Our subconscious mind is ruled by our emotions. Although we can reign our emotions back in more reliably than other reactions (such as the fight-or-flight response) many of our responses are directed by emotion.
Psychologists argue about what motivates us and how these motivations dictate human behavior. Many believe our wants are only explored when our basic needs have been satisfied. Some people believe every “want” can be traced back to a fundamental need.
In this article, we discuss emotional branding and how it can motivate brand advocacy. We also cover how it can be implemented and examples of brands successfully building on the emotions of customers.
What is Emotional Branding?
Emotional branding is a strategy for businesses to connect with their customers on a personal level, through a heartfelt connection. A successful emotional branding strategy is one where a wide range of customers associate and align with the brand’s mission or vision.
Building a brand via emotional appeal is very similar to crafting a great story. Any successful narrative has the three modes of persuasion including ethos, the appeal to authority, logos, the appeal to logic, and pathos, the appeal to emotion.
Including these appeals in your branding strategy can lead to more than customer acquisition, it can lead to advocate-acquisition.
Emotional Brand Ambassadors and Advocates
A true brand advocate will represent your mission every chance they get. Kevin Kelly, the co-founder of Wired is a proponent of finding 1,000 true fans of any business venture. These fans are those who will buy anything you produce or release into the world. They have enough emotional connection to your work and conviction in your brand that they will pre-order products sight-unseen.
Brands often have the best chance of reaching customers on an emotional level through a campaign or mission that aligns with the customer’s values. Let’s consider an example from Airbnb.
In the midst of a political diatribe against immigration in the United States, Airbnb took a stance that certainly contributed to the overall emotions associated with their brand. Using the Statue of Liberty, a landmark of freedom and liberty, Airbnb put out a minimal and subtle campaign about our progression as a country.
Using the Statue of Liberty in their campaign adds a deep layer of emotional symbolism to millions of Americans. For those Americans who understand the role that immigration played in our country’s foundations and evolution, will surely support Airbnb’s stance on this political issue.
Hierarchy of Emotional Branding
Abraham Maslow, the psychologist most known for his hierarchy of human needs, is one of the most prominent figures in the theory of what motivates us.
In his pyramid, the foundation of physiological needs must first be met. This includes food, water, and shelter. Without these needs being met, no further progress up the pyramid can be made. The next level up the pyramid is safety, followed by the need to belong, self-esteem, and finally, self-actualization.
Appealing to each level of Maslow’s hierarchy can contribute to a full emotional branding strategy. Let’s consider Apple’s emotional branding strategy over the years. First is their infamous “1984” commercial based on the dystopian book by George Orwell. A repressed culture that cannot break free of the physiological oppression is overthrown by a revolutionary, in this case, Apple.
Apple’s advertising campaigns over the years progress up the pyramid and in a sense culminate with the “Think Different” campaign.
Emotional Branding Example: Always
The feminine product brand Always came out with a campaign to improve the mental association with the phrase, “like a girl.” They interviewed dozens of people, both male and female, asking them to simulate what it looks like to run and throw like a girl.
Most everyone can relate to having a negative bias to this phrase. This is why a strong belief in changing the status quo or cultural norms associated with being a woman, brings deep emotion to this campaign.
Their tagline “rewrite the rules” also empowers everyone to think about societal norms as works in progress and widespread cultural problems as solvable.
Today, it’s likely that this campaign influenced many people to associate the Always brand as a source for positive social change and likely stands out to many people as a brand they connect with emotionally.
Benefits of Emotional Branding
Deciding whether your branding strategy should be built on the cut and dry, straightforward approach many businesses take, you must consider the benefits of evoking a sense of emotion, personalization, and humanization.
1. Differentiation from your competitors is one benefit emotional branding can have as most businesses approach branding as an afterthought, and fail to include a human touch. Having a fun and playful color palette, include real people in your campaign, and other strategies can help differentiate you from the competition.
2. Establish brand loyalty through more personalized and human interactions with each and every customer. It can feel daunting to show each customer a sense of narrow focus, but if you do customers are three times more likely to purchase from you.
3. Build brand recognition when your ads have evoked an emotional appeal, customers will be far more likely to recall your brand when thinking of your industry and looking to make a purchase.
Getting Emotional Branding Right
If your brand gets the emotion part right, your customers will likely blossom into ambassadors for your business and boost the metrics that matter to your business.
As you build upon or pivot your branding strategy to include more emotion and appeal to human needs, consider implementing some of the tips and studying the examples of emotional branding in the infographic below from CleverTap.