The Emotions of Industries — What Should You Use?



January 21, 2014 (Updated: May 4, 2023)

Different industries need to portray different emotions to their consumers in order to get them to act, to purchase, and to consume. They can play off your fears, or play off the ecstasy of being an early adopter. There are also different emotions certain industries need to avoid, so as not to deter their potential customers. Here are the emotions that work – and the ones that don’t – for 10 major industries.

Finance and Insurance

What Works:  Anticipation, Trust, Fear, Sadness, Apprehension

These emotions work for the finance industry because they build up interest in either making you money or saving you money. Businesses need to prove that they’re trustworthy, especially since they’ll be dealing with you finances.

Brands can also find success in evoking fear in customers. “The markets are volatile,” say gold merchants, “Disaster will strike” say flood insurers.

This may be counter-intuitive because as much as this industry wants to sell to you, they also want you to be apprehensive, or skeptical. This gives companies opportunity to prove themselves, because a company that conquers the apprehensibility of customer builds a stronger relationship with them.

What Doesn’t Work: Surprise, Distraction

In these industries, focus and stability are paramount; they want to sell to possible customers that their services or products will smooth out any unknowns that could happen.

Retailers and General Merchandise

What Works – Trust, Interest, Joy

Retailers and General Merchants need to capture your interest with deals and new/useful/interesting products, they also need to make you trust them when it comes to their prices and the quality of product. Oftentimes they try to evoke the joy of buying something you need or want at a great price.

What Doesn’t Work – Fear, Remorse, Annoyance

Side stepping these emotions is key for retailers, consumers don’t want to feel flustered about purchasing the wrong product, or the right product at the wrong price, and then having a hard time returning it, or even an inability to.

Travel and Tourism

What Works – Ecstasy, Surprise, Serenity, Optimism

The travel and tourism industry needs to stress the emotions of optimism, to make you optimistic that your trip will go smoothly. Ecstasy and/or serenity convey how you’ll feel while on vacation. The emotion of surprise shows up in different ways, whether it’s surprising others with a trip or the surprises you may find on your vacation.

What Doesn’t Work – Terror, Apprehension, Rage, Loathing

People typically do like vacationing; however, a lot of people don’t like traveling. They think it’s a hassle and are downright afraid of flying, being stuck on a cruise liner, or going to foreign places in general. These listed emotions need to be played down to alleviate reluctant vacationers’ fears and annoyances.

Jobs and Education

What Works: Trust, Joy, Optimism, Aggression, Fear

In the employment and education sector, they need to sell trust and optimism. Trust and optimism conveys that if you go with them you will get either a good job or a quality education that will be the foundation for a great career.

This industry needs to use an aggressive call to action to actually make people take these steps to feel the joy of attaining these life achievements. They can also sell fear, fear that if you don’t act now, your life will be stagnant and it won’t change for the better.

What Doesn’t Work: Distraction, Sadness

Education and employment are fairly serious industries; funny random distracting commercials would not work well here. Sadness also isn’t a good selling point, as stated before optimism of achievement is the optimal route.

Home and Garden

What Works: Interest, Serenity

The home and garden says that what you do to your home and lawn will make you happier and feel better, as long as you use their new trends and designs.

What Doesn’t Work: Annoyance, Anger, Fear, Negative Emotions

Home and Gardening is an overall positive industry, it’s inherently based upon improving the area around you. Negativity doesn’t work for this industry.

Computer and Consumer Electronics

What Works: Vigilance, Ecstasy, Admiration, Amazement

People love their gadgets and eagerly anticipate new models and versions more so than any other industry. You need to put consumers in a state of amazement about what these products can do and show that they’ll be admired by their friends if they’re early adopters. Not to mention the ecstasy they’ll feel of finally attaining that long sought after device.

What Doesn’t Work: Boredom, Apprehension, Annoyance

This sector is all about what’s new and exciting, having it work well (not annoying), and getting you to ante up for their new devices. Apple doesn’t want you to think too much about buying their new iPhone 5S over their “old” iPhone 5, they don’t want you to be apprehensive. Less thinking, more buying!


What Works: Admiration, Vigilance, Love, Surprise, Ecstasy

Cars and their different makers can be very close to a person’s heart, they’re one of the most expensive things they will buy and it’s something that they’re proud of owning. This industry needs to show people that their vehicles are worth being admired.

What Doesn’t Work: Sadness, Boredom, Rage

This one’s fairly obvious, new vehicles are meant to be exciting, not boring. Happy, not sad and elating, not maddening. In the same way that the travel industry has to cope with the difficulty of the airport, the auto industry has to fight the hassle of car buying.

Internet and Telecom

What Works: Vigilance, Amazements, Trust

This industry is literally attached to almost everyone’s hip; it relies on providing a service that’s dependable with an impressive size, scope, and speed and needs to evoke these emotions in its messaging

What Doesn’t Work: Boredom, Apprehension, Annoyance

Internet and Telecom industries typically try and lure you in with pricing or showing coverage maps, they want their customers to be sure of their choices, to not be worried, or to be annoyed. Same with TV providers, they don’t want to come off as boring, so they stress edgy and exciting entertainment.

Business and Industrial

What Works: Admiration, Interest, Optimism, Trust

Trust is key when it comes to business, so is competency, and these companies need to prove that they can deliver and deliver with value. They also need to garner interest in their new services and products.

What Doesn’t Work: Distraction, Annoyance, Fear

The messaging here should not be distractions, it should be straight forward and simple, and not invoke fear that some issues may arise. The BDO ads do a stellar job at this, they remove the fear and complexity of business and instill trust and optimism.

Occasions and Gifts

What Works: Love, Ecstasy, Anticipation, Trust

Anticipating the next big holiday or occasion, bringing ecstasy to those whom you love, and creating the trust that the industry will supply what you need to achieve the joy you’re giving to others are the emotions this industry needs to encapsulate.

What Doesn’t Work: Fear, Apprehension, Sadness

The gifts and occasions industry thrives on their customers not being afraid of giving the wrong gift, or not being afraid to give a gift to their significant other or family member. They want to invoke boldness and courage, playing off the above emotions would only discourage those things, and shouldn’t be used.

Agree? Disagree? Have I missed something? Let me know in the comment section.

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