What is Emotional Branding?
Emotional branding (an extension of emotional marketing) is the practice of establishing a brand by appealing to the emotional state of consumers or emotional responses. It is a highly successful method that has helped companies in establishing longevity in the market and brand loyalty. The principle behind it is to create a personal connection between the customer and the company. Certain values are now associated with specific brands, such as fraternity, love or even freedom.
We live in an exciting period in economic history. Capitalism and consumerism have become integral features of most societies across the globe. Additionally, both of these economic cultures go hand in hand, and thus we’ve seen a massive boost in advertising and marketing since the 1990s.
Advertising in particular has been gaining prominence since the second half of the 20th century as businesses and industries used it to establish their name in the minds of customers. Brands have used different techniques to ensure this. But perhaps none of them would be as useful as emotional branding
“Customers define themselves through brands they use. The branded clothes they wear, the cars they drive, the drinks they consume, the university they attended, favourite spots to hang out, and so on.” - Nyimpini Mabunda, Smirnoff Vodka Marketing Manager.
The Science behind it.
The human mind has a particular way of prioritising things. Over the years many theories have come up on how we value different aspects of life and how we order our priorities. One of the most well known of these theories is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It speaks of a five-stage model of human requirements represented as a hierarchy in a pyramid.
At the very bottom of the pyramid lies the physiological needs that are necessary to sustain life. However, after fulfilling these needs people seek more than material gain. Safety, love, esteem all come after which could be ensured through financial stability, friendship, respect by others. Self-actualization is the top of the hierarchy, which is obtained after all other needs are fulfilled.
It seems that many companies have taken note of these theories are made marketing campaigns. For example, Apple Inc. has been making ads that fulfil each of the steps in the pyramid. Ads like “Think Different” appeal to the side of people that represents deep thought, creativity, i.e., emotions associated with the stage of self-actualization.
Other theories too have their own merits, and their various different methods of appealing to prospective customers. For example, many believe in the school of thought that Vance Packard, the author of The Hidden Persuaders brought up. He identified the themes and symbols that consumers like to buy into the following categories:
- Emotional security
- Reassurance of worth
- Creative outlets
- Love objects
- Sense of power
- Sense of roots and Immortality.
In fact, even Aristotle’s principles are used in marketing! His ideas of Ethos, Pathos and Logos (Credibility, Emotion and Logic) are used in marketing campaign in spite of the fact that he lived so many millennia ago. The principle of Ethos speaks of how marketing is vital to maintain a credible and authoritative image in the minds of customers even before advertising. The idea of Pathos is that you cannot win customers over merely by logic. It is vital to make an emotional impact on the customer in order to stand out. Logos, or reason, obviously speaks of how marketing should be linear in thought, and make sense to the customer. When all three of these principles are correctly applied, the brand stands out in the minds of the customers.
The Ten Commandments of Emotional Branding
Mark Gobé the founder, chairman, and CEO of Desgrippes Gobe, one of the world''s biggest image creation firms, in his book laid out these commandments, that can help businesses become successful at emotional branding
1. From Consumers → to People
It is essential for businesses to treat consumers with respect in order to establish a relationship and having an emotional bond. There must be a positive attitude that doesn’t treat consumers as customers but as people.
2. From Product → to Experience
Instead of selling products that people need, brands advertise their products as experiences that creates an emotional connection and this should not be missed. This creates a specific value that goes beyond money
3. From Honesty → to Trust
It creates trust between customers and companies. Once a customer trusts a brand completely, he/she would not change his/her preference.
4. From Quality → to Preference
Quality is obviously a significant factor when it comes to customer retention however when a personal connection is made with the consumer, the product might become the preferred one by the customer out of all the options that he/she has to choose. And this leads to the development of a loyal customer base.
5. From Notoriety → to Aspiration
Companies portray an image that makes the consumers aspire to live the lifestyle that is being shown to them. This urges them to change their lifestyle and choices leading to brand awareness and this is how branding builds with time.
6. From Identity → to Personality
The emotional branding strategy teaches an organization to develop its identity in order to have a lasting effect on users (target audience). Brand personalities form a charismatic attitude that would cause a positive emotional reaction to the brand.
7. From Function → to Feel
Similar to the point about the experience, emotional branding asks customers to enjoy the feel as much as the function of the product and services. The product experience is as essential as the use.
8. From Ubiquity → to Presence
It promotes brand presence as it also creates an impact on potential users, ensuring a permanent connection with people.
9. From Communication → to Dialogue
It allows companies to really understand what their costumers want by opening a dialogue. The relationship between the two is personal for each customer as thus so is the feedback.
10. From Service → to Relationship
It helps to establish a unique relationship with its loyal customers. Creating a passionate branding relationship with consumers is perhaps the critical factor, since a business wants to have a strong link with its customers and can develop an essential bond with its customers.
Emotional Branding – The Process
Using the principles mentioned so far, we can see how emotional branding takes place in business. There are many ways to go, but one that companies often use is attaching their identity with some values that are seen as virtuous in the society. For example, Walt Disney Studios is seen as a company that summarizes family values and childhood.
Another example could be how the famous billionaire, Vijay Mallya promoted his brand Kingfisher by talking of a lifestyle that could be depicted as the “Good Times”. These emotions were then further extended to his airline company where the slogan was “Fly the Good Times with Kingfisher”.
Another technique that brands often use is creating symbols or becoming symbols that convey a certain message. This message is often a part of a theme or a narrative that the brand encapsulates. For example, Ferrari uses a Stallion as the logo, an animal that represents speed, energy and power.
Provocative and rousing statements are another way of making essential statements by companies. Sometimes this could be affected by the political climate of the world. One of the most famous advertisements in the history of mankind, “I want to buy the world a Coke” showcased a valley with people belonging to different nations and cultures singing in harmony and sharing coca colas. This was a very effective campaign during the 1970s, an era during which the world was in great turmoil.
As for the aforementioned Aristotelian principles, there are various companies that follow them. Generating Ethos is a time taking process, but there are companies that have lasted for decades such as Dow Jones or Coca Cola which are well trusted by the public. As a matter of fact, The Hershey Co. established in 1894, did not run national advertisements in the US till 1969. They did not need to as they were the biggest chocolate company at the time. Various examples of Pathos being used as an advertisement tool have been used already. Another example perhaps would be how the brand Kodak advertises by inducing a sense of nostalgia in their customers. As for Logos, we have to make another example out of Apple Inc. which conveys the uses of its products with crystalline clarity. This is why iPhone outsell phones that are much more feature packed. Effective communication is of utmost importance.
Additional Emotional Branding Tips:
Try inspirational branding: Companies like GoPro and Redbull try promoting a specific kind of lifestyle that inspires people. Redbull hosts sporting and adventure activities making an emotional connection with people who aspire to be fitter and lead such lifestyles. Similarly, GoPro promotes a lifestyle filled with travel, with a focus on outdoor living, which is something that inspires people.
Be Aware of Societal Trends and Issues: Millennials and Gen Z customers are often involved in activities that help in solving issues such as climate change and discrimination. It is crucial to take up these values in order to help change society for the better while gaining more customers.
Celebrate: A brand that accompanies festivities is a brand that survives a long time. Which is why most companies have sales and offers during festive seasons such as Christmas or Diwali. Amazon does an excellent job of celebrating. It is also important to celebrate company milestones and thank customers for being a part of the journey to become a more welcoming and inclusive brand
Stay Trendy: Picking up trends and new language helps in connecting with a younger demographic. This is often seen in fashion brands as they keep the youth engaged with different trends and sayings.
Emotional branding is not just a tool but a necessity for marketing strategies and brand marketing to become a big brand. Since there is a multitude of options in the market, to make your brand stand out, it is absolutely vital to make the potential customer resonate with your theme/aesthetic/narrative to make the experience of your service more personal. Once it is a part of their personality or habit, the brand has experienced success.
You may want to read a book on emotional branding by marc gobé.