend to be more selfish and feel lonely.

The study also indicated that anger may have an impact on performing certain actions more effectively, such as those of a confrontational nature (we wrote about the positive effects of negative emotions in a previous article). In contrast, emotions of a positive nature can sometimes have the opposite effect.

Positive and negative emotions are like yin and yang

They cannot exist separately, but complement each other. Sometimes people feel both positive and negative emotions simultaneously in certain situations (especially stressful ones). This happens, for example, when moving out of the family home or when graduating from college. In such moments, one may feel joy and sadness at the same time – emotions that, in the study, have opposite charges to each other.

People who have succeeded under ambiguous circumstances will have a similar emotional experience. Moreover, those who have suffered a failure, and this failure brought them a kind of deliverance from a difficult situation, or its consequences were not as terrible as it promised to be at first.

The above information shows that basing communication with customers solely on positive emotions is wrong. The study of the effects of such activities will be falsified because it is incomplete. To assess the emotionality of the recipients of marketing, advertising, PR and other activities, one needs not only a tool that cross-searches the emotions experienced by a person or group of people in a given situation. It is also necessary to take a more flexible approach to understanding the role of emotions themselves. It is best to assume that a given emotion can play several, sometimes conflicting roles.

Traps of positive emotions

The high effectiveness of marketing or communication activities based on positive emotions is very tempting for specialists. However, there is a considerable risk in this. Constant pumping of a positive emotional balloon causes frustration in the recipients of such communications after some time. This can lead to a loosening of the relationship with the brand, breaking that relationship, or even turning to the competition.

Imagine being in the company of an overly cheerful person for a long time, almost flooding with optimism or trying to make everyone around happy… by force. Tiring, isn’t it?

Receiving positively charged, but served in too large a dose of brand communication will work similarly. It will be perceived as intrusive, tiresome and inauthentic. Consumers will react skeptically to such actions.

Why? Because as emotional beings, we are only complete when positive emotions are joined by negative ones. When we accept their existence and integrate the whole with each other. This mechanism also translates into the reception of emotionally charged communication.

By focusing in communication exclusively on positive messages and not taking information about the negative emotions of its audience, the company commits a cognitive error (the so-called Pollyanna effect). Customers in the cognitive loop of positive emotions will contribute little analytical information about consumer behavior, and will not act. Instead, customers in negative emotions will provide this information. This is because their natural reflex will be to want to break out of the loop of negative emotions, so they will take appropriate steps to take so.

With incomplete data on negative reactions, the full potential of positive emotions cannot be realized

This reduces the value and effectiveness of the actions taken by the brand. A holistic analysis of emotions and sentiment will help in this case to identify potential changes in consumer behavior. And it is additionally important to remember that it is negative emotions that have a greater impact on changes in behavior and personality formation.

Negative emotions affect the way a company operates

The use of only positive emotions in marketing, advertising, and communications is often due to the social stigmatization of negative feelings, and therefore fear of them. This phenomenon can be observed especially where a social pattern of functioning is translated into the way an organization operates. For example, there is regular fearmongering and manipulation in public spaces, for example, by politicians, religious leaders, etc.

Under such circumstances, negative emotions are perceived as an enemy or at least as a weakness, and these, after all, should be protected against. Choosing only positive solutions is therefore here a socially expected form of protecting oneself, the organization or the brand. A way to manage the company and a method to build an image in the public space.

However, with the simultaneous denial of negative emotions, such a model of company operation or a way of brand communication becomes a powerful ballast in development and a barrier to achieving the goals. The vast majority of energy in this case is directed at building and maintaining an illusory positive image of reality. Human resources and financial outlays are directed to this goal.

If a crisis arises, such as an image crisis, it will be much more severe and long-lasting for the organization because its symptoms will be denied and repressed. It will be much more difficult for a given company to recover from such a crisis. It will need not only to take corrective steps against misguided actions, but also to reevaluate the entire way the organization functions.

Effects of building customer relationships on positive emotions only

Emotions are important components in creating the customer experience (CX) with a company. Placing communication solely on positive emotions and experiences deprives a company’s analytical cells of an significant range of information regarding specific consumer behavior. This leads to an incomplete depiction and therefore incomplete understanding of the needs of that company’s customers. As a result, these needs remain unmet, which eventually results in declines in sales, an overall reduction in brand appeal and a gradual exodus of dissatisfied customers toward competitors.

Consider customers’ experience of interacting with a brand in terms of the emotions they feel

These experiences result from the interactions between the various points of contact between consumers and the company at the pre-purchase, during purchase and post-purchase stages. The experiences from these interactions can sometimes be contradictory. A customer may experience positive emotions when reading enthusiastic product reviews or watching emotionally charged advertisements. However, he or she will also experience negative emotions when waiting for a long time for an ordered product, when demand increased by advertisements causes delays in delivery.

Such impressions in contact with the company can then:

  • reflect negatively on the image of the brand (it is inefficient, it does not cope with meeting the needs of customers),
  • project negative opinions about the product (when the frustration caused by waiting too long outweighs the level of satisfaction with the user, or when the product does not fully satisfy the user’s expectations, has defects, etc.).

In the case in question, betting only on creating positive communication misses the point. Again, the needs of the users of the product or service are overlooked, which leads to a progressive degradation of customer attachment to the brand or commodity.

Using only communication based on positive emotions and building customer attachment to them is, finally, fraught with yet another mistake. Without expected results from marketing, PR or advertising activities, there may be a tendency to assume that the absence of positive resonance (i.e., the absence of positive emotions in customers) means the presence of negative emotions. This is not necessarily true.

The actions taken by the company will then focus on covering negative emotions with positive ones. And this will be a mistake because building relationships on positive emotions is of a different nature than neutralizing negative emotions. In such a case, it is necessary to conduct an analysis of customer emotions in response to the actions taken, which will enable validation and corrective steps to be taken.

Conclusion: a single positive customer experience can be valuable to him and result in the transfer of positive emotions into loyalty decisions. It can therefore strengthen his relationship with the company. But this positive experience can also make the resulting secondary positive experiences less exciting and valuable to the same customer. This raises the possibility that these positive experiences will not positively influence loyalty decisions.

Positive emotions without negative ones? That’s not how it works

All activities aimed at promoting and advertising a product or service, increasing brand awareness among current and future customers, and creating lasting and engaging B2C relationships are dependent on emotional charge. Their effectiveness will be greater the emotional charge, however, using the full spectrum of emotions – positive, neutral, and negative.

Positive emotions cannot function isolated from negative ones – this is simply unnatural. Example: a blog article about a particular product, which only mentions its advantages. Such posts are not uncommon. Meanwhile, it is enough to have a glance at the reviews of this product on the web, and it is already clear that the mentioned text is unreliable, and describing only the advantages of the product – manipulative.

The same is true of more general communication directed to customers. Striking only a positive note falsifies the picture and does not provide full data on implemented measures. If there are problems, fixing such communication becomes much more difficult. Therefore, if we are already using emotions to increase the engagement of our users, let’s dose them carefully and with the whole palette in mind. We will then have the best effect.