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Everything You Need to Know About Emotional Branding

Emotional branding is a new concept, but it has already proved to everyone that it is crucial for a company to stay afloat. Follow our guide to get its basics.

23 min read

Have you ever heard about emotional intelligence? Daniel Goleman, a respected American psychologist, has stated that the ability to control and evaluate emotions is essential for the success of every venture these days. This is not mere rhetoric: his theory has valid grounds.

According to surveys, 75% of the Fortune 500 companies use emotional intelligence training tools and approaches to increase overall performance, build a strong brand image, strengthen their position in the market, and amplify revenue. Other studies indicate that consumers expect companies to connect with them emotionally and prefer only those products that appeal to their inner state.

Indeed, the emotional constituent has become one of the main pillars of company development. It influences every aspect of it, and branding is no exception. The latter even emerged into its concept, called emotional branding. It has already carved a niche and become a secret weapon of every professional branding firm.

In this guide, we will look at the emotional branding and brand building process that establishes an emotional bond with the audience – and how you can create a brand personality and message that build emotional connections.

Emotional Branding Meaning

You might not have heard much about an emotionally powerful brand, but you see and experience it daily.

Do you remember Coca-Cola and their “Share a Coke” campaign? The team has shown names native to the country instead of using the iconic logo. This has encouraged people to post pictures to social media platforms with their personalized coke bottles generating lots of positive emotions and reactions. As a result, the company has boosted its revenue, leveled up its reputation, cemented its position in the market, and even extended its audience. This is an excellent example of emotional advertising and marketing.

There are many other examples out there. And each one proves that emotional branding establishes a strong bond with consumers, becoming a true facet of a customer journey. Therefore, it is crucial to understand its basics and get things right.

What Is Customer Emotion?

Customer emotion lies at the core of this concept. It depicts how a consumer feels about their experience with the brand. It ranges from negative to positive, including adoration, appreciation, ambivalence, agitation, anger, belonging, euphoria, familiarity, gratitude, happiness, interest, inspiration, joy, optimism, relief, serenity, surprise, satisfaction, and many more. It can be combined with dozens of other human emotions, characteristics, and attributes. One or united, it brings emotional value to the customers and forwards the company’s development.

A recent study of emotional branding shows that well-selected emotions may inspire long-term loyalty to a business, drive positive engagement, and influence the decision-making process. Actually, it can do much more than that, becoming of enormous importance and a top priority for marketing strategies these days.

Emotional branding and advertising | Image by Marcus Herzberg

Importance of Emotional Branding

Humanizing a company by adding personal traits and creating designs and content that build an emotional connection is vital for many weighty reasons.

First and foremost, the brand goes beyond design or customer experience. It is a sum of many factors: the company’s images, customer service, customer interactions across numerous channels, and most importantly, the promise you make. This commitment to the consumers is the heart of brand identity that instills an emotional touch in every aspect of brand communication, making a specific range of emotions an essential part of the company’s presentations.

Second, from the logo and typography to the slogan to email campaigns and messages that the company sends through social media, the brand is perceived with a specific range of emotions because they are part of the reactions that human beings produce during their interactions.

Third, people are attracted to brands with a soul. This means that not only unique identity and personified traits but also a range of emotions that a company generates through content and compelling storytelling experience matter to them.

Fourth, customers always remember how their brand experience made them feel. They will stick to the company if these feelings are satisfactory due to an excellent end-to-end experience that causes positive emotions. Otherwise, they will leave and never return because negative emotions will be stuck in their minds.

Fifth, products are no longer differentiated by only tangible values. The market is oversaturated, and competition is intense. Emotions navigate consumers through the market and help them decide what they want.

Sixth, emotions, negative or positive, always steal a portion of a customer’s limited attention; attention equals money when played right.

Seventh, connecting with customers through emotions builds brand “intimacy” that makes the company closer to customers, relationships more reciprocal, and emotional attachment to the product stronger.

Eighth, the brand’s reputation largely depends on users’ emotional reactions. The more positive emotions they experience, the stronger reputation will be.

Ninth, the emotional branding strategy is one of few tools that effectively enriches the brand story and leaves a long-lasting impression.

Lastly, creating a sensory branding that is emotionally connected with clients is of immense importance these days. Not only because of these reasons but also because you cannot avoid emotions. It is a huge misconception that a cold digital environment full of robotized units and coded software is deprived of emotions. As long as humans are involved in interactions, emotions will be a part of this world, and you need to deal with that.

Therefore, it is highly recommended to learn how to control them. More so, the correct gamut of emotions may readily support the company’s ideology, give a product a fighting chance to stay afloat, and forward the company in the cutthroat environment. That is not all; it offers some more substantial benefits.

Benefits of Emotional Branding

As we have already pointed out, emotional branding that capitalizes on emotional marketing is crucial for a company these days. It helps stay afloat, move along the pace, and meet the audience’s needs and expectations. However, a matter of survival in keen competition is not the only thing why it is highly recommended to establish a powerful emotional connection people strive for. As we have already noted, it comes with numerous benefits. For instance, it:

  • Makes your company stand out from the crowd.
  • Offers ways for connecting brands under one corporate umbrella.
  • Establishes genuine and personified connections making interactions across multiple channels authentic and original.
  • Promotes mutual understanding that leads to respect for core values and expands consensus and common interests.
  • Expresses the corporate culture and becomes essential to the customer’s lifestyle.
  • Ensures emotional security and safety that increase trust and encourage customers to explore the platform and company deeply.
  • Amplifies trustworthiness and provides the foundation for cohesion.
  • Ensures a solid background and numerous insights for creating better-targeted marketing campaigns.
  • Avoids brand dilution.
  • Keeps the company’s uniqueness intact.
  • Speaks to Millennials and Gen Zeros – two main types of audience that occupy the largest market share.
  • Turns the brand into a local cultural center that stays stable despite fluctuations in the market.
  • Ensures the right partnership and communication and helps the company to make proper decisions when the time to expand the market and sphere of influence comes.
  • Helps people decide with their hearts rather than minds. This means that sometimes even the most unprecedented conditions can be met because customers are willing to associate with the emotional dream.
  • Cements emotional connections that improve business outcomes.
  • Improves engagement across channels.
  • Generates interest and wins over new market segments and areas.
  • Causes empathy that fuels effective collaboration, boosts productivity, improves cultural competence, and elevates customer satisfaction.
  • Increases referrals.
  • Makes retention campaigns more effective.
  • Escalates brand awareness and value.
  • Increases a customer’s lifetime value.
  • Perfects product design.
  • Builds a strong reputation.

The benefits of the emotional brand are mostly unconscious and intangible. However, they are attached to specific elements such as marketing, strategy, brand management, and ROI.

For instance, emotional benefits are tightly linked to the price. If customers experience positive emotions toward your company, they are willing to pay more or wait for the product to return on the shelves regardless of its cost. Another good example is that strong emotional bonds make retention campaigns work better; retention is much cheaper than acquisition of new clients.

In a word, benefits can be easily translated into revenue.

Emotional marketing used in visual representation | Image by Artem Beliaikin

Cons of Emotional Branding

Along with considering the benefits of adopting emotional brand marketing, it is crucial to understand its disadvantages because they erect substantial obstacles on your path to success. For instance, a poorly conducted emotional marketing campaign may lead to wrong communication with target groups, causing misunderstanding and frustration. This may nullify all efforts and generate dissatisfied customers who leave negative reviews and ruin a hardly-earned reputation

Here is a list of the most common cons.

  • It may interdict with the brand’s prime mission, value, and vision, causing confusion.
  • It may require a campaign and customer experience that will adapt to a wide range of emotions.
  • It may require additional marketing, email, and social media campaigns for adaptation.
  • It may cause issues related to emotions that need to be addressed in time.
  • It may require additional forces and extra training for the support team.
  • It may be ruined by numerous outside factors.
  • It may require significant rebranding.
  • It may scare away loyal customers.
  • It may cause problems with investors and partners who might not share the same views.
  • It may cost lots of money.

Last but not least

When deciding on emotional branding, weighing all pros and cons and finding ways to overcome disadvantages are crucial. Do not take this process lightly. It requires vast undertakings. Always have a plan “B” and examine alternatives. For instance, consider adopting neuromarketing. This market research technique eliminates bias, increases the probability of triggering the correct gamut of emotions, and measures the emotional response to help the company use advertising that resonates with the audience the best.

Steps to Create an Emotional Brand

Emotional branding does not happen on its own. It is a crucial part of branding strategy that brings emotional value to the target audience across various channels throughout the company’s life. This process can be different for a local shop, digital startup, and huge well-established organization; however, this 10-step routine underlies everything.

Step 1 – Stuff Up With Proper Knowledge

Three theories might help you to master emotional branding.

The first one is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It offers a classification of emotional motivations caused by biological and social needs. In a nutshell, people first prioritize physiological safety, then they work their way up the pyramid to meet their emotional needs like esteem and self-actualization.

Your task is to narrow down which emotional appeals to target and use in your advertisement, considering where your value proposition fits within the pyramid.

The second theory is a set of eight hidden needs that consumers have formed by Vance Packard. They are:

Emotional security; Sense of roots; Ego-gratification; Love objects; Sense of power; Creative outlets; Reassurance of worth; Immortality.

Your task is to determine hidden needs relevant to a particular target group and meet them.

The third theory is Marc Gobé’s commandments for building brands that perfectly fit today’s emotionally charged social and economic climate. Here they are, in short:

  • Customers must feel that a brand respects them and treats them as individuals.
  • The product must meet customers’ hopes and desires.
  • The product must fit the customer’s lifestyle.
  • The product must embody an emotional experience and the meaning of a customer’s particular aesthetic.
  • The company should inspire loyalty, trust, and likability.
  • The company should always know the preferences of their target group that change all the time.
  • The company should build emotional connections by fulfilling customers’ needs and desires by improving their lives with products and customer service.
  • The company must have ethical and moral values to provide a clear image and transparency in relationships.
  • The company must connect with cultural preferences.
  • The company must improve products and interactions based on criticism and suggestions provided by consumers.
  • The company must address issues as fast as possible.
  • The company must be flexible to slot into customer lifestyles without sacrificing its consistency, reputation, mission, and values.
  • The company must hold an interactive dialog between the customer and the brand by capitalizing on feedback, social proof, and accessibility.
  • Company and product must be present in places, including digital spaces where its target audience hangs out.

Your task is to adopt these postulates and make the most out of them.

It is important to note that these theories make it evident that emotional branding explores not just one side but both sides. Therefore, it is crucial to consider it from two standpoints when creating strategies and marketing campaigns.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs | Image by Simply Psychology

Step 2 – Cover the Basics

To ensure consumer empowerment, it is crucial to perfect the basics of emotional branding, marketing, and advertising. At a minimum, this means you need to get the hang of

  • Impact of brand’s values, mission, and vision on the company’s development.
  • Visual representation of brand identity.
  • The psychology behind emotions.
  • Color psychology.
  • Neuroscience.

On top of that, you need to get your hands on analytical platforms and tracking software that provide insights into customers’ behavior and emotional response to specific actions, images, advertising, content, and campaigns.

Step 3 – Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is crucial to branding, marketing, advertising, and many other spheres. A thorough understanding of customers’ preferences, needs, desires, expectations, and most importantly, behavior patterns and emotional responses to specific actions is a must-have for building an emotional brand.

Therefore, along with conducting basic research on a target audience, you need to do some serious investigation to define these crucial aspects and factors:

  • the motivation behind customers purchasing from your brand;
  • consumers’ general desires, dreams, needs, and pain points;
  • customers’ values and beliefs as well as likes and dislikes;
  • issues that customers encounter during their journey;
  • content both textual and graphical customers respond to best.

Step 4 – Embrace the Power of Color and Visuals

Color psychology is a powerful instrument. It is widely used in developing visual identity to correlate with brand values. However, it is also used to evoke certain emotions because each color has meaning. For instance, red is associated with determination and hunger, whereas green instills a sense of harmony and safety.

As for visuals, logos, fonts, images, illustrations, icons, and typefaces – all of them influence the perception of the brand and sparkle off specific emotional reactions because they also have hidden meanings that people understand on a subconscious level. Remember, the picture is worth a thousand words and covers the whole gamut of emotions.

The psychology of color | Image by the Logo Company

Step 5 – Create Powerful Storytelling

Creating the right storytelling experience is a surefire way to evoke emotions and inspiration in prospects and customers. It is easily relatable and shareable; therefore, you can reach a large audience. It simplifies the message, makes the brand closer to the audience, and turns experience and interactions with the company, service, and platform into a memorable pastime. The best part is that every element of your brand have a story to tell: from company to product information to logotype. Therefore, you will always have ideas to explore.

Step 6 – Build Hyper-Personalized Experience

Hyper-personalization is one of the main pillars of emotional branding. It manifests itself through these aspects:

  • Customized interactions through multiple channels.
  • Personalized content tailored to customers’ needs.
  • Personalized visuals and graphics.
  • Utilization of language that your audience prefers.

To enforce hyper-personalization, it is highly recommended to analyze all available aspects of customer’s behavior, interest, and experience with the platform or product, such as search history, viewing data, user ratings, time, date, and device data.

Step 7 – Elicit Emotions that People Want to Feel

The key feature of emotional marketing is that it explains how a product can solve a pressing problem. Depending on the current needs of the target audience, it uses tools to convince consumers that the product is the right solution that will make them feel great. It creates an ideal image or introduces heroes to elicit emotions people want to feel, thereby striking the right note and meeting consumers’ needs and expectations.

Step 8 – Contribute to the Noble Cause

Recent studies showed that consumers are more likely to purchase from the brand and stay with it in challenging moments when it is purpose-driven and has a noble cause.

You should have already noticed this tendency. Every respected brand runs at least one advertisement where it demonstrates its invaluable contribution to the community, like avoiding unsustainable materials, using green energy, or keeping nature safe and sound.

Adopt the same approach to strengthen emotional bonds in your relationships with consumers.

Step 9 – Start Your Community

People want to be a part of something big and grandiose. It is in our nature. Feelings of camaraderie and acceptance are time-proven ways to create excitement and a sense of loyalty to your brand.

By establishing a movement or community around your brand or a noble cause that you pursue, you can tap into different psychological triggers that either way leads to loyalty, trustworthiness, and a feeling of belonging.

Community | Image by Matheus Bertelli

Step 10 – Undertake the Primary Stages of Emotional Branding

Building emotional branding implies going through several preliminary stages:

  • Capture the attention of prospects and clients.
  • Make interactions with the target audience positive and consistent across all channels.
  • Start healthy and transparent relationships with prospects.
  • Persuade first-time customers to make the purchase.
  • Encourage purchase from loyal customers.
  • Build customer loyalty.
  • Maximize rewards programs and retention campaigns.
  • Integrate your brand into customers’ lives.

Last but not least, the routine of building emotional branding shows that the company should center its efforts around these two primary goals: meeting customers’ needs, desires, and expectations and keeping customers connected by bringing value that generates the correct gamut of emotions.

Tips and Best Practices for Creating Emotional Branding

Along with following the stated above 10-step routine, it is also highly recommended to adopt these best practices and tips:

  • Appeal to credibility and ethics. You may quote experts in a field, share testimonials from customers, reveal case studies, and cite sources that amplify the trustworthiness and reliability of the brand and product.
  • Appeal to empathy. You may create a sense of urgency, play on a fear of missing out, capitalize on a sense of belonging, or make the prospect feel unique.
  • Appeal to logic. Show your audience what your product can do for them by listing its features and connecting emotions with reasoning.
  • Increase your persuasive prowess by analyzing behavioral statistics done by marketing platforms.
  • Use neuroscience as a supporting contributor to emotional marketing. Predict or measure the emotional response to advertising and avoid questions humans cannot accurately answer.
  • Adapt brand awareness strategies to improve relationships with consumers.
  • Approach branding from a scientific perspective. Although visual and performing arts provide numerous benefits, still eye-tracking, facial coding, and EEG offer information that is much useful for analyzing a person’s reaction and behavior.
  • Anticipate what your customers need and want by improving the customer experience.
  • Invest in customer relationship management to provide an experience that meets and exceeds customer expectations.
  • Create real stories to stay authentic.
  • Deliver on promises to increase customers’ trust and elicit positive emotional associations with the brand.
  • Create customer loyalty programs that reward the company’s evangelists over time.
  • Show prospects that you care and appreciate your customers.
  • Produce heart-warming content that displays the sentiments of altruism and care wrapped up as part of the brand message.
  • Perfect the art of appealing to its demographic by creating campaigns tailored to a specific region and target group.
  • Provide emotions through well-thought-out visuals.
  • Channel desires into visual ads to capture an audience’s interest.
  • Personalize customer support across all distribution channels.
  • Last but not least, do not overdo it. Do not make the consumers feel like their emotions are being manipulated. Fear of “Hidden Persuaders” is real and might significantly impact the decision-making process and, ipso facto, overall campaign success.
Segmentstream – software for analyzing digital marketing performance

The Biggest Obstacles to Create Emotional Branding

Before adopting a 10-step routine and polishing it with the best practices featured above, it is crucial to know what obstacles and pitfalls are awaiting you. Consider the two biggest stumbling blocks companies should overcome to enjoy the benefits of an emotional brand.

No Specific Tools to Measure Emotional Response

The first big obstacle is that there are no specific tools for measuring the emotional response to advertising. At a minimum, this means it is hard to define what works and what does not. At maximum, you may feel lost all the time and spend your precious budget in vain.

However, there is a solution. Since emotions directly affect marketing aspects such as engagement, loyalty, conversions, and even ROI, you may use analyzing platforms and programs, tracking devices, segmentation, and A/B tests to determine what campaigns succeeded. This information helps define what strategy works and increases the probability of triggering the right emotion in a particular group of customers.

Hard to Determine the Finale Emotional Response

The second big challenge is that it is hard to determine the emotional and physiological responses at the end. You cannot be 100% sure that your advertising campaign will bring joy to every single person in your target group.

The reason for that is simple. The human nervous system is complex and nuanced. It is difficult for people to describe how they feel verbally, even without any influence at all. Just consider studies that showed that over 95% of respondents said that when the purchase is made, they could not describe their emotional motivators because the decision has been made subconsciously.

This is mainly because emotional and verbal communication resides in different parts of the brain, and the dynamics behind customer emotions are intricate.

To make matters worse, the emotional response varies and largely depends on the human profile, demographics, culture, and individual world. It may also depend on social conventions, social rules, emotional contagion, self-awareness, stress, environmental factors, relationships, and even the current state of physical health. Therefore, what might work for one brand, might not work for another.

The solution to this problem lies in conducting thorough research to get a deep understanding of the audience that should be used for highly granular segmentation. This will increase the chances of triggering the necessary gamut of emotions and achieving what is right for your brand.

Emotional Branding Examples

Emotional branding works and many successful companies know that by having capitalized on this concept for many years. Let us consider several prime examples.

1. Coca-Cola – Be Authentic

People have always been attracted to authenticity, stability, and persistence in the brand’s tone and voice because they can relate to such companies and rely on them in drastic times. And Coca-Cola is perfectly aware of that.

The company promotes its deep-seated identity that has been around us for 100 years and simultaneously appeals to the most generic human desire – to be happy – all the time.

Their theme of spreading happiness to the world can be seen everywhere. It is central in marketing campaigns, advertising, design, interactions, customer support, and user experience in digital expanses. This ideology is simple, but it works, resonating with people across various generations and paying back significantly.

Image by Hanbo Wang

2. Nike’s ‘Just Do It’

Featuring elite athletes and emotional stories of how sportspeople have made sacrifices to get to the top, Nike is famous for its emotional marketing. Among its wide variety of campaigns, “Just Do It” stands out from the crowd.

Launched in 1988, it has turned the North American domestic sport-shoe business into the world’s highest-profile athletic brand. What is the secret? It lies in evoking the suitable gamut of emotions and meeting the most common desire among humans – to stay healthy.

The campaign encourages consumers to improve their lives through sports made in style. It inspires positive feelings and leaves a long-lasting impression, building strong relationships with the product and company.

Image by Samar Mishra

3. Apple’s Keynotes

We could not help by including Apple in our list because keynotes done by Steve Jobs are the most representative examples of emotional branding. His introduction of the iPhone 1 in the MacWorld keynote in 2007 still rings emotions in our hearts.

Apple is the perfect example of a company that has been capitalizing on emotional branding and marketing for decades. The team utilizes emotions to connect with consumers and build strong brand loyalty over time. They play on human’s desire to become part of a lifestyle movement and technology revolution and meet the needs of creating a comfortable environment to exist.

Steve Jobs exemplified this brilliantly and set a precedent for these events providing the company with a solid foundation to maximize this approach.

WWDC 2022 Apple

4. World Wildlife Fund – “For Nature”

Emotional marketing is not limited only by positive emotions. Sometimes negative emotions can do the same job. Many brands have already noted how effective they could be.

For instance, consumers often experience fear that pushes them to buy a product without hesitation when retailers introduce time-sensitive discounts. In marketing, this strategy is known as “fear of missing out,” which is the leading influencer in the decision-making process.

Fear pushes people to act fast; however, it also makes people investigate areas carefully and think more seriously about the issue. World Wildlife Fund is one of those that employ this negative emotion to reach its goals. It successfully raises awareness of burning issues and, at the same time, strengthens its reputation and builds a loyal community by causing empathy among people who want to make the world a better place.

Image by WWF

5. Netflix – “See What’s Next”

Sometimes, emotional branding is a hidden, driven force that empowers interactions with products and evokes a range of emotions that bring substantial benefits to the company, like building trust or expanding the market share. Netflix is a case in point.

The biggest streaming platform lacks emotional storytelling or a campaign supporting a noble cause. Nevertheless, people are emotionally attached to it. Why? Simple. Netflix creates a comfortable environment for users showing its care for their needs, desires, and preferences.

The platform provides a hyper-personalized experience to its consumers across all levels. They use different tools to analyze users’ interactions and behavior, such as search history, ratings, date, and device data. As a result, every person faces a unique homepage filled with recommendations that appeal to their preferences and current interests. Who does not like that?

Image by Netflix

Conclusion

Branding is a multidimensional process that is fundamental for every company’s development. It consists of many ingredients, among which emotional constituent occupies the top priority. The reason for such importance lies in the fact that nowadays, consumers base their decisions on an emotional connection to the brand rather than logic.

Plus, when done right, emotional branding offers a range of benefits. For instance, it is successfully used to forge deeper customer relationships, develop loyalty, inspire trust, improve interactions, increase retention rate, drive engagement, build a fan base, generate extra revenue, and prolong the life of the company and product.

However, building an emotional brand and harnessing the power of customer emotion is a true challenge. The deal is that people are not always masters of their feelings and desires. On top of that, a poorly done campaign brings negative emotions that cause some huge problems like losing money or ruining your reputation.

To avoid drastic outcomes, it is highly recommended to follow a time-tested 10-step routine, adopt the best practices, and keep abreast of things to create campaigns that meet consumers’ current needs, desires and expectations and produce emotions that people want to feel.