Don’t pull out your Merriam Webster; it hasn’t been added to the dictionary—yet. I had seen the term thrown around the video marketing world but I had never done my due diligence of investigation; I was under the impression that big contracts and lopsided percentages made up the ideal business model. After all, who gets the feels and then decides to order industrial size printers in bulk? I restricted sad videos to world-renown issues, greeting card commercials and kittens.

Yet, today’s B2B digital presence is cluttered with sadvertising videos. There’s even “try not to cry” challenges running amok on YouTube playlists everywhere. Its irresistible nature has thoroughly infested the business niche as evidenced in GE’s sadvertisement below.

Almost everywhere I looked, tear-jerking visuals had taken over. Even the Super Bowl was labeled a cry-fest. But why? Were videos of the sad variety the new meal ticket to increasing brand awareness and garnering qualified customers?

Consumer reactions say it is. According to recent studies, purchase intent increases by 70% when viewers experience an “intense emotional response to an ad”.

Now, before you revamp your entire video marketing plan into a series of sad puppies and baby milestones, learn how to properly integrate sadvertising into your video strategy for instant audience fascination. And finally, how to leverage the other emotions we’ve thrown to the wolves – including one underdog that carries their own ROI-packed bragging rights.

Sadvertising’s Rise to Must-Have Content Fame

Video ads that make us cry are not a new phenomenon (see the 2008 Pantene ad below), but with 85% of the US watching videos online, it’s popularity is supported by this massive surge in mobile usage and sharing.

Because of sadvertising’s ability to draw consumers, it’s no wonder brands clamor to create the biggest sob fest possible to generate more views, more shares, and more brand favorability (by a reported 42% to be exact)!

Still, the current desensitization of our society demands true authenticity from these sad videos. A misstep on your production teams part can have grave consequences for your brand image and create a heap of work for your PR team. Several top brands have received backlash for coming across as either too depressing or too forced. (See Dove’s “The Beauty Patch” and Nationwide’s “Dead Boy”.)

If you are seriously considering a video that’s on the gloomier side of things, “keep the emotion true to the brand. Do not do it just for emotion’s sake”, warns Nicole Coleman, Ph. D., a professor at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Business. A safeguard for this is tying the idea to a cause or value that your company is passionately committed to where the sad factor heightens the message, instead of masking it in a forced attempt to get attention.

This method is combining LOGIC + EMOTION. The sadness evoked should be a natural reaction that makes sense with the story being told, which should then propel the consumer to react in the intended manner. For instance, inducing tears for an ad campaign pushing to raise money for injured troops, to follow preventative measures against the spread of disease or to join programs that bring families closer together makes sense regardless of the industry. You want your audience to genuinely feel something, so they will be pushed to interact with every aspect of your brand.

Keeping your brand’s values at the core as well as understanding your audience’s “emotional baseline” are key. Budweiser took a page from this guide with their “Puppy Love” ad. With no intention of inducing tears, the horse and puppy co-stars drew instant shares and weepy eyes. Highlighting their product’s association with camaraderie, Budweiser successfully showcased their ability to spur unlikely friendships.

The Other Feelings

While appealing to the heart is the way to go in any video, the misuse of sadness as the go-to reaction for every campaign is a common oversight. A noted Forbes article sums up the issue like this: “It seems as though this particular climate has resulted in a rather literal interpretation of ‘emotions’. That is, emotions = crying (the fact that there are other emotions seems to have been temporarily lost).”

The frenzy of sadness’ success has overwhelmed our video content and we’ve forgotten that there are other emotions that will do our marketing efforts justice. If sadvertising doesn’t quite fit your digital strategy, create sensibly targeted rage through anger, fuel warm thoughts with nostalgia, or awaken your viewers by leveraging surprise. Not to mention happiness, humor, fear, surprise, joy and many more combinations of feelings are at your disposal.

Start with your brand story to determine which emotions best match your purpose and your target audience. Then, dissect the highs and lows of your past contents’ metrics for a measurable approach to finding your ‘emotional sweet spot’.

If your audience has responded favorably to jokes, humor could be your golden ticket. An easy way to include humor in your video without coming across as a full-on circus act is to attach it to the introduction of a new service, a holiday, a popular cultural event (like the Oscars or March Madness), or to the introduction of your new Director of Operations.

(Get more insight on informing your audience with humor while staying true to your B2B roots, here.)

On the other hand, if you’re trying to save lives, fear is a reliable authority in creating immediate change, like the M.A.D.D. organization whose videos stir up a powerful combination of sadness, fear and anger.

Keeping your content within context will guarantee you get the reaction you hoped for. Fast Company’s Rae Ann Fera exemplifies this concept stating, “our work will end up being very something. Maybe very funny, maybe very disruptive, very sad, or very silly. It will be powerful because it is true in the emotional realm it is meant to be in, and I think this should be the goal”. Trending emotions are not for every brand, especially when your venture into heart-to-heart videos is in its infancy. Monitor viewer impressions and other social actions to decide which emotions best suit your purpose and which of them you should implement with caution.

Emotion’s Hidden Gems

There is one emotion that goes hand-in-hand with trust that you can tap into for video success, and it’s currently sitting on the back burner of our emotional stove top: pride. Customers feel pride when they are completely confident using your services or product because they know how to get results with it.

One sure-fire way to effectively implement this feeling is through explainer videos. Explainers, or How-To videos as they are casually known, can have a formal or informal tone; either way they will provide credibility to your brand and create a foundation of certainty between you and your audience.

When you have an awesome explainer video, you include specific details on how to best use your product or service with guaranteed success — whether it’s step-by-step captions overlaying professional footage, or a fun motion graphic voice-over (like our process video eye-candy below).

No matter the industry, when your clients are proud of something they’ve accomplished while using your products — from completing a home improvement project, winning Marketer of the Year or reaching a financial goal–they are bound to brag about your services to others.

With searches related to “how-to” growing over 70% each year, a look into explainer videos to spread a little pride amongst your audience is worthwhile.


From humor to surprise and everything in between, applying the right emotions in your video content will be the catalyst for impactful engagement and positive brand awareness.

Remember these key takeaways for heart-to-heart video success:

  • Keep your brand’s story, clients, and persona front and center of every brainstorming session.
  • Analyze metrics from past content to determine the most effective emotional approach.
  • If you’re leery of attaching heart-strings to your brand, tie your emotional efforts to an external campaign or cause your company and audience are passionate about.
  • Don’t ride every emotional wave. If the current trending emotion doesn’t suit your brand explore others that will resonate. (Get inspired! Watch more emotional video examples beyond sadness, here.)
  • Pride is an emotion. Capitalize on its success by incorporating explainer videos into your digital marketing rotation.

Prioritizing client’s needs and learning how to effectively communicate with them ensures you hit the right emotional notes to make a deeper connection. So, don’t be afraid to step out of the ‘tissue’ box and explore the other emotions for your next video campaign. It could be the missing link to a lasting and memorable relationship with your audience.

Start building life-long connections through video by contacting us today.

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