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Emotional branding and meaningful relationships


5 minute read

Written by: Filip Felbar, Creative Director

A brand consists of two key values: the practical and the emotional. Usually, the practical value could be interpreted as how a brand is visually presented to its audience, which includes a myriad of communication - visual identity, packaging, web design, social media posts, advertisements, posters, merchandise, etc. These are based on a creative strategy and research. And it’s usually what businesses look for when they need to re-brand or create a new brand all together. 

But the second value of a brand, the emotional value is a bit more abstract than that, and a lot of companies tend to overlook this element.

Emotional branding is a term used within marketing communication that refers to the practice of building brands that appeal directly to a consumer's emotional state, needs and aspirations. (wikipedia definition)

Why should you care?

Building a stronger emotional connection with your audience is great for business.

The more connected a member of your tribe feels, the more inclined they are to not only choose your brand over competitors, but also recommend your brand to their friends. And those “fully connected” users/customers will build a greater value for your brand over time.

“We find that customers become more valuable at each step of a predictable “emotional connection pathway” as they transition from (1) being unconnected to (2) being highly satisfied to (3) perceiving brand differentiation to (4) being fully connected.

Although customers exhibit increasing connection at each step, their value increases dramatically when they reach the fourth step: Fully connected customers are 52% more valuable, on average, than those who are just highly satisfied. In fact, their relative value is striking across a variety of metrics, such as purchases and frequency of use.“ - Harvard Business Review

But, there’s also another important benefit for building an emotional connection with your audience. You’re building actual value for them. Going the extra mile to understand what your audience truly needs and communicating it in a unique way that resonates with them is why your tribe will care. It’s why they will wait longer for your new product or update. It’s why they’ll share news and posts by your brand without expecting anything in return. Feeling like you belong with something greater and unique is why we build brands and tribes in the first place.

Photo by Isaac Smith on Unsplash

Creating an emotional brand

Before deciding what the emotional value of a brand will be, we have to define the emotional states, needs and aspirations of our audience. How is this achieved?

Well, it can be a bit tricky and takes quite a bit of research. But thanks to analytics and research tools we can get a much better understanding of audiences and their emotional connections to brands.

“Companies in financial services, retail, health care, and technology are now using a detailed understanding of emotional connection to attract and retain the most valuable customers. The most sophisticated firms are making emotional connection part of a broad strategy that involves every function in the value chain, from product development and marketing to sales and service.” - Harvard Business Review

A key way to begin your process in creating an emotionally connected brand is to define the emotional motivators of your audience. There are “hundreds” of different emotional motivators so here are a few common motivators which I feel are also extremely important during the current COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Have confidence in the future
  • Enjoy a sense of well-being
  • Feel a sense of freedom
  • Feel secure 
Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

Unfortunately, emotional motivators are very difficult to define and measure since most consumers might not be aware of their true motivators. To get a more personalized overview of your tribe’s emotional motivators consider using some easier research approaches:

  • Reach out with your current communication channels. Ask your audience what they need and how you might be able to help them.
  • Create surveys to let your audience share what they believe to be key motivators. As I said, most people won’t be aware of the true motivators, but it’s also important to know what they think are the most important emotional motivators in their decision making.
  • A/B test your ideas. After you gather some initial research, try testing out those insights by building two versions of your new communication and seeing how your customers react to this change.

By gathering this information and audience feedback you can continue iterating and improving on your messaging. 

“The standard model for communication has three components: sender, message and receiver. The sender (your company) develops a message (web page, ad, brochure, etc.) and sends it to a receiver (your target audience). Communication complete.

What this model fails to recognize is that real-world communication is a dialog… When we solicit feedback from customers, the communication model has a fourth component... the communication continues as the receiver sends a message back. With every turn around the feedback loop, the communication gets stronger and more focused.” - Marty Neumeier, The Brand Gap

And this feedback loop we create is, in itself, a crucial part of your emotional connection with your audience. They are becoming a part of how their favorite brand is shaped. They will not only be fans of your brand, but they’ll feel as if they are a part of it.

Define your tone of voice and personality

Can you state your brands’ tone of voice in 3 words? Why is this important?

Properly defining a tone of voice and personality is the basis for how your brands’ emotional value will evolve. Gathering the insights from the research we’ve done and utilizing our audience personas, we’ll be able to define our brands’ personality. 

To make things easier, we reduce this personality down to 3 descriptive words that can inform our strategic, visual and communication decisions moving forward. 

Here’s an example. 

Klasik is defined as: 

  • Dedicated (I devote myself to creating only the best for me and my clients)
  • Light-hearted (I never take myself too seriously in my content or communication, but I don’t overdo it with the humor)
  • Daring (I take risks and break conventions where necessary, but I still retain a bit of a traditional touch)

These 3 adjectives help me whenever I'm creating anything new. If there’s ever something that feels “off” I compare it to my defined emotional values and see if this is something Klasik would do.

Although you should remember that times change and audience needs can shift. Take into consideration if your brand will have to alter its core emotional values at any point, but don’t change those too often.  

If you have any questions on how you can develop your emotional branding further you can reach out to me. With the COVID-19 situation still leaving a lot of businesses in uncertain waters I'd like to help by offering a free discovery session to help your brand if you’ve been affected by the pandemic.

Stay home, stay safe.


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