What is emotional branding?

Branding is incredibly important for businesses. It allows companies to form a relationship with its customers and creates differentiation between themselves and their competitors in the marketplace. The term emotional branding is one that is thrown around a lot lately, but what is emotional branding? More importantly, how can you use it to form lasting bonds with your customers?


Branding is often thought of as logos, but we all know there’s a lot more to it than that. It’s a holistic concept, one that comprises multiple elements. A logo by itself is just a simple mark, an empty vessel as Michael Bierut puts it, with which people create associations with. Emotional branding enables brands to form deeper relationships with customers and create lasting bonds.


But the process involved with creating this emotional link requires a shift in focus, prioritising the needs of your customers, and not just thinking about the product you’re selling.


Brands that embrace emotional branding


Consumers want to connect with brands that they feel reflect their own values, their personality, who they see themselves as. A perfect example of this is branded clothing. What is it about brand x that make you choose them over brandy? I’m going to hazard a guess and say it probably has more to do with branding and less to do with the product itself.


Emotion in branding and advertising has always been used of course, but now it’s extremely prevalent, and in today's digital world, we expect more from brands. Even back in the sixties, Volkswagon embraced a unique tone and breathed new life into car advertising.




We expect constant content and social presence. Coca Cola has its ‘Choose Happiness’ campaign, which is a real lesson in how to execute emotional branding well. A holistic approach using social media, video advertising on TV and online, collaborating with vloggers and hardly referencing their product. It's advertising a lifestyle and an ideal rather than just a soft drink.


Another good example is Nike. The Nike swoosh is pretty meaningless in and of itself, however, the culmination of good marketing and inspiring advertising creates a lasting association, which we project onto that simple swoosh. It's hard to imagine a time when the Nike logo didn't have this sort of connotation.


Honda has put out a mixture of awe-inspiring and whimsical adverts over the years, all of which embrace the notion of ‘the power of dreams, and are an experience for the viewer. They advertise the brand's diverse range of vehicles and technology in a refreshing way.


How can I target customers using emotion?


So how do you use emotional branding to target customers and make them choose you over one of your competitors? First, you need to choose the emotion to appeal to. This requires a lot of thought as it really governs everything you’ll do later. Try and think about what’s appropriate for your customer base and what they like. For example, a financial services company might want to focus on peace of mind. The tone needs to come across as ‘relax, it’s all being looked after.’


Consider your customers' needs and utilise them to create a strategy. Ensure that all your brand communications are consistent, not just visually, but that the tone of voice always target the same emotion, and serve to reinforce the same message.


This consistent communication and creative thinking over time will lead customers to form an emotional bond with your brand. It’s an investment in time, but the relationship that results will be far more enduring.


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BY Paul Sullivan



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