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What is emotional branding?

Emotional branding means customers stay loyal for the long haul!

Every marketer knows that branding is incredibly important – it enables customers familiar with your brand to distinguish it amongst a sea of competitors.  The success of all these brands is about much more than the logo, it's about forming an emotional connection with their customers.

Image creditTop 100 brands in 2011 according to Interbrand

With this much emotion involved in decision making, it’s easy to see how creating an emotional bond with customers makes a direct contribution to building profitability.

Emotional branding clearly differentiates companies from their competitors and helps to create deep intrinsic relationships between brands and consumers. Relationships with an emotional dimension are more likely to resist the temptation to defect than comparatively superficial price or convenience-based ones.

Only an insight-based, personalized marketing approach can form a strong enough bond with a brand, that evokes a personal, emotional reaction in customers. And, brand marketing through social networks makes it  all the more important that brands strive to build connections with their customers on a personal level.

Creating an emotional bond with customers requires more than good marketing – a company engaged in emotional branding puts the needs of its customers ahead of the product it’s selling.

The emotional branding concept

“Customers define themselves through brands they use. The branded clothes they wear, the cars they drive, the drinks they consume, university they attended, favourite spots to hang out, and so on.”

Nyimpini Mabunda, Smirnoff Vodka Marketing Manager:
Emotional Branding In a Changing Marketplace

Marc Gobé created the concept of emotional branding over 15 years ago. His philosophy is based on the observation that connections can take place on an emotional level in relationships between brands and people.

Consumers associate with brands they feel reflect their identity and when a close emotional link to a brand is formed emotions can run high - people who like Pepsi usually despise Coke!

Successful practitioners of emotional branding

Pepsi, Oil of Olay and Mercedes are a few major brands requiring little introduction.

Their appeal ranges from youthfulness to status, but these brands share a deep emotional connection with their customers which translates into unwavering consumer loyalty.

Apple is another brand illustrating the effectiveness of emotional branding. Apple almost went under in the 1990’s but an amazing brand rejuvenation propelled it to 21st century super-brand status.

Wired.com reported Gobé as saying Apple has succeeded in giving its product a humanized touch in an ever-evolving technical world. Responding to consumer anxiety about technology's evolutionary speed, Apple managed to make its customers feel like part of its brand by making it clear the brand understands their needs.

Brands like Bing and Google are also adopting an emotional brand-driven approach. Recent Google commercials show people talking about average things and emotionally connecting through Gmail.  Bing Originals’ new campaign brings celebrities down to consumer level; winning, falling, healing. People can feel bonded with these brands when the brands demonstrate they understand their consumers’ needs and motivations.

Putting customers first

So, how do you demonstrate you’re putting your customers ahead of all other considerations?

  • Decide which emotion you want to target in your audience. It could be the ‘American dream’, confidence or trust in the future. Discerning and defining your target audience's core emotional need is the most important aspect of emotional branding. It is vital to communicate this insight through all your internal and external communications.
  • Encourage customers to reach the desired emotionally bonded state; “I will only buy brand x”?  Start by considering your customers’ needs - what they want, need and aspire to.
  • Create consistent communications centered on customers’ emotional needs. Every point of contact should reflect and reinforce the message that the brand is responding to its customers' emotional needs; i.e. customer relations, online content and social media engagement. This is especially important at ‘moments of truth’.

When people form an emotional attachment to a brand the strength of that bond is not dissimilar to an attachment to another person. It becomes hard for that person to separate themselves from one brand and begin a new relationship with another. Emotional branding can only be achieved by putting what customers deem most important ahead of everything else.

If you can master the skill of establishing a relationship with your customers at this level, you can count them in for the long haul!.

By Expert commentator

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