• Joel Rowbottom

Negative emotions produce positive outcomes


How do brands align themselves with consumers and create loyalty? And how does this affect their emotion towards brands they favour and brands they don’t think of positively, and how does that affect their perception of individuals associated with these brands? These are all issues that marketers need to understand before positioning themselves in the market.

In/Out Group Mentality

Some brands operate with a certain level of prestige associated with them, and it’s not just your elitist brands. All your high street brands will be doing the same. Take celebrities for example; they’ve developed themselves as a brand, and exhibit this better than anyone. Justin Bieber has his ‘Beliebers’, Beyonce has the BeeHive and Katy Perry has the Katy Cats. This offers the fans a distinct, recognisable tag and aligns them with their favourite celebrity, making them feel connected. This then positions them as a firm member of their in-group, making them more receptive of material and products surrounding the celebrity and less receptive of rival groups material.

Companies want this exact same thing, they want you to feel an affinity with them and connected. This is why they talk in the first person and as if they are your friend, they want a human, personal relationship with you. They’ll often say you’re part of the family or their success, attempting to build a connection. This all makes you part of the in-group, and once you're in, you're much more valuable to the brand.

That’s why tactics such as personalisation or enhanced targeting have become common practice within the marketing industry, they all want to make you feel a positive emotion for them, and this is how to elicit it. Knowing the complete picture and utilising features such as dynamic content allow marketers to make it seem as if they’ve handwritten each and every email, building that affinity.

To put this into perspective, in your friendship groups you’ll know a fair bit about each other, and your conversations will flow easily, you’ll ask them about their new job or the house they’re looking at buying, and they’ll like that, but if someone talks blankly at you you’ll become disengaged and perceptions of that individual might change. This then leads to that individual not being as ‘in’ as your friends, who take an interest in an open conversation. This is the holy grail for personalisation, developing an in-group, and an open conversation.


Schadenfreude relates to seeing the joy in another’s misfortune. So for companies, this relates to them directly and also for every stakeholder. This links to the in/out-group mentality, individuals will derive joy from seeing a mishap happen to someone sporting a brand they view as the out-group. A good example of this is First Direct Bank, they recently won the award for best service, and created an advert based upon this. Here they’ve seen the joy of their competitors not succeeding and looked to leverage it to improve their position in the market. I’ve added the advert below:


Schadenfreude can create brand loyalty, or alienate customers altogether. Brands can gain loyalty from their own advocates and supporters by targeting misfortunes within other brands, but while doing this it can push those advocates of the brand suffering misfortune farther away, and not gaining market share from them. But if it is exhibited effectively, the rewards can be massive, harming a competitor while improving your own position.

Also if schadenfreude is displayed too often by companies, a brand can be labelled as combative and gain a reputation, which can transfer negative implications onto the brand and make them less attractive. This affects the perception from existing and potential customers, affecting their ability to both retain and increase their customer base. Think about it, would you carry on buying your favourite chocolate bars if the brand continually attacked the quality of it’s competitors?

From the consumers perspective, when they display schadenfreude, it demonstrates a level of connection, how disconnected they are from one brand and how connected they are to another. This can provide valuable information for brands, by being able to explicitly see who supports and challenges you gives you the ability to analyse your brand advocates. Once this is has been analysed, you then have a true reflection of who your brand resonates with. From here, you can more effectively plan your marketing activities with tailored retention content and adapted acquisition messaging.


Many different factors affect the consumer mindset, and marketers must be wary of these. What we think of as erroneous information might enrage someone, or what we think is an acquisition campaign might be better suited to our existing base. Being able to understand these elements of the consumer mindset greatly increases the chance of hitting them with the right message, at the right time.

It’s not just about knowing Who to talk to, about What and When, it’s equally important to know How to talk to them.

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