Creative Content Strategy: How Attention and Emotion Drive Results

Published on July 2, 2021
Author: Anthony Galasso

When it comes to digital marketing, great creative content can make a huge difference. But what is it that turns good creative content into great creative content? That, of course, might be subjective.

However, one thing is for sure, creativity is all about making connections. People want to engage with content they find captivating because they like the way it makes them feel. This is true of just about any creative medium: books, art, music, television, podcasts, etc.

Digital marketing is no different.

By determining how a piece of content should make people feel—confident, amused, hopeful—it’s possible we can tweak it in a way that allows us to predict how impactful it becomes.

Attention + Emotion = Action

A study by neuroscientist Dr. Paul Zak tried to determine how content drives us to act. He theorized there are two essential elements necessary to predict purchase intent: attention and emotion.

To test his method, Dr. Zak exposed people to various types of content and measured the results.

To measure attention, he kept track of people’s heartbeats as well as the sweat from people’s eccrine glands—yuck. To measure emotion, he kept track their vagus nerves—an oxytocin regulator—using an electrocardiogram.

The results? Dr. Zak was able to predict with up to 82% accuracy whether people would purchase something based on their visceral reaction to various forms of content. Not bad for a guy measuring sweaty heartbeats.

Finding creative ways to serve content that your audience wants to consume as opposed to the content you want to share should lead to greater success.

“Great content is about value. It needs to be creative and unique. Anomaly and emotion. Only then will your audience give you their attention,” writes Adam W. Morgan, Executive Creative Director at Adobe.

Planning for Success

So, how do you determine what kind of content your audience wants to consume? Think like a TV producer.

What do sitcoms, dramas, thrillers, and even the news have in common? Each genre captivates their audience by triggering specific emotional responses. This should come as no surprise as TV shows are produced by creatives who understand the power of storytelling: writers, cinematographers, editors, etc.

However, the key is in pilot testing. Networks blast us with tons of TV show pilots per year. When something sticks, they trash the rest and move forward with their golden goose, renewing season after season.

By committing to continued testing, you can determine which form of content grabs your audience’s attention best.

Your Regularly Scheduled Programming

Remember the TV Guide channel? Wow…what a throwback.

Think of your content in terms of TV genres. It’s your job to put together a programming schedule that causes your audience to look forward to your content. If your audience is looking at your content and saying, “there’s never anything on,” then your content is either dull…or it’s filled with infomercials.

Inspired by this Twitter thread from fellow digital marketer Bianca Ciotti, content genres should act as pillars that help determine A) the type of content produced and B) the frequency of the content produced.

If you’re a consumer product brand, you might find that your audience tends to prefer a content mix that’s 75% delightful content and 25% educational content. If you’re a B2B brand, it’s possible your audience would prefer to consume a mix that’s 60% informational content and 40% transactional content.

Every audience is unique, so try different combinations of content to find the mix that’s right for your brand.

Measuring Success

Again, the key is in pilot testing. TV networks use data to determine which shows are worth investing time and money into, turning them into the latest bingeworthy, Twitter-trending hits.

We can use the same method in digital marketing, focusing on attention and emotion.

You could also look for certain emotional triggers, which might indicate how your audience perceives the content you’re releasing. Buzzfeed’s Dao Nguyen says all content has a “job,” as evidenced by specific emotional triggers. For example:

  • Humor: “This is funny.”
  • Identity: “This is me.”
  • Connections: “This is so us.”
  • Encouragement: ”I can do this.”
  • Urges: “I need this.”

“If we can capture in data what really matters to you, and if we can understand more the role that our work plays in your actual life, the better content we can create for you, and the better that we can reach you,” says Dao Nguyen, Publisher at Buzzfeed, on Cultural Cartography.

Renewed for Another Season

After running your pilots test and determining the right mix of content your audience enjoys, try to think of ways to recreate your successes.

Serialized content can be a powerful tool in your content marketing toolkit. Treat your serialized content like episodic primetime hits within your brand’s own channel.

Iterate on them and find ways to make them something that people will enjoy over and over again. Better yet, find ways to make them inclusive, building a loyal audience that looks forward to “new episodes” week after week.

Let’s Create Together!

Curious how AGAIN Interactive can elevate your brand’s content strategy? Drop us a line at Your success is how we measure ours.

Anthony Galasso

Part of AGAIN Interactive's spirited creative team since 2014, Anthony Galasso is passionate about all aspects of digital marketing from strategy through execution and beyond. In his spare time, Anthony also loves to travel, try new foods, plays drums, and hike with his beagle, Hailey.

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