Emotionally Attach Your Users Through UX

Max Brinckmann
5 min readFeb 3, 2020
Two persons playing with a grey ball.

In this world of oversupply, it is increasingly important to discover a way to stand out. In the past, I found myself being emotionally connected to exceptional products — or were they exceptional because of the emotions they conveyed?

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Psychological Factors

Scientists yet don’t have a clear definition of what exactly emotions are. But it is safe to say that humans either consciously or subconsciously react to certain impressions. They can differ in their quality and intensity, and also (and this is interesting for us) they are directed to objects for most of the time. If we take a look at Robert Plutchiks wheel of emotions, we want to focus on two branches. The first one being ecstasy which contains joy and serenity. The second one to be admiration containing trust and acceptance. Between these branches, there is a space that he calls: love. We need to address these emotions when we want to build a strong and lasting connection to our users.

The Wheel of Emotion by Robert Plutchik
Wheel of Emotion

Social Factors

Another form of connection between users and products is of social nature. The high share of innovators and early adopters within the millennial generation that now is economically strong and thus relevant is prone to becoming addicted to product-related behaviours. That not only means being addicted to owning new products that fit their array of interests but also being informed about the product landscape and being able to show their knowledge to other people.

User Experience = Everything Together

Stepping away from thinking of digital interfaces when talking about user experience, it can really mean a lot more. The experience a user has when interacting with anything is the user experience, too. Also looking at products, for instance on YouTube, and feeling emotions is an experience (of a potential user). In the following block, I want to share two personal experiences in order to illustrate how products made me build up scarily strong emotional connections while relating to the previously mentioned factors.

My First Drone
This was really quite emotional for me. I got this drone as a way too expensive Christmas present. I put so much energy and time into the preparation: I watched hours worth of video tutorials and reviews, read articles and made sure I was ready to go as soon as I had it.

I was seriously stoked about this product. When I got it I felt like a child and almost fell in love with it. It was so cool to unpack it and I literally spent time every night just looking at it. The amount of joy I had was almost indescribable. This whole story took an unexpected turn when I lost the drone during my third flight. I was devastated and for me, it was like my pet went missing, even if it in fact only was a piece of plastic. I was incredibly lucky to get it back just after one sleepless night and ca 100 flyers spread around the neighbourhood.

The emotions connected to this product can clearly be located on the wheel of emotion exactly where they should be, from a marketing perspective. I built up a strong psychological relation to this drone, comparable to a living being. You want to care for it, you want to equip it with other nice things, and you want to spend time with it.

Buying a New Phone
Probably most of you know how this one goes: during the first days, I for myself treat my new phones very carefully. And I mean baby-like carefully. No one is allowed to touch it and I would only put it on a desk when I first made sure it could not get any scratches from it.

This behaviour changes during the following days and weeks in which I gradually decrease my attention towards the device. This goes on to a certain point, most likely until I drop it for the first time. From this day on it is only another thing that I have.

With a new phone, I want to be at the top of technology and be one of the people that have it. For early adopters, it’s important to be able to talk about the latest devices and of course to also show off. They want to draw emotions like admiration and acceptance.

Conclusion
Psychologists and philosophers like to say that perception is reality. This means that individual impressions are able to manifest individual realities. I would like to rephrase this to experience is reality. We as product creators are shaping the realities of our customers through the experiences that we create. We have an immediate impact on people’s lives, but we’ll never know every context our products will live within. Consider these key take-aways to create emotionally meaningful experiences that enhance the lives of your customers.

1. Trigger Anticipation

In Germany we say “Vorfreude ist die schönste Freude.” meaning “Anticipation is the greatest joy.” and it’s absolutely true. Try to serve your future users even before they can use your product with delightful content as trailers, or even more effectively with influencer and magazine review videos and reports throughout target group relevant channels.

2. Design the Product Set-Up

Whether it’s a physical product and we’re talking about the unpacking experience or it’s a digital product and we’re talking about onboarding, installation or registration: it has to be great from the start off. Be impressive and pleasing. Use valuable material and showcase the product when taking it out of its box. Or be humble and humorous and make it as easy as possible to get started using your product!

3. Remember the Wheel of Emotion

Always keep in mind to activate ecstasy and admiration in order to build up a firm and positive bond with your users. Addressing these emotions and their subs (joy and serenity, trust and acceptance) will make sure the users will associate positive feelings with your product.

4. Experience is Reality

We are creating realities with our products. We take immediate actions onto people’s lives and our products will live within our user’s individual contexts. Take care of the possibilities you get from this–and the responsibilities we all carry. The foundation is laid during the first phases of usage, oftentimes even before the user actually owns the product.

Thanks for reading!

👏 Did you know that you can clap up to 50x per story? Try it yourself!

👓 Another article I wrote: How to Increase Your User Empathy

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Max Brinckmann

I am a Senior User Researcher and Digital Designer at Merck KGaA Germany. I enjoy writing about psychology and behavioural patterns within digital platforms.