It’s all about emotions


This tweet is about politics, but it talks to a general trend.

Trump is succeeding because of the feelings he evokes, not the arguments he makes. You could say the same about politicians like Nigel Farage and Nicola Sturgeon here in the UK, and US political strategist Ace Smith makes the same point in reverse when he says that Hilary Clinton and Jeb Bush should take more risks to be more interesting.

It’s not just politics, it’s true for brands too. People want to buy from companies that ‘feel’ authentic, and feelings are evoked by emotions not rational argument.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is one way of understanding this development. We’re all progressing towards the top of the pyramid and that means a shift from worrying about questions that can be answered rationally (what am I going to eat? will I be safe?) to focus on how we are feeling (do I belong? do I have self esteem? am I developing as an individual?).

Politicians and CEOs all need to be cognisant of this change. That isn’t to say rational analysis is redundant – policies and products still need to stand up to scrutiny, perhaps more now than ever – but the key point is that rational arguments alone are increasingly insufficient.


  • Andrew Hall (sumdog)

    I agree, using emotion to engage your customers and employees is a powerful tool.

    But isn’t emotion associated with the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid?

    When Trump talks about building a wall along the Mexican border to keep out rapists, he’s appealing to the need for “security”. And even Obama’s take on climate change is couched in terms of security and health for today’s children ( So when emotion is used in politics and business it’s used to appeal to one’s selfish instincts.

    Only occasionally does emotion trigger the need for generosity as exemplified by the photo of the Syrian boy on the beach. However, even this is because of our innate need to protect our offspring. A photo of a dead black man on the beach would have zero impact.

    So I agree emotion is a powerful communication tool, but I look forward to the day that we all feel more secure and loved, so that rationality has more of a voice.