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Marketing 360® Blog

How Does Your Website Make Visitors Feel?

Post By Scott Yoder | Design & Branding

Usually, when someone asks me to look a website, landing page, or ad design, they ask me what I think of it.

We go on to analyze the user intelligence, headlines, word choice, layout, images, navigation, and call to action.  We intellectually assess the content, planning out data metrics so we can track how well the content works.

This is all very thorough, but it actually misses the most important point.

It’s not what I think that will get me to convert on your site.  It’s what I feel.

What do You Feel Like Today?

When you go into a restaurant and look at a menu, you usually ask yourself:  What do I feel like eating today?  You don’t say:  What do I think I want today? 

While this is just an expression, it’s also accurate with respect to neurochemistry of decision making.

This is founded on a famous study done by neuroscientist Antonio Damasio – a study that’s had a major impact on how we approach marketing.

Damasio worked with patients who had brain injuries affecting their ability to process emotions.  These people didn’t experience emotions at all, even though their other thinking and behavior were normal.

The problem Damasio identified had to do with decision making.  He discovered that people with this condition couldn’t make decisions on even the most trivial things.

They understood that they needed to eat lunch, but they could not make a decision between turkey or tuna.

When they asked themselves “What do I feel like today?” their brain injury completely prevented them from answering.  They could not make a decision because they had no emotional substrate to base the decision on.

A similar problem happens with a lot of marketing material.  Businesses present a logical case, so people know what they should do.  But the content fails to evoke emotions, so people don’t feel why they should do it.

It’s a scientific fact.  With no emotional connection, people won’t be motivated to act.  If your marketing content doesn’t make people feel anything, your conversion rates will suffer.

Tips for Evoking Emotions With Your Marketing Material

The first thing to consider is the types of emotional responses you want to create.  Much of this has to do with the nature of your offering.

Fear is a powerful emotional state that gets used heavily in advertising.  As a general principle, people are more motivated by fear of loss than the pleasure of gaining something.   Identity theft solutions are a natural for using fear of loss as a motivator:

For other services, you may just want to evoke a feeling of instant gratification and happiness.  Wow1Day Painting is full of smiles from gratified people who can get their house painted fast:

website emotions

You want to match the emotion you’re trying to evoke with your offering.  10 keys of emotional buying behavior are:

  1. Fear (negative)
  2. Guilt (negative)
  3. Trust (positive)
  4. Value (positive)
  5. Belonging (positive)
  6. Competition (negative)
  7. Instant gratification (positive)
  8. Leadership (positive)
  9. Trendsetting (positive)
  10. Time (positive)

Often, you’ll hit on more than one feeling.  Wow1Day Painting hits on value and time effectively.   Lifelock starts with fear of the problem, then moves into trust as they explain how they solve the problem.

Word Choice

The words you choose have a great impact on your audience’s emotional state of mind.  One word, “bold”, carries heavy emotional appeal for Salon Bella Mia:

website emotion word choice

Talon Guitar Picks evoke new and trendsetting with “evolution”:

Just a few choice words in your headline can make a huge difference in the emotional state of your audience.

On a business website, avoid jargon, verbosity, and stilted language, which will only evoke boredom in your visitors.  Replace rational words with emotional words:



attractive….good looking









Word choice works well for split tests, both with your ads and website content.  Sometimes just a single word is the one loaded with the emotional context you want to create.

Color Theory

Colors play a vital role in the emotional response of your audience.  In fact, colors are the first thing we register, so they set up our feelings overall.

Color theory espouses the idea that certain colors promote certain emotions.

  • Red:  power, importance, youth
  • Orange:  friendliness, energy, uniqueness
  • Yellow:  happiness, enthusiasm, antiquity (darker shades)
  • Green:  growth, stability, financial themes, environmental themes
  • Blue:  calm, safety, openness (lighter shades), reliability (darker shades)
  • Purple:  luxury, romance (lighter shades), mystery (darker shades)
  • Black:  power, edginess, sophistication
  • White:  cleanliness, virtue, simplicity
  • Gray:  neutrality, formality, melancholy
  • Ivory:  comfort, elegance, simplicity

Professional website designers are well versed in color theory and can help you match colors to emotions.  For example, Luxury Living Listings makes effective use of blue and black to promote sophistication along with a safe openness:

website emotion colors

Many business owners simply choose colors they like for their marketing material.  That’s a big oversight.

Know the emotional response you want to connect with and choose colors based on that goal.


Images play a huge role in evoking emotions and should be carefully selected.

Several things are at play with images.  One is that they should match the colors you’re using (like the image of the ocean above).

But even more important is the hero story.  The best marketing images get people to visualize themselves in a desirable place or state, which creates a powerful, visceral response.

This comes from the idea of the hero shot, which is an image that shows your product in context of use.

From an emotional standpoint, you want your audience to vicariously experience the positive emotional state they’ll feel when they gain the benefits of your offer.

For example, I feel the thrill, beauty, and sense of accomplishment I love from mountain biking when I look at KTM Bikes homepage image:

Authentic, real-world imagery that avoids the polished look of the stock photo is very effective at promoting emotions:

emotion images

One thing to keep in mind is that it’s almost impossible to evoke emotions without the hero – the person experiencing the story.  Just a picture of a mountain bike doesn’t make me feel anything – I need to see the riders.  To create a strong emotional appeal, Luxury Living Listings (above) should try an image with people in the home, enjoying the luxury life.

Also, your social media images should include people as much as possible.  Images with people draw people’s eyes and fit better with the native content of the platform.  They don’t call it Facebook for nothing.

Learn more about using faces in website design.


It is now well understood that emotions play a dominant role in how people actually make decisions.  It’s an evolutionary trait and survival instinct.

In the past when our ancient ancestors felt fear, aggression, or the drive of pleasure, they had to act without thinking.  We still need this today; if you have to hit the brakes suddenly in traffic, you don’t debate the action, weighing pros and cons.  You act without rational thought.

There is a lot more that goes into the buying process today than just emotions, but emotions are the crux.  As Damasio proved, they are what drive the actual decision to act.

If you don’t make your audience feel something, they’ll hesitate.  They may even (rationally) think your offer is useful, but if they don’t feel anything they won’t do anything about it.

So take a good look at your marketing materials.  How do they make people feel?  How do you want people to feel?

If you target that feeling strategically, your content will motivate action.  That’s what will make you feel fantastic about your marketing campaigns.