Guiding potential customers to a buying decision requires more than solid arguments. In order to win consumers' favor in the long term, they have to be approached rather on an emotional than a rational level. Enter emotional branding.
The human brain has fascinated scientists from various disciplines. Marketers have a keen interest in the workings of our gray matter as well. After all, this is where we make decisions, including whether we want to buy something or not. The brain is also the location from which decisions based on “gut feeling” originate.
Neuroscientists have found out that decisions are less conscious than we think and rather “happen” in our subconsciousness. Solid arguments however do not give access to the unconscious, emotions do. Businesses that emotionalize decision making processes consequently have better chances at success than competitors appealing to the rationale of their potential customers.
New Insights, New Opportunities
The insight that unconscious emotions have a substantial effect on decisions has made old marketing and advertising models obsolete. This includes the AIDA model (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) that claims that the desired effect (people buying a product) requires attention. However, recent research indicates that adverting can also be effective when it does not get consumers' full attention. Conscious attention is not required for a brand to have a lasting impression. Strong brands manage to appeal to consumers' subconsciousness through sensory perceptions, learning processes and emotions.
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Consumers often have difficulties explaining their buying decisions retroactively. Even though they will usually try to rationalize their decision (e.g. via pricing), they still have trouble putting in words what has really moved them to make the purchase. This is exactly where emotional branding shows its effects. It is about building a brand that appeals to customers' emotional life. Emotional branding is successful, when it triggers an emotional reaction in the consumer, which is usually the desire for the advertised product. Emotional brands have a long-term effect that manifests in a lasting relationship between customer and brand that resembles camaraderie or friendship. The brand becomes a part of customers' lifestyles, it becomes a trustworthy partner. Achieving this effect takes long wind.
The patience brands need to have to do successful emotional branding pays off in the end: “the winner takes all!”-principle says that once a brand manages to successfully emotionalize their customers' buying decisions, they will be their only brand of choice. The competition will hardly have a chance to claim those customers for themselves.
3 Ways to Spark Passion for a Brand
Emotional branding differs from brand identity the same way that identity differs from personality. While the brand identity describes a set of clearly identifiable characteristics, emotional branding takes more abstract forms. That is to say that emotional branding is not done through design or typography. The task is to attach a set of ideological values to the brand. What does the brand represent (e.g. vitality, individuality, love, happiness etc.)? Does the brand represent the desires of its customers?
Consider that a specific deodorant does not only sell a scent. It also sells something else: a promise. Depending on the desired target group, a deodorant brand may represent hedonism, adventure and seduction and therefore appeal to customers who wish to lead an exciting life of sexual conquest. A beer brand could position itself in such a way that it comes to stand for friendship and community and therefore reflects its customers' desire for connectedness and a satisfying social life.
There are three established techniques to achieve this:
1. Attach ideological values to the brand: this can be very time consuming and complex, but it is very effective when given the time. This technique requires detailed research on the target group to learn about the values and ideas that will trigger an emotional reaction in them. A series of themes, symbols and stories that are used throughout the outbound communication of the brand will achieve the desired effect after a while.
2. Literal statements: A literal statement attaches an emotional value to the brand and is repeated over and over again, for example: “Beer brand X means togetherness”.
3. Trigger immediate emotional reactions: This method is used in advertisements a lot. When a business tries to sell happiness with its product, it should show images that represent happiness accompanied by music that triggers this emotion as well (sensory perception).
It is important to keep in mind that emotional branding takes time. One advertisement will not be effective in the long term. After all, Apple did not become the brand of choice for affluent, urban people with a strong focus on design over night. Not only time matters a great deal here. Continuity and stringency are key as well. All communication channels should be consistent in the emotions they evoke. Contradictions can render all your efforts pointless. Businesses using a great variety of channels should therefore consider using marketing automation software to mange their marketing activities centrally.
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