Emotional Targeting and Influential design [Review]

This week in my journey through CXL Institute’s Conversion Optimization Minidegree, I dig into emotional content strategy with Talia Wolf and Influence and Interactive Design with Dr. Brian Cugelman. Read on to learn more…

This blog post is part 4 in a series where I detail my experiences with the Conversion Optimization Minidegree from CXL Institute.

For transparency, I received a scholarship to this program (for which I’m eternally grateful), but I’ve tried to keep my thoughts and reflections in the following post as unbiased as humanly possible. Of course, we all know that humans are inherently biased - whether we’d like to be or not - so don’t fault me for being human! 😂

Emotional Content Strategy

This week Talia Wolf discussed the idea of most of our decision making being emotionally-based and how brands can use this concept to connect on an emotional level. 

In a mobile-first world where people are constantly on the go, scrolling and multitasking, brands have just 2 seconds to grab their attention. Emotional triggers help you do this. 

It’s interesting to think about, really. 

So much of web design is still focused on the desktop experience. 

We focus on our page design “above the fold”, but with mobile use overtaking desktop, designers need to shift into a different way of thinking to target these users effectively.

And how are we going to to this? 

By speaking to the “fast” brain. The emotional brain must come first.

Developing Your Emotional Content

In Talia’s 4 emotional content framework, she breaks the process down into 4 steps:

  1. Emotional competitor analysis
  2. Emotional SWOT
  3. Emotional content strategy
  4. Testing

Emotional Competitor Analysis

Unlike a typical competitor analysis, with an emotional competitor analysis, you look at how your competitors are using emotions and analyze this to understand the market emotionally and how your product fits in. 

She advises looking at 10-15 competitors/companies that serve your audience and analyzing their targeting on 4 different parameters:

  1. Messaging: what are they saying on their landing page?
  2. Colors: colors can convey emotions – which are they using?
  3. Image: what images are they using and why?
  4. Emotional triggers: how are they trying to make their customers feel?

Once you have all this information, you can draw comparisons between them in order to understand commonalities and differences, as well as potential angles for you to stand out.  

Emotional SWOT

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. An Emotional SWOT looks at how the customer feels emotionally about your company and about how they feel about your industry as a whole. 

Customer interviews are great for getting insight into how they feel about their problems, their desires, and how your product or service fits into their emotional narrative. 

You can also use polls and surveys on your website or in your email or chat widgets to connect with customers on your site. 

Brainstorming and using other research methods like Reddit and forums isn’t a bad idea to start, but make sure to get out of your office and start talking with your target audience for the real gold.

Emotional Content Strategy

Once you have your SWOT results, you can move to your emotional content strategy. Here’s where you take what people have said they feel are negatives, and address them. 

This means taking into account things like what they think is your biggest weakness, or what they feel are the biggest threats to using your product or a product in your industry. 

When you use your user’s specific concerns to create your message, you can address these negatives and turn them into positives. By doing this, you can reach your audience on that rapid-fire, emotional gut level you’re aiming for.

Putting it All Together

Next it’s time to test. Talia has created a framework to brainstorm test hypotheses, which looks at the following 5 components:

  1. Emotional triggers: what are your competitors using and what should you use on yours?
  2. Elements needed to convey key positive emotions and dispel identified fears
  3. Words that evoke emotion, even better if it’s the words of your own audience
  4. Visuals that convey the feeling your customers desire
  5. Colors: color can convey emotion very quickly and unconsciously, so use them wisely. Too much of one color or badly paired colors can have a negative effect.
Of course, you’re not going to get everything right on the first go ’round, so you make your best hypothesis addressing all of the above elements and go from there, adjusting as needed. 

Influence and Interactive Design


This was a really interesting course with Dr. Brian Cugelman who has developed an original behavioral framework for keeping customers repeatedly engaged with our products online and what design elements we need in order to reach this outcome. 


Stages of Purchasing Behaviors

Dr. Cugelman has taken a number of different behavioral models and made a framework for the key outcomes in behavioral decision making. 

Each step is a level in the process of consumer purchasing behaviors, starting from initial awareness and moving on through motivation and desire, to taking action and developing loyalty. 

So if you look at step one, it’s obvious that an individual couldn’t make a purchase if they first hadn’t even been aware that the solution existed. 

But moving on down the numbers, you can see as you inform and educate, people move in more purchase-ready stages of motivation and behavior.

  1. Concentrating: The potential customer must become aware of us and our offer
  2. Learning: We want people to be informed and understand what we’re offering 
  3. Desiring: This is the motivation stage. It’s best to head to this step as quickly as possible, because here’s where the real change begins.
  4. Deciding: This is where the person has the intention to take action but is still “kicking the tires” so to speak
  5. Trust: Distrust is the enemy of conversions. Make your customer feel confident.
  6. Short term behavior: This could be a first small purchase or any small step to begin the relationship
  7. Long term/maintenance: This Is the loyalty stage where people keep coming back for repeat purchases.
  8. Abandonment: This is an inevitability in that most people will not sustain a behavior indefinitely, so accept it and build this understanding into your model

We can use this framework to create a message and design that allows people to move along a path from just noticing us, all the way through to buying our offer.

And what I thought was really cool is that the first six steps of this aren’t that different from the path that I lay out in my free sales page template

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