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Emotion in marketing

An Introduction to the Research Project

The idea to use emotion in marketing as the subject for this thesis probably has its roots in my visit to “The Advertising Day of 2002”, which was organized by the Marketing Association of the Erasmus University in Rotterdam. That year the Marketing Association had chosen emotional branding as the theme for the day, and several guest speakers attested to how their brands had gained in strength through the use of emotion in their marketing communications.  

When a few years later the time had come for me to choose a subject for my final thesis, it did not take much time for me to remember the interest I had taken in emotional branding that day. This has provided the basis for my decision to use the broader subject of emotion in marketing as the subject of this thesis.  There was one minor complication, however. While I expected to find long lists of authors that had all investigated emotion in marketing before me, there seems to be a lack of comprehensive academic research to support the wide use of emotion by marketers. While this would make my research project a lot more difficult than I initially expected, I decided to stick with the subject. Examples of the use of emotion in marketing are plenty, and therefore (in my opinion at least) it is time for research to catch up. 


The first objective of this research project is to contribute to the knowledge of emotion in marketing by taking the enormous amount of literature that is more or less related to the subject, and translating it in a comprehensive study that actually is about emotion in marketing. So far, research has been done on human emotions, on the influence of emotion on perception and behavior, on the influence of emotion on relationships, and so on, but nowhere are all those different aspects of emotion translated into a set of comprehensive guidelines for its use in marketing. Therefore, this is chosen as one of the objectives of this research project. This research project has yet another objective, however. A second objective of this research project is to answer a few of the questions that currently remain unanswered by our knowledge of emotion in marketing. To this effect, the relationships between self-concept connection[1], product description, emotion, and product attitude will be investigated. 

Research questions

To reach the objectives stated earlier, the following questions were formulated to guide the research project: Main question 

“What are the effects of emotion when it is applied to a marketing context?” Sub-questions 

                     What is emotion?                     What are the effects of emotion?                     How should emotion be applied to a marketing context? 

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Theoretical perspective

To answer the questions that were posed earlier, literature from different research areas will be used. First, a vast amount of psychological literature will be consulted to gain better insights in the field of emotion (Arnold, 1961, 1970; Frijda, 1986, 1988; Izard, 1977; Oatley, 1996; Plutchik, 1980, 1997; and others). Then, literature on consumer behavior will be used to connect emotion to the field of marketing (Blackwell et al., 2001; Holbrook, 1983; Holbrook & Hirschman, 1982; and others). Also, the literature on branding and advertising will be used to gain a better insight in how emotion can be put to use in a marketing context (Aaker, 1991, 1996; Batra et al., 1993, 1996; Biel, 1992, 1993; de Chernatony & Dall’Olmo Riley, 1998, 2000; Fournier, 1998; Fournier & Yao, 1997; Keller, 1998; Rossiter & Percy, 2002). Finally, literature that specifically discusses self-concept connections with respect to brands and products will be used to support the field research that will be conducted to investigate the relationships between self-concept connection, emotion, and product attitude (Batra et al., 1993; Elliott & Wattanasuwan, 1998; Fournier, 1988; Izard, 1977; Schultz et al., 1993, 1995; O’Shaughnessy & O’Shaughnessy, 2003).

Research Methods

To research the relationships between self-concept connection, product description, emotion, and product attitude, both desk and field research will be used. The research process will start with a thorough analysis of the available literature. In this literature search the library, databanks, the internet and reference lists of other researchers will be used to track interesting sources. 

After the literature search has been completed, a work in progress version of a questionnaire will be obtained. The data set obtained for this research project will also be used in a related international research project, so therefore the questionnaire set-up will be decided upon by other researchers.  Because this work-in-progress version of the questionnaire will be in English, it will be translated and then back-translated to check the validity of the translation. Also, because the received version of the questionnaire will still be in the first stages of development,  pre-tests will be conducted to check its effectiveness. The pre-tests will be conducted with 30 respondents and the data will be analyzed with the help of statistical comparison methods. Also, in depth interviews will be conducted with some of the respondents, as a means to better interpret the results and to help improve the questionnaire. 

When the questionnaire will obtain satisfactory results in a pre-test, the final version of the questionnaire will be distributed to at least 180 students at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam. Based on their answers to the questionnaire, the relationships between self-concept connection, product description, emotion, and brand attitude will be analyzed. This will be done with the help of statistical analysis methods. 

[1] The perceived fit between the “self” and a brand.

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