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8 min read

Emotional Branding: How Brands Win Hearts and Minds

Key Takeaways

  • All effective emotional branding starts by asking questions about your audience.
  • Telling stories about the struggles your customers go through is a powerful way to tap into their emotions.
  • Social responsibility is a significant issue, and customers are looking to brands to advocate for marginalised voices and global problems.

Emo­tion­al brand­ing is a dis­tinct part of mar­ket­ing in its own right. Rather than push­ing prod­uct fea­tures or spec­i­fi­ca­tions, emo­tion­al brand­ing focus­es on res­onat­ing with con­sumers at a deep­er, more per­son­al lev­el. This type of mar­ket­ing can help brands stand out in com­pet­i­tive mar­kets, but it’s an art that needs to be perfected.

Read on as we delve into how you can lever­age its pow­er to win the hearts and minds of customers.

Understanding emotional branding

Emo­tion­al brand­ing isn’t about sell­ing products—it’s about sell­ing dreams, expe­ri­ences, and a sense of belonging.

It’s a strat­e­gy that puts the con­sumer at the cen­tre, treat­ing them not just as peo­ple with mon­ey to spend but as indi­vid­u­als with unique emo­tions, val­ues, and sto­ries. Brands that excel in emo­tion­al brand­ing don’t just pro­vide a ser­vice or a prod­uct. They offer an emo­tion­al expe­ri­ence, tell a sto­ry, and become an inte­gral part of the con­sumer’s own narrative.

The psychology behind emotional branding

Emo­tions, not log­ic, often dic­tate pur­chas­ing deci­sions, and by tap­ping into these emo­tions, brands can build stronger, more endur­ing con­nec­tions with their audi­ences. The sci­ence is clear: emo­tion­al respons­es to adver­tis­ing have a much greater influ­ence on intent to buy.

The field of neu­ro­mar­ket­ing has shed sig­nif­i­cant light on this phe­nom­e­non. It uses neu­ro­science to under­stand con­sumer behaviour:

Stud­ies using fMRIs have revealed that when con­sumers eval­u­ate brands, they pri­mar­i­ly use parts of their brains that process emo­tions, per­son­al feel­ings, and expe­ri­ences rather than parts that process infor­ma­tion about the brand’s attrib­ut­es and features.

Emo­tions are also crit­i­cal for mem­o­ry for­ma­tion. Accord­ing to the Peak-End Rule, peo­ple tend to remem­ber the most intense (peak) point and the end of an expe­ri­ence more vivid­ly than the rest of it. By elic­it­ing strong emo­tions dur­ing con­sumer inter­ac­tions, brands can make their prod­ucts more memorable.

In essence, the effec­tive­ness of emo­tion­al brand­ing is under­pinned by our emo­tion­al, often sub­con­scious, respons­es. Whether it’s the instinc­tive desire for plea­sure or the emo­tion­al com­po­nent of our mem­o­ries, under­stand­ing these psy­cho­log­i­cal process­es can help brands build deep­er, more mean­ing­ful con­nec­tions with their consumers.

By speak­ing to the hearts of the audi­ence, brands can inspire loy­al­ty and affec­tion that tran­scends the typ­i­cal cus­tomer-busi­ness relationship.

The role of colour in emotional branding

As well as reach­ing the emo­tion­al parts of our brains, emo­tion­al brand­ing can also lever­age our con­cepts of colour to influ­ence our responses.

Each colour can evoke a par­tic­u­lar set of feel­ings and emo­tions in the view­er, mak­ing the selec­tion of brand colours a crit­i­cal deci­sion in your brand­ing strat­e­gy. It is one of the first ele­ments con­sumers notice about a brand, and it plays a sig­nif­i­cant role in their per­cep­tion and mem­o­ry of the brand’s offering.

  • Red, for exam­ple, is a high-ener­gy colour that can invoke feel­ings of pas­sion, excite­ment, and urgency. It’s fre­quent­ly used by brands want­i­ng to make a bold state­ment or pro­voke an imme­di­ate response, such as Coca-Cola or Netflix.
  • Blue, on the oth­er hand, is often asso­ci­at­ed with calm­ness, trust, and sta­bil­i­ty. Brands like Face­book and LinkedIn use blue to con­vey a sense of reli­a­bil­i­ty and professionalism.
  • Green is typ­i­cal­ly asso­ci­at­ed with nature, growth, and health, mak­ing it an ide­al choice for brands in the envi­ron­men­tal or well­ness sec­tors, such as Whole Foods or Tropicana.
  • Yel­low exudes warmth, pos­i­tiv­i­ty, and cre­ativ­i­ty and is used by brands like Snapchat or IKEA to con­vey a cheer­ful and wel­com­ing atmosphere.

The key to effec­tive use of colour in emo­tion­al brand­ing lies in under­stand­ing your tar­get audi­ence and the emo­tion­al mes­sage you want to con­vey. Cul­tur­al con­text should also be con­sid­ered, as colour mean­ings can vary sig­nif­i­cant­ly across dif­fer­ent cul­tures. To learn more about the psy­chol­o­gy of colour, check out our arti­cle that goes into fur­ther detail.

When cho­sen wise­ly and used con­sis­tent­ly, colours can sig­nif­i­cant­ly enhance your brand’s emo­tion­al con­nec­tion with con­sumers, dri­ving brand recog­ni­tion and influ­enc­ing pur­chas­ing decisions.

Learn from the best: Dove’s Real Beauty campaign

Dove’s Real Beau­ty cam­paign is an excel­lent exam­ple of emo­tion­al brand­ing and is, there­fore, a great case study for us to learn from.

Launched in 2004, the cam­paign start­ed with a glob­al study titled The Real Truth About Beau­ty: A Glob­al Report, which revealed that only 2% of women around the world would describe them­selves as beautiful.

In response to these find­ings, Dove began fea­tur­ing women of all shapes, sizes, and ages in their ads, focus­ing on their nat­ur­al, authen­tic beau­ty. Plus, they released a series of enlight­en­ing videos that made peo­ple rethink their ideas about beauty.

For exam­ple, this video revealed the extent to which pic­tures of women are Photoshopped.

Nine years lat­er, Dove was still releas­ing pow­er­ful videos. In 2013, it released the Real Beau­ty Sketch­es, in which a foren­sic sketch artist drew women first based on their own self-descrip­tions and then based on descrip­tions by strangers. The sketch­es stark­ly con­trast­ed, with the strangers’ descrip­tions result­ing in much more flat­ter­ing and accu­rate por­tray­als. The out­come of this exer­cise was an under­stand­ing among the par­tic­i­pants that women are often their harsh­est crit­ics when it comes to their appearances.

The Real Beau­ty cam­paign struck a chord with con­sumers glob­al­ly by pro­mot­ing a more inclu­sive def­i­n­i­tion of beau­ty and encour­ag­ing self-con­fi­dence and body pos­i­tiv­i­ty. Dove did­n’t just sell soap or lotion; they sold the idea of self-love and accep­tance, cre­at­ing a strong emo­tion­al bond with their audience.

Simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, they put a mir­ror to soci­etal issues, insti­gat­ing con­ver­sa­tions about how self-esteem is impact­ed by beau­ty stan­dards. This cam­paign is a pow­er­ful exam­ple of how a brand can win hearts and minds by address­ing per­son­al prob­lems and soci­etal issues and pro­mot­ing pos­i­tive change.

How to leverage the power of emotional branding

Want to run a cam­paign as impact­ful as Dove’s? We’re about to dive into how you can exe­cute emo­tion­al brand­ing effec­tive­ly. First­ly, here are some cru­cial best practices:

5 best practices for emotional branding

1. Under­stand your audience

The first step of your emo­tion­al brand­ing jour­ney should be to under­stand your audience:

  • What dri­ves them?
  • What pains them?
  • What issues might they empathise with?

Use mar­ket research and cus­tomer data to gain answers to these ques­tions and gath­er your find­ings into a buy­er per­sona. Then when you’re draw­ing up ideas for new cam­paigns, you can keep this buy­er per­sona in the cen­tre of your brain­storm. Always going back to this core will ensure you’re cre­at­ing mes­sages that will res­onate with your brand’s audience.

2. Use the form of storytelling

Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to get your mes­sag­ing out there.

The form of sto­ries is very pow­er­ful for forg­ing emo­tion­al con­nec­tions, as peo­ple con­nect more strong­ly with sto­ries than with facts or fig­ures. So, cre­ate some sto­ry­telling con­tent that speaks about your brand val­ues, mis­sion, or history.

Like Dove, you might choose to tell the sto­ries of indi­vid­u­als with­in your tar­get demo­graph­ic so con­sumers see them­selves in your campaign.

3. Con­sis­ten­cy is key

Like with all kinds of brand­ing, con­sis­ten­cy is key. Across all touch­points, your brand image should use the same colours, logo, and mes­sag­ing. Of course, each of your touch­points will vary slight­ly (e.g., your web­site’s About page is like­ly to be length­i­er than your Insta­gram bio), but their essence should be identical.

Con­sis­ten­cy is essen­tial because it builds famil­iar­i­ty, and famil­iar­i­ty breeds trust. A con­sis­tent brand image also ensures that your audi­ence recog­nis­es and remem­bers your brand.

4. Get visual

Visu­als can evoke pow­er­ful emo­tion­al respons­es. Make use of com­pelling, emo­tive visu­als in your brand­ing to con­nect with your audi­ence on an emo­tion­al lev­el. These could be the faces of peo­ple, ani­mals, or environments.

For exam­ple, the mem­o­rable run­ning hors­es that appear in every advert for Lloyds bank evoke feel­ings of free­dom and possibility.

5. Involve cus­tomers in your narrative

Dove’s cam­paigns were suc­cess­ful because their demo­graph­ic was at the cen­tre of their sto­ries. The women involved were first shown as vic­tims, then as heroes. The cam­paigns were a demon­stra­tion of how Dove can help its cus­tomers over­come chal­lenges, achieve their goals, and ful­fil their aspi­ra­tions (even though none of its prod­ucts were featured).

Involv­ing cus­tomers can be high­ly effec­tive in fos­ter­ing strong emo­tion­al con­nec­tions between brands and audi­ences as long as they’re rep­re­sent­ed fair­ly and accurately.

Incor­po­rat­ing these prac­tices into your strat­e­gy can help you cre­ate a brand that res­onates with your audi­ence, dri­ves cus­tomer loy­al­ty, and sets you apart in a crowd­ed mar­ket­place. Remem­ber, peo­ple don’t buy prod­ucts; they buy emotions.

4 ways to connect through social media

One pow­er­ful way brands can con­nect with their audi­ence nowa­days is through social media. Insta­gram, Tik­Tok, YouTube, Face­book, LinkedIn, and Twit­ter all offer dif­fer­ent ways to get your brand­ing across to audiences.

But how can you best use social media to con­nect with poten­tial cus­tomers and forge mean­ing­ful con­nec­tions? Here are 5 ways how brands can lever­age social media for emo­tion­al branding:

1. Get back to followers

One way audi­ences can feel seen by a brand is if they respond to com­ments and queries. Respond­ing to com­ments, answer­ing queries, and engag­ing in con­ver­sa­tions shows that you val­ue your audi­ence rather than keep­ing a wall up between you.

Any respons­es should be real and per­son­able, as this will human­ise your brand and make it more acces­si­ble to poten­tial customers.

2. User-gen­er­at­ed con­tent (UGC)

Anoth­er way brands can con­nect with audi­ences is by shar­ing con­tent cre­at­ed by them. This can range from cus­tomer tes­ti­mo­ni­als, pho­tos of your prod­ucts in use, or sto­ries about pos­i­tive expe­ri­ences with your brand.

UGC has a won­der­ful abil­i­ty to fos­ter a sense of com­mu­ni­ty and cre­ate per­son­al con­nec­tions with your brand.

3. Behind-the-scenes content

Giv­ing your audi­ence a sneak peek into the work­ings of your com­pa­ny can help them feel con­nect­ed and involved with your brand on a deep­er level.

It could be a tour of your work­space, a day in the life of an employ­ee, or the process behind cre­at­ing a product.

4. Dis­cuss social issues

Show­ing sup­port for social caus­es that align with your audi­ence can bol­ster their con­nec­tion with you. Whether it’s envi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­i­ty, social jus­tice, or men­tal health aware­ness, tak­ing a stand shows con­sumers that you care about more than just profits.

Since this can be such a pow­er­ful moti­va­tor for emo­tion­al brand­ing, we dis­cuss it in more detail in the next section.

Being mindful of social responsibility

In today’s social­ly con­scious envi­ron­ment, con­sumers are increas­ing­ly look­ing beyond a brand’s prod­ucts or ser­vices. They care about the brand’s eth­i­cal stance, its impact on soci­ety, and its com­mit­ment to mak­ing the world a bet­ter place. As such, demon­strat­ing Cor­po­rate Social Respon­si­bil­i­ty (CSR) has become an essen­tial com­po­nent of emo­tion­al branding.

Con­sumers want to align them­selves with brands that share their val­ues and ideals, and this includes issues such as envi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­i­ty, social jus­tice, and com­mu­ni­ty development.

If your brand oper­ates in a sec­tor where it could poten­tial­ly con­tribute to soci­etal chal­lenges, such as cli­mate change, it’s cru­cial to not only recog­nise this impact but also active­ly demon­strate what steps you’re tak­ing to mit­i­gate it. Fail­ing to address these issues could result in sig­nif­i­cant rep­u­ta­tion­al dam­age and loss of cus­tomer trust.

Brands should proac­tive­ly com­mu­ni­cate their CSR ini­tia­tives. This can be done through var­i­ous chan­nels such as social media, com­pa­ny blogs, newslet­ters, and press releas­es. Shar­ing the progress of these ini­tia­tives, the chal­lenges faced, and the impact made can help build trust and authenticity.

Addi­tion­al­ly, brands can involve their con­sumers in their CSR ini­tia­tives. This could be through char­i­ty part­ner­ships where a por­tion of each sale goes to a spe­cif­ic cause or through vol­un­teer­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for con­sumers. Involv­ing your audi­ence in your CSR efforts not only strength­ens your emo­tion­al bond with them but also makes them feel like they’re part of a larg­er, mean­ing­ful mission.

In sum­ma­ry, address­ing social respon­si­bil­i­ties isn’t just a good eth­i­cal practice—it’s also a sound busi­ness strat­e­gy. Proac­tive­ly declar­ing your com­mit­ment to soci­etal issues and demon­strat­ing the actions you’re tak­ing can help ward off poten­tial back­lash and instead fos­ter a pos­i­tive emo­tion­al con­nec­tion with your consumers.

Measuring the effectiveness of emotional branding

You’ll want to know whether your cam­paigns are work­ing, and brand­ing is a noto­ri­ous­ly dif­fi­cult thing to mea­sure. How­ev­er, there are a few ways to quan­ti­fy your results.

One way to do this is through sen­ti­ment analy­sis. Also known as opin­ion min­ing, sen­ti­ment analy­sis involves using AI and nat­ur­al lan­guage pro­cess­ing tech­niques to analyse cus­tomer feed­back, com­ments, and dis­cus­sions about your brand across var­i­ous online platforms.

As well as tal­ly­ing up pos­i­tive, neg­a­tive, and neu­tral men­tions, it helps you under­stand the emo­tion­al tone behind the words, giv­ing a nuanced view of how your audi­ence feels about your brand, prod­ucts, or ser­vices and how those feel­ings change over time.

Com­par­ing your brand sen­ti­ment with that of your com­peti­tors can give you valu­able insights into your posi­tion in the mar­ket and help iden­ti­fy areas of improve­ment; how­ev­er, sen­ti­ment analy­sis should not be used in isolation.

It can be com­ple­ment­ed with oth­er met­rics such as cus­tomer engage­ment rates, brand recall, and cus­tomer loy­al­ty met­rics (like Net Pro­mot­er Score) to pro­vide a more holis­tic view of your brand­ing’s efficacy.

Final thoughts

Emo­tion­al brand­ing isn’t a fleet­ing fad—it’s a pow­er­ful shift in the world of mar­ket­ing. In the bat­tle for hearts and minds, those brands that can tru­ly speak to the emo­tion­al lives of their audi­ence come out on top. They build rela­tion­ships that go beyond the prod­uct, beyond the ser­vice, to some­thing deep­er, more enduring.

If you’d like some help with your com­pa­ny’s brand­ing, our team here at pur­ple­plan­et would love to help! Get in touch via the but­ton below.

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