How Do You Create Emotion In An Activation?

Posted on Sep 7, 2017
How Do You Create Emotion In An Activation?

How do you create emotion in an activation or experiential installation? This is often overlooked, but something we strive for, time and again. When people connect emotionally, they get involved, they enjoy, they remember. It’s not such a tall order, either, it just requires a little forethought and effort and then the results speak for themselves!

According to Psychology Today: “Emotional memory adds credibility to the notion that thoughts can trigger emotion just as the activation of emotion can create cognitions.” (Original source: Lerner & Keltner, 2000; Lewis, 2008). So if we are able to stir up cognitive memories of events simply by ensuring they are attached to an emotive response, then we should be doing that. We want our activations and experiential installations to be memorable, we want people to feel something… and if they do, then we’ve created something special.

How Do You Create Emotion In An Activation?


What Makes Content Go Viral?

Considering what it is that makes content spread virally is a good starting point for determining how to evoke emotion in an activation. This has actually been pinpointed in a research campaign done for the Harvard Business Review: The Emotions that Make Marketing Campaigns Go Viral. It’s an incredibly interesting study that looked at the most popular and shared images on Imgur over a certain period of time. After locking down the images that were in contention, the team surveyed 60 people who gave their feedback on what emotions were being triggered when they saw the images that were in circulation.

Interestingly enough, very few negative emotions were reported, which is a roundabout way of saying that people resonate with positive imagery. By extension, in our case… they will resonate with positive experiences, so we need to keep the mood light, happy and encouraging. The emotions that were recalled often as they viewed the sample of images were the following:

  • Admiration
  • Curiosity
  • Amazement
  • Interest
  • Astonishment
  • Uncertainty
  • Cheerfulness

Essentially, the most popular content shared was shared because it made the people feel these emotions. So how do you apply that information to your content, in order to make it go viral? How do you “create” that emotional response in your content? This is the tricky part and obviously where the most work comes in, because it’s different for every brand. It’s never a “one-size-fits-all” solution that you can cut and paste into your marketing efforts. We need to go deeper.

How Do You Create Emotion In An Activation?

Applying Viral Knowledge To Our Brand Activations

Considering the above research, we know we have to tap into an emotional response that also ties in with the brand or activation we are working with. Each activation or experiential installation has a goal, so we think of it as a problem that needs to be solved and we need to be the problem solvers. Our activations are the solution.

We also need to apply our knowledge of the brand, and in most cases, we work with clients who we know and have a deep connection to. We already understand what they do, why they do it and who they are doing it for. For new clients, we need to understand them and their message fully before we can even attempt to create an experience for them.

  • We also need to establish a correlation between the brand and what they stand for
  • As well as which ways they reach out to their communities or audiences
  • How their message can be translated into something the audience will resonate with
  • How that message can also be tied into the actual activation and what it stands for – because this is often something completely separate that needs to link back to the business
  • How this can be tied into an emotional response

The first four emotions on the list from HBR’s research are some that we try to evoke on a regular basis. We want the guests at our activations to be curious about what it is we’re doing, perhaps even admire our setup. Once we can spark some sort of interest with the way that we are carrying off the experience, we can win their amazement, and in doing so, get them to share the love on their own social channels, which in turn spreads the emotive response.

Happy guests = happy clients, and that’s everything to us!

Looking to stir up some emotion with your next activation or experiential installation? Give us a call and let us make it easier for you.

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