Emotional appeals for changing habits

There is lots of information and advice around. In order to gain your target group’s attention and interest, you need to reach them with some sort of emotional appeal. Emotional appeals draw on positive or negative motives. Examples of emotional appeals and related energy routines and habits include:

  • Negative appeals: annoying ‘drip’ of leaking taps, wasting energy = wasting money, squandering the resources of future generations, oil dependency’s links to international conflicts, the threat of climate change
  • Positive appeals: improving the comfort of your living conditions, saving money, becoming more competent in caring for your family, being part of a smart new movement
What you need to do: 

Avoidance of fear or guilt and the desire for positive things like social approval or mastery are all potentially powerful motivators. However, if you invoke fear or guilt, you must be sure that you can show people how they can avoid the problem, and that they are able to follow your advice. Positive appeals are safer. Here are some practical examples of positive emotional appeals:

  • Link energy conservation to positive desires and aspirations (comfort, financial stability, pride, effectiveness)
  • Help people feel more competent and in control (see Off. Really Off? campaign)
  • Give energy conservation a positive and upbeat image
When does it work?: 

Emotional appeals are always necessary to get people engaged, irrespective of whether your target group consists of ordinary people, local politicians or business managers. They can be useful tools when

  •  you know what kinds of appeals your target group is likely to respond to
  •  you know how to present your appeals in a way that is relevant for your target group
What do you need to look out for: 

► Take care when using negative appeals – they cannot always be avoided, but need to coupled with solutions to the problem.
► You need to be sensitive and honest when dealing with people’s emotions- don't be manipulative
► You need to make sure that your emotional appeals are backed up by facts.