Emotional marketing can make for better fire safety messages

By: Tanya Bettridge, Public Educator/Administrator Perth East Fire Department

Editor’s Note from Chief Avsec: Tanya Bettridge has graciously given me permission to share her post, a post that originally appeared on LinkedIn. I’ve edited her original post into two shorter posts (no content deleted) for easier reading, especially on mobile devices.

Great! You’re back! I trust that you enjoyed my previous article, What Fire Departments can Learn from Beer Ads – PART I.

So, where do we go wrong–with our fire and life safety messages–and how do we correct it? The first thing we have to learn is what makes people transition from the Pre-contemplation phase to the Action phase. Clearly, that is no longer, “the fire department wants you to…” People today have to be reached from another angle.

Enter the beer analogy (after all, who doesn’t love a comparison to beer?) and YouTube homework. Search for beer bettridge-photo-1commercials. How many start with “Budweiser wants you to buy our beer”? Or “Only our brand of beer tastes good; drink a reasonable and legal amount.” Doesn’t that sound silly?

Yet, that’s precisely what we try to do with fire and life safety messages. “The fire department wants you to be safe. Install a CO alarm today.” “Remember, only working smoke alarms save lives. It’s the law.”

So why are people motivated, upon seeing a beer commercial, to buy beer… but not motivated to replace or test their smoke alarms after seeing our message?

The answer… is in the Why

Marketing-schools.org spelled it out perfectly and here is how to launch a local marketing agency with these tips mentioned in this article.

While humor might be one of the easiest ways to reel in new consumers (with advertising across multiple industries investing as much as $43 billion annually on humorous ads alone) the messaging behind those ads is what truly drives repeat customers. Psychologically, humans feel the need to belong to a group or community.”

The statement made by the Florida SEO experts makes sense. How many beer commercials do you know of, that consist of one person drinking beer, by themselves? Whether it’s a lively part of all the pretty people, or a group of dudes separately watching football from their homes, but calling each other to say “Wasssuppp?”, or one gender seemingly more successful with the other gender as a result of drinking X brand of beer, it’s all about that sense of belonging.

The folks at 602communications.com zeroed in on the emotions of beer. “Beer commercials are mostly targeted for male audiences, and they are constantly positioning a brand to succeed with that demographic.

Notice that when I’m talking about positioning a brand, I don’t care about what the product is, but rather who the customer is. The best alcohol advertisements and beer commercials get this.
Beer and alcohol is just a thing, what is really important in positioning a brand with emotional marketing with these resources is to hone in on the feelings and emotions of the customer. This is the best way to truly make great alcohol advertisements and beer commercials using emotional marketing.”


Beer companies do just that. Marc Wayshak, founder of Sales Strategy Academy, wrote this in his article about the lessons to be learned from Budweiser’s “PuppyLove” commercial.

“Humans are emotional buyers. They buy something because they feel a certain way, and then later justify the decision with logic. Budweiser’s commercial is all about eliciting an emotional response. The psychology behind this marketing strategy is simple: A potential customer will view the “Puppy Love” commercial and have a positive emotional reaction to it, which will inform his or her beer-buying decisions in the future — either subconsciously or consciously.”

Alright… you get the point. In order to prompt someone to do something, like buy beer, we have to connect with them on an emotional level. Bad news: while there are tons of articles about how companies emotionally connect their customers with their beer, finding resources – about connecting people with working smoke alarms – is difficult at best. Good news… this article is one of those rare resources.

Hit ‘em In the “Feels

You want someone in that pre-contemplation stage to suddenly go out and purchase four smoke alarms? You’re going to have to find ways to proverbially rip their heart out… go for the gut… make ‘em cry… get them laughing… none of which is accomplished by “it’s the law” or “your fire department wants you to…”

What we can do, is learn from the best. Your messaging should stick its hand out and squeeze either their heart or their funny bone – or both. Cutsie, wutsie ,adorable children. Puppies. Kittens. Look at that face… look at it!! Use anything cute, cuddly and something that just screams “protect me!” Those are the heart-wretchers, no?

Ever watch a humane society show, (those eyes… those sad, sad eyes peering at you from behind those cage bars) or a show filmed in a third world country pleading, for just pennies a day, to feed this poor, starving child!?


Strike the funny bone with wit, sex, and memes. Use pop culture, especially TV shows, movies and world events. Remember, fire safety is OUR world, not theirs, so we need to weave the two worlds together.

Right now, Game of Thrones, vintage 80s references, Deadpool, Trump jokes and more, make up their world. Epic fail video compilations. Or cat videos. Or epic fail cat video compilations. (Please don’t search YouTube for those until you’re done reading. You might not come back!).

As you look to change the behavior of people in your community, start with WHY. Why should people care about bettridge-photo-8what you’re saying? Why, as a fire department, are you telling them? (Hint: it’s because we care that they live).

Connect with them emotionally. Pull them from their Pre-contemplation phase by their heartstrings or funny bone, and then nudge them out of the Contemplation phase by showing them the benefits of changing that behavior.

Once you’ve dragged them from those first two phases, logic will take it from there and your work is done.

As always… have fun with it!

About the Author

tanya-bettridge-photoTanya Bettridge is a Public Educator/Administrative Assistant for the Township of Perth East, Ontario, Canada where her duties include: administrative support and public education for the Fire Department; website maintenance/administration: municipal street addressing; fire safety/public education; author/editor for newsletter and e-news; customer service; and emergency management roles. She also currently serves as the Director for Communications for the Ontario Fire & Life Safety Educators.

About Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

Battalion Chief (Ret.) Robert Avsec served with the men and women of the Chesterfield County (VA) Fire and EMS Department for 26 years. He’s now using his acquired knowledge, skills, and experiences as a freelance writer for FireRescue1.com and as the “blogger in chief” for this blog. Chief Avsec makes his home in Cross Lanes, WV. Contact him via e-mail, [email protected].