Emotional Marketing: Utilizing the Power of Emotion to Market to Patients

As a content writer for the healthcare industry, part of what I do (in order to deliver my client’s message to current and potential patients) is get inside patients’ heads. (That is a lot less creepy than it sounds, I promise.)

As discussed in one of my previous blogs, a buyer persona helps generate appropriate and relevant content for a practice. When developing a buyer persona, it’s not only important to know the target audience’s demographics and circumstances but to infer how they will emotionally react to information. In doing so, I’m able to reach the audience and connect with them on a personal level.

Often times, it’s easy to fall into the trap of relying on cold, hard facts to determine a practice’s brand, voice and messaging. While this kind of information is extremely helpful, it doesn’t accomplish much in the way of forming a true relationship with the patient. Part of what’s being conveyed has to have an emotional impact because, after all, isn’t health and wellness a little personal?

Try to think of it another way: think about all the different kinds of dish soap on the market. All dish soaps have the same general ingredients and basically peddle the same benefits: clean dishes, no residue, gentle on the skin, etc. There isn’t much that differentiates them on this level, is there?

So, what makes you choose one over the other when most of the basics are the same?

You choose one because it’s a brand name you trust (or your mother trusts). Maybe you’re familiar with it and it provides a sense of comfort. Perhaps, it has served you well over the years so you associate it with reliability. (Didn’t think you were so emotionally vested in your soap, did you?) Trustworthy, comforting, reliable – these are emotional benefits, and they have given life to that particular brand. You now hold an emotional relationship with that soap, and your buying preferences are persuaded more so by those emotions than by the actual features offered.

Similarly, patients crave this kind of emotional relationship with a practice and for good reason: they are trusting their lives and the lives of their families in the hands of your physicians. Would you trust your health or the health of your child to someone you didn’t feel emotionally connected to in some way?

Whether a patient is going for a routine examination or is in need of a specialist for a life-saving procedure, he/she will associate emotions (either positive or negative) with a physician’s care and the practice as a whole. Understanding how to utilize emotions in content (known as emotional marketing) is an important component to speaking to patients. For the sake of time and example, I’ll stick with the two most basic human emotions: happy and sad.


According to recent studies, the old adage no news is good news, and good news is no news is now proving to be untrue with regards to social media. Researchers have found that good news may, in fact, spread faster on social media than sad or depressing stories. This is due to a couple of reasons:

  • When you’re happy, you’re more willing and eager to share that happiness with others
  • Most people care about what others think. By sharing too many sad stories, you may be considered a Debbie Downer (nobody likes to be that gal), so sharing happy or uplifting stories is the ideal way to go

What does this mean for content in terms of social media coverage for a practice?

The best example I can think of is doing a patient interview/interest story for a practice. Everyone likes true stories. A personal perspective on overcoming a specific condition with a fascinating procedure and a well-trusted physician can be a riveting read that pulls at the heartstrings, eliciting emotions such as hope, bravery, camaraderie, etc.

Another option is simple word association. For example, it has been shown that incorporating words such as excellent, successful, welcome and relief (words I would commonly use in various content mediums) give people a positive, personalized association with the practice brand. This is a critical strategy to successful association.


Conversely, sadness plays a similar role in emotional marketing. When we’re sad, there are hormones (specifically cortisol and oxytocin) released into the body that may make us more prone to being empathetic and trusting.

The aforementioned patient story also comes into play in this situation. The sadness a prospective patient may feel from reading another’s struggle may elicit feelings of empathy for the person of interest and generate trust for the practice brand.

Be forewarned, however: sadness in content has its limitations. Sad words and tone are frowned upon in medical marketing as they can be a double-edged sword with emotional association. Words with any negative connotation for any kind of content could seriously backfire. Therefore, sadness, while powerful, may be ineffective if not used properly. Tread carefully in the realm of sadness.

Understanding the nuances of emotional marketing can be a tricky business, but a vital component to truly developing strong content that patients (new and current) will connect with. Always remember that proper association is key to patients retaining and relating to a practice brand.

If you’re ready to provide new and potential patients with quality content from someone who is capable of navigating these emotional murky waters, contact Points Group today.


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