Emotional Connections in Branding

How your brand makes others feel and why it matters.

Diana Lillicrap 9.8.2017

You may think you make most decisions based on facts. You gather the data, analyze your options, and make an intelligent decision that is rational and reflective. But, the truth is, you don’t. Because human brains just don’t work that way.

We’re great at rationalizing our decisions with the facts we know, but at the start and end of it all, we are emotional creatures that make choices based on the emotional payoffs associated with the decision.

The Science Behind Decision-Making

There are many studies that dive into this issue, but one in particular is pretty compelling. Antonio Damasio, a Portuguese-American neuroscientist and professor of neuroscience at the University of Southern California, studied the brain of a patient who suffered from a damaged frontal lobe. In his book, “Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain,” Damasio describes how the patient’s lack of emotions resulted in an inability to make decisions. Even the simplest decisions, like what color pen to use or what to eat for lunch, were almost impossible tasks that required intense deliberation.

Damasio went on to study more cases and his discoveries, and dozens of subsequent studies by others, have led the neuroscience community to agree that emotions clearly drive our decision-making process. Effective marketers use this science every day.

Defining a Brand’s Emotional Essence

In working with clients to define their brand, we go through a process that gets at the core of what makes the brand unique, and more importantly, relevant and meaningful to customers. Why does a customer care about your widget or service? What’s in it for them? What value do you provide that they can’t get someplace else? Sometimes the answer to this question is discovered in the product or service being offered, but competitors quickly catch up, so that strategy is short-lived. More often, the answer lies in how the product, service, and/or company makes a person feel when they interact with it.

Proof That It Works

Let’s look at a couple of iconic brand examples like Apple and Google. Apple is able to command a significantly higher price for its products than its competitors because it has always marketed base on emotions. Using an Apple product makes you feel empowered, creative, and part of a certain lifestyle. Buying an iPhone instead of a less expensive but relatively equal product, is an emotional decision.

Google works the same way. They dominate the search engine market because it feels smart, fast, and simple to use. It’s why 5 of the top 10 most popular apps added to phones are provided by Google.

By the way these two brands have the top two spots on the list for overall brand value at $154.1 billion and $82.5 billion respectively, according to Forbes. So emotional branding obviously works as an effective marketing strategy that supports the bottom line of business.

Time to Get Emotional

Ready to get emotional about your brand, but not sure where to start? Check out our 5-step process to defining your brand essence. Then, answer this one big question: How does our brand make people feel? Once you figure that out, use it to drive your marketing decisions. And don’t be afraid to make those decisions based on your emotions—it’s human nature, after all.

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