Is Your Message Half Empty or Half Full?

How you answer this question can determine the tone, creative execution and success of your marketing efforts, particularly when it comes to social content strategy. Is it more effective to squeeze lemon juice on the wound or paint a reassuring picture of what’s possible?

There may be no better example of this dichotomy in action than our current U.S. election cycle. One “brand” has doubled-down on the half-empty glass, while the other has focused more on a message half full. Based on what we’ve seen play out over the past months, both approaches have connected with the American public on some level.

When it comes to striking a nerve with our audience, we marketers spend hours building out buyer personas and uncovering pain points. We want to hit ‘em where it hurts—show we understand what keeps them up at night. It’s a powerful way to get people nodding their heads right away. When we validate the pain, we immediately gain some level of perceived credibility.

But here’s the caveat: Research shows that few people want to wallow in that pain for long.

According to a study from Harvard Business Review, this right mix of negative and positive emotional messages also contributes to higher likelihood of consumers sharing social content. As stated in the article, “Negative emotions were less commonly found in highly viral content than positive emotions, but viral success was still possible when negative emotion also evoked anticipation and surprise.”

The lesson here seems to reflect a diminishing return on half-empty messages that aren’t balanced with some kind of resolution. Pain points can open doors but few of us will invite a chronic Debbie Downer to stick around.

The most effective marketing communications lead with letting your audience know you get where they’re coming from, but move quickly to telling—or even better, showing—them the happier place you’re going to take them.