Emotional Branding is the Only Way

How brands have changed over the past decades has been driven with the idea that, “You are not selling a product, but rather a feeling”.

Customers define themselves by the brands they buy, clothes they wear, items they consume, cars they drive and more.  It’s never the product, but rather that identification that sells.

Non-Profits and Charities have leveraged this type of emotional marketing for their brands within their storytelling for years.  This is because they are able to put a face/character directly in front of an audience and immediately trigger the desired response.

fMRI neuro-imagery shows that when evaluating brands, consumers primarily use emotions (personal feelings and experiences) rather than information (brand attributes, features, and facts).  Psychology Today

Some great emotional concepts:

  • Harley Davidson = Freedom (and the Open Road)
  • Marlboro = Individuality – a transition from a “lady cigarette” to a mans with The Marlboro Man and connecting to kids wanting to break free from their parents
  • Nike = Hero (or underdog)
  • Guinness = Friendship
  • De Beers = Forever (A Diamond is Forever)
  • Google Chrome = Empathy & Education

Another great concept was with the West Jet Christmas Miracle.  WestJet Airlines pulled on heartstrings with a video of Santa distributing Christmas gifts to 250 unsuspecting passengers. The Canadian airline expected around 800k views but have now exceeded 40 million views.  Here is that spot:


When I am looking to hire creative marketers I often push them toward telling me a story.  It could be anything, just to see what they can develop.  Being able to successfully tell a story is the most important aspect in marketing.  If you can not do it in its simplest form then you will have a difficult time in being successful in getting your message across in advertising.

To create a great story use real words that your audience can connect to.  Make them want to be a part of your story and see themselves in the story.  Being able to make your consumers associate with your brand has been proven to trigger the emotion of “likability”  to increase customer acquisition and lifetime value.

True Emotion vs. Auto Emotion

Brands must leverage both a visceral reflex of the brain to achieve an instinctive behavior but also a true emotion through a well developed story.  Consumers do not have a Pavlovian response to advertising – yet leveraging auto emotion through instinctive behaviors can assist in gaining true emotion.  Here is an example how this works with empathy, understanding & education – Google Chrome “What is a Browser?”

Emotional Disconnect

Equally as important as the advertisers message is the context in which it is consumed.  The environment of when and where it is recieved.  Researchers at New York’s Columbia Business School say brands may actually be hurting the effectiveness of their ads.  “The creation of ad content is so separated from the decision of where it’s actually going to be run,” states Keith Wilcox, a marketing professor at Columbia to BrandChannel.

Emotional Branding is all in the storytelling.  Exceptional storytelling involves concepts, actions and emotions but also has a great ending.  As marketers we need to leave our audience with that powerful emotion.  Consider these thoughts in developing your strategies.

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