Emotional Branding

father laying in grass with two children

Emotional branding is essential to forming a connection with consumers and building a reputable brand. Connecting with consumers emotionally is a surefire way to create brand recognition and support. 

In this post, I’ll cover everything you need to know about emotional branding, including: 

  • What emotional branding is 
  • Why it’s important 
  • The neuroscience and psychological theory behind emotional branding 
  • How to approach emotional branding 
  • Additional tips for creating an emotional brand
  • Examples of emotional brand, and
  • The importance of visuals in emotional branding

What Is Emotional Branding?

Emotional branding is when you tailor your brand strategy to provoke consumers’ emotions and form a relationship with them. It involves creating content that appeals to the consumer’s emotional state, ego, needs, and aspirations. 

Strategic emotional branding is aimed at converting brand-agnostic consumers into life-long brand advocates. This doesn’t happen overnight – it’s a process that often leads consumers to become loyal to your brand subconsciously. 

Consumers like to think they make rational, informed, and calculated choices when making a purchase. Data says it’s the other way around. Around 95% of purchase decisions are influenced by subconscious factors. 

Tapping into emotions is one of the most effective ways to subconsciously impact consumers’ decision-making. Branding is a long-term game and brands that leverage emotional connection prove to be successful. In fact, emotional branding can be over 50% more effective than rational branding, generating double the profit of brands that take a rational approach. 

group of senior living residents painting in art class

Emotional Branding vs. Emotional Appeal Advertising

Branding and advertising go hand-in-hand, but they aren’t interchangeable practices. Emotional connection is a tactic used in both. Just as they differ in general, emotional appeal advertising and emotional branding are two separate strategies. 

  • Emotional appeal advertising is specific ads or marketing campaigns that are aimed at appealing to the consumer’s emotions 
  • Emotional branding is shaping your organizational brand in a way that triggers an emotional response and connection from consumers 

Your brand is the foundation that all advertising, marketing, and promotional efforts are based on. If you put in the work to form a brand that triggers an emotional response, it’ll be easier to produce advertisements that appeal to consumer emotions. 

Let’s take a senior living community, for example. Emotion has a profound impact on the consumer’s decision to relinquish their independence of living at home – or a caregiver’s decision to revoke their loved one’s independence. If you’re in charge of marketing for a senior living facility, you might take this two-step approach to maximize emotional connection: 

  1. Develop an emotional brand for the facility. The core mission of your brand should reassure prospective customers that they or their loved ones will be in a supportive, prosperous environment. Everything from communication (brand personality and voice) to your visual brand should address the consumer’s fearful emotions. Exude trust and support for your clients and their families to form a positive brand connection.
  2. Launch emotional appeal advertising campaigns to bring in new business. With your core brand established, plan and execute specific advertising campaigns to generate emotional responses. An example could be launching a commercial video production that captures life at your facility, highlighting various independent activities available and relationships formed by fellow residents. Pair the video with images from a production stills photographer and you have a full-scale, branded emotional appeal advertising campaign.

male senior living resident lifting weights in guided exercise class

Why Is Emotional Branding Important? 

Connecting with consumers through emotional branding positively impacts your business in multiple ways. You become a relatable, trusted organization when your brand strategy aligns with the emotions of your target audience. 

Emotional branding is important because it enables you to: 

  • Engage with your audience
  • Foster brand loyalty 
  • Establish a regular stream of revenue 
  • Create positive brand recognition 
  • Separate yourself from competitors 

In the sections below, I’ll expand upon the specific reasons listed above. 

Engage With Your Audience

Crafting an emotional brand results in better engagement with your audience. Forming your messaging and communication around your target audience’s emotions makes it more likely that they’ll interact with your brand. 

Targeting consumers with more relevant and effective content brings forth a sense of customer belonging. Your content speaks to them and they feel a part of a greater shared community. As a member of that community, they’re more likely to: 

  • Interact with your brand on social media 
  • Subscribe to your email newsletter
  • Create user-generated content that you can share on socials and your website 
  • Visit your business website or brick-and-mortar locations
  • Share your marketing content with friends and family

Engaging with your audience through relevant content inherently increases the ROI of your branding efforts. The time, money, and resources spent developing an effective emotional brand results in more interaction with your target customer base.

Foster Brand Loyalty

More than just engagement, emotional branding helps build a relationship with consumers. They connect with your personality, resulting in brand loyalty, greater retention, and increased customer lifetime value. 

One-time customers aren’t the primary drivers of a successful brand. With brand loyalty comes return customers and regular revenue streams. Nearly 82% of consumers are loyal to their favorite brands when considering their purchase decisions. If you offer the product or service they need, brand loyalists will choose you over the competition without as much as a Google search. 

Customers who are loyal to your brand take it a step further when they advocate for you to their immediate circle and beyond. Brand loyalists become brand advocates when they speak publicly and positively about your organization, referring new customers to support you. A majority of brand advocates – about 71% of customers – recommend a brand based on their emotional connection. 

amtrak employee checking in passenger

Establish A Regular Stream Of Revenue 

I briefly mentioned this in the last section, but emotional branding helps establish a consistent stream of revenue through return customers. Consumers who are emotionally connected to your brand are more likely to purchase your products and spend more on your brand regularly.

Emotionally connected customers are more likely to spend double on their favorite brands than those who are passive brand supporters. When that emotional connection grows into the aforementioned brand advocacy, it creates a stream of organic referral revenue. Four out of five emotionally connected consumers promote brands to their closest circle, who spend more on the brand too. 

Create Positive Brand Recognition

Whether they become loyal to your brand or not, branding that resonates with consumer emotions makes a lasting impact. That emotional connection leads consumers to remember and recognize your brand. The most effective emotional branding inherently leads consumers to associate your brand with positive feelings.

As you’re remembered and recognized in a positive light, your brand earns more trust, credibility, and authority in the market. Even if consumers don’t become brand loyalists, positive brand recognition is likely to increase sales. 

If you’re a pharmaceutical company that produces over-the-counter medicine, positive brand recognition gives you an advantage. In a field so full of uncertainty, a brand associated with trustworthy, reliable, safe treatment will sit favorably with the general public and gain more sales.

pharmaceutical lab professional looking through microscope

Separate Yourself From Competitors 

You develop a unique personality that resonates with customers to create an emotional brand. This serves as a differentiator between your company and competitors in the market. In a world of soulless corporations, a genuine human-like connection leaves a significant impression on consumers.

The Neuroscience of Emotional Branding 

Let’s dive deep into the science of emotions and branding. Emotional branding, at its core, is a cross between neuroscience and marketing – referred to as neuromarketing. Neuromarketing uses neuroscience techniques in conjunction with branding strategies to impact the consumer’s brain and emotional responses. 

Without getting too technical, emotions are linked to different regions of the brain that process and store information. Subsequently, positive emotions such as happiness, joy, and surprise can enhance attention, motivation, and recall.  When applied to branding, positive recognition: 

  • Captures the attention of consumers 
  • Improves their recall of your brand 
  • Motivates them to support your brand

The brain has two areas – emotional and cognitive – that process sensory information. The emotional area of the brain can process that information 20% faster than the cognitive area. If it takes the cognitive area of your brain 60 seconds to process an ad, it takes your emotional area just 12 seconds. That’s why consumers are more likely to act on emotion rather than logic. 

Emotional branding is all about emotional connection, which is made up of two factors: 

  • Emotional motivators 
  • Emotional connections

Emotional Motivators

Emotional motivators are feelings that drive consumers’ behavior. Understanding emotional motivators makes it possible to measure and strategically target through emotional branding. 

A few examples of emotional motivators include: 

  • Standing out from the crowd 
  • Enjoying a sense of well-being
  • Feeling a sense of belonging 
  • Protecting the environment 
  • Feeling secure 
  • Succeeding in life 

If you ask a consumer why they make brand choices, their response will likely not be accurate. Consumers’ emotional motivators are often different from the reasons they say they make brand choices and the terms they use to describe their emotional responses to particular brands. 

Emotional motivators are everchanging and can vary by: 

  • Category and brand 
  • Customer segment 
  • Position in the customer journey

light blue convertible driving down coastal highway with passenger with hands up

Emotional Connections

When a brand aligns its messaging, values, and other components with emotional motivators, it forms emotional connections with consumers. Again, consumers aren’t fully aware of the degree to which these connections affect them. 

Emotional connections help consumers fulfill deep, often unconscious desires. The more connected they feel, the more valuable they are to your business.

The Emotional Connection Pathway

The relationship between emotional motivators and connections makes up the emotional connection pathway. The emotional connection pathway is divided into four phases, where customers become more valuable to a brand as they become more connected to it. 

Each phase of the pathway is measured by customer value which is the customer’s perception of your brand’s worth. In terms of the pathway, a highly satisfied customer with no brand preference is used as the baseline for customer value. 

Here are the four phases of the emotional connection pathway: 

  • Phase 1: Highly unconnected (-18% customer value) 
  • Phase 2: Highly satisfied (baseline customer value) 
  • Phase 3: Perceiving brand differentiation (+13% customer value) 
  • Phase 4: Fully connected (+52% customer value) 

As you can see, fully connected customers in Phase 4 perceive your company as 70% more valuable than those who are highly unconnected. 

When it comes to branding, it can be more beneficial to focus on moving already satisfied customers to a complete emotional connection versus trying to move unconnected customers to highly satisfied. Moving customers from highly satisfied to fully connected can have three times the return of moving them from unconnected to highly satisfied.

diner waitress holding coffee cup smiling at customers

Psychological Theories and Emotional Branding

Now that we’ve covered the neuroscience of marketing, we can use psychology to better understand consumer emotions and how to leverage your brand to connect with them. The main theories I’ll cover include: 

  • Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs 
  • Aristotle’s Theory of Persuasion 
  • Vance Packard’s Eight Hidden Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

If you’ve ever taken a psych class, you’ve probably heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The theory can be used to help kickstart ideas for emotional branding. 

Maslow’s hierarchy is divided into several human “needs”, from most essential to least. Starting from the bottom and working up, the theory includes: 

  • Basic needs 
    • Physiological needs like food, water, and warmth 
    • Safety and Security 
  • Psychological needs 
    • A sense of belonging: love, intimate relationships, friends 
    • Self-esteem: prestige, feeling of accomplishment, confidence, respect, status, strength 
  • Self-Fulfillment needs
    • Self-actualization: achieving one’s full potential

Brands can leverage this theory by pinpointing the phase where their brand is most relevant. From there, they focus on creating content targeted at the phase of the hierarchy that they serve. 

Think about a luxury automotive manufacturer. They don’t offer a product that fulfills basic needs. If you don’t have food and water, you won’t be able to afford a high-end automobile. The car manufacturer is best served building a brand that creates feelings of self-esteem, respect, and status.

Persuasive Marketing Techniques: Ethos, Pathos, and Lagos

Another theory used to establish a strategy for connecting with consumers is Aristotle’s theory of persuasion. This theory revolves around the rhetorical triangle consisting of three elements: Ethos, Pathos, and Logos. Together, or independently, aligning your brand with these elements persuades consumers to support you. 

  • Ethos is your ethical appeal. As a company, ethos builds trust and credibility within your industry and establishes your brand as an authority in the space. Examples of Ethos in branding include: 
    • Quoting experts in the field 
    • Citing sources
    • Testimonials from customers
    • Case studies 
  • Pathos is your emotional appeal. Your company’s pathos establishes empathy and motivates consumers to take action. It’s tied to the previously mentioned emotional motivators by creating: 
    • A sense of urgency 
    • Fear of missing out 
    • A sense of belonging  
  • Logos is your appeal to logic and reason. In branding, logos shows the audience what the product (or service) can do for them. It’s an attempt to make a connection between the consumers’ emotions and your logic by using facts, statistics, or features to support your persuasive argument. 

female professional sitting at desk smiling holding glasses

Vance Packard’s Eight Hidden Needs 

The final psychological theory you can use to guide your emotional branding strategy is Vance Packard’s eight hidden needs. These are subconscious needs within consumers that brands can leverage to make emotional connections. 

Diving into each of the eight needs warrants its own post. For the sake of brevity, I’ll just list the eight hidden needs below: 

  • Emotional security 
  • Sense of roots
  • Ego-gratifications
  • Love objects
  • Sense of power
  • Creative outlets
  • Reassurance of worth 
  • Immortality

Some of Packard’s hidden needs tie into the other theories previously discussed. If you get anything out of this section, it’s that you consider these theories at a high level when strategizing your branding efforts.

How To Approach Emotional Branding

Now that we’ve made it through some of the technical and foundational knowledge, it’s time to apply this information to the process of emotional branding. In the sections below, I’ll provide step-by-step guidance on how to approach emotional branding for your business. 

1. Understand Emotional Motivators That Drive Consumers

Remember those emotional motivators we discussed earlier? You need to uncover the specific motivators that relate to your audience. Identifying and leveraging relevant motivators helps you drive consumers to connect with your brand. 

An eco-friendly automotive manufacturer like Tesla leverages the consumer’s motivation to protect the environment as a key pillar of their emotional branding. 

To uncover relevant emotional motivators, you can conduct: 

  • Surveys
  • Competitive and market research
  • Focus groups
  • Any other method of research that may apply 

To get started, put yourself in the consumer’s shoes. Ask yourself the following questions when identifying emotional motivators for your brand: 

  • What do I want to get from this brand? 
  • What problem can I solve when I make a purchase? 
  • How can the brand add value to my life? 
  • Does this brand support any social causes that I support? 
  • How can this brand address my concerns better?

red tesla automobile driving on mountainous road

2. Know Your Target Audience 

On top of understanding the motivators of the general consumer, you have to know who your target audience is comprised of and what they’re like inside and out. 

A few thoughts to consider when evaluating your target audience include: 

  • The motivation behind them purchasing from your brand 
  • Their general desires, dreams, needs, and pain points
  • Their values, beliefs, likes, and dislikes 
  • Issues they encounter during their customer journey 
  • The content they best respond to

3. Craft An Emotional Brand Narrative 

With an understanding of your audience and their motivators, create a clear and compelling brand narrative that consumers emotionally relate to. There are three key components to an effective emotional narrative that consumers look for: 

  • Vulnerability: Real stories that showcase imperfections 
  • Relatability: Stories that your target audience can relate to and that directly relate to your business 
  • Legitimacy: Stories of real people who use your products and or services, and stories of the real people who helped create your brand

It’s important to be as authentic as possible when crafting your narrative. Nearly 80% of consumers cite authenticity as a main factor when deciding whether to support a brand.

4. Personalize Your Brand Experience 

Everyone wants to feel like they are your most important customer. Personalization is essential in emotional branding. Personalize your brand experience to each consumer so the interactions feel unique and genuine. Customers are three times more likely to consider purchasing from a brand that shows personal value over business value. 

To personalize your experience, you should gather as much data as possible on existing and potential customers. Some data to pull includes: 

  • Favorite products 
  • Past purchases 
  • Demographic data
  • Search history 
  • Viewing data 
  • User ratings 
  • Time, date, and device data 

But how do you put this data to use? Here are a few actions you can take to create a hyper-personalized brand experience: 

  • Customized interactions through multiple channels 
  • Personalized content tailored to the customer’s needs 
  • Personalized visuals and graphics
  • Utilization of language that your audience prefers 
  • Options for customization 
  • Targeted sales and marketing techniques to create interactions that feel tailored to the individual user. 

male and female laughing and dancing outside at night

5. Shape Your Brand Personality To Align With Your Target Audience And Their Emotional Motivators 

Your brand personality is human-like characteristics that make your brand relatable. For your audience to connect with it, you need to shape the characteristics of your personality to align with those of your audience’s needs. 

Sometimes, that means creating a personality that reminds consumers of themselves. Other times it means creating a personality that the consumer needs to lean on to solve their problems. 

Think about a healthcare facility. Consumers in the market for a solution to their health issues aren’t looking for a happy hour buddy who shares common interests. They’re likely to connect with a brand personality that exemplifies professionalism, trustworthy care, and experience in successfully treating patients.

male doctor checking male patient with stethoscope in hospital

6. Don’t Overlook Post-Purchase Retention 

Part of forming an emotional connection with consumers is fostering a relationship. It’s important to continue communicating with customers after the sale. That way, they become more than just a customer. 

Part of a quality brand is offering a reliable product or service. Attentive, personal customer service should address and handle any issues in a timely fashion. 

Additional Tips To Create An Emotional Connection and Brand Loyalty 

The previous list of steps serves as the foundation for an emotional brand. There’s even more to consider to create emotional connections and brand loyalty. In the sections below, I’ll provide a few additional tips that brands can follow to connect with consumers emotionally. 

Promote Your Brand Values 

One way to form a connection with consumers is through shared values. Brand values are a core component of your organization and the audience you attract. About 64% of consumers report shared values with a brand as their original reason for purchasing. 

Your values are likely woven into your brand story. Make sure your values are promoted on your professional website, in print advertisements, and through your online marketing

Create Comfort Through Consistency

It seems like I make this statement in every one of my blogs – only because it’s tried and true. Consistency is key. When it comes to branding, consistency creates comfort and familiarity with your support base. 

They come to recognize every component – imagery, messaging, and style – and associate your brand with it. Consistency also correlates with revenue. In fact, consistency with emotional branding presentation was found to increase revenue by 23%. 

You should have a cohesive, consistent visual brand identity. Use the same brand colors in all of 

your creative and relevant content that appeals to similar emotions.

female airline employee working on aircraft

Engagement Is Essential 

Consumers love interaction. It makes them feel valued and connected to your brand. That’s why it’s so important for you as a brand to engage with consumers. 

A few ideas for fostering engagement include: 

  • Connecting with influencers 
  • Sharing user-generated content on social media 
  • Engaging with users on social media platforms
  • Replaying to all reviews and comments

Strong Public Relations Solidies An Emotional Brand 

Your public relations efforts close the gaps between all other components of your business to ensure your brand is received well. You should have quick responses to any mistakes or mishaps as a business. 

Foster Emotion Through Visuals And Brand Imagery 

The most effective way to create emotion in your branding is through visuals. Consumers lean on visuals to process information and make decisions. 

  • Nearly 50% of the brain is visual processing power 
  • Between 65 and 75 percent of people are visual learners who make decisions using their visual cortex

To make emotional connections, your visual brand identity should center around high-quality, professional branded imagery. Hiring a professional photographer for a business branding photoshoot is the best way to acquire a diverse library of images. They’re equipped with the tools and knowledge to capture branded emotion through imagery

Other elements of your visual brand identity should include: 

  • Logos 
  • Fonts
  • Colors
  • Depth
  • Movement 

two construction workers moving large pipe

Emotional Branding Examples

There are a few brands that connect with consumers on an emotional level exceptionally well. Here are a couple of strong examples of emotional branding: 

  • Apple is known for its simplicity and clean design while creating a lifestyle movement around cutting-edge technology and being part of something important. Apple’s branding resonates with the self-actualization level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs – fulfilling the need to be creative, respected, and belong to a group. 
  • Calm is a meditation app that’s centered around simplicity. The company understands that its target audience is looking for emotional security, comfort, and stability. Their slogan is meditation made easy. Soothing, soft design and color palettes paired with comforting visuals create a community for users to feel connected to. 

Enhance Your Emotional Branding With Casey Templeton Photography

You’ve made it through the all-encompassing guide to emotional branding! I covered a lot of information. At times it got dense and technical. If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed or confused, don’t worry. 

You can always refer back to this guide to better understand the scientific and psychological concepts behind emotional branding. More importantly, you can lean on the steps and tips provided to guide your organization in establishing an emotional brand. 

At the very least, I hope you understand how important it is for you to form emotional connections with your target audience. As I mentioned, one surefire way to connect with your audience is through images and visuals. 

Casey Templeton Photography offers professional commercial and corporate branding photography services in the Nashville, TN area and beyond. Casey has years of technical practice behind the lens and experience in business branding. To learn more about emotional branding or to get started on a project, fill out our contact form

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