Emotion Is The Engine Of Brand Choice

Make Advertising Work Harder by Branding with Emotion

By Tom Dougherty

Making advertising effective is more difficult today than ever before. To get TV viewers to give a precious second of their attention to a commercial message is beyond daunting — it’s nearly impossible. A commercial that fails to entertain, therefore, has very little chance of tearing a viewer away from a myriad of other distractions. Remote controls have made it too easy to surf around commercials.

Stealing market share requires branding with emotion
Growing market share requires change

And the TiVo and DVR technology, which enables viewers to record favorite programs with commercials automatically edited out or fast-forwarded, presents a truly frightening prospect for our advertising industry. The question we must ask of advertising is: How do we craft marketing strategies and creative brand messages that prompt viewers to voluntarily surrender their attention to watching a commercial? (Read a market study on the TV industry and see a great example of charting a competitive market).

Getting customers to care

We might also put it this way: How do we get customers to care? The importance of that question cannot be understated. It is vastly different and quite superior to the question: “What do we tell the customer?” It brings about a more effective answer because “caring” is an emotional response. A consumer simply hearing some facts (if we can even get them to listen to those facts) is not as engaged. Great advertising must prompt people to care rather than simply understand a list of product attributes. Branding with emotion and not just rational ideas is what works best.

Advertising is less effective

Yet a great deal of advertising today is merely factual. For the most part, marketing departments have believed that they need a quantifiable product advantage in order to convince a potential customer to switch brands. They ask themselves why the customer should care, and yet they answer this emotional question with a rational benefit. Hmmm. Branding with emotion is a context that you can’t overlook. Most of us have no understanding of the reasons behind our brand selections — as a matter of fact, we don’t need reasons. Oh, sure, when somebody asks us why we choose what we choose, we can and do come up with some rational reasons. We do it because we think we need a rational basis for our purchasing behavior.

Look at this classic commercial from 1971.

But really, we don’t. Our actions in the marketplace are almost always intuitive and emotional. Consider beer purchases. Does anyone believe that Budweiser is the runaway market leader because beer consumers are big fans of Beachwood and Budweiser is “Beachwood Aged?” In other words, do they buy it because of taste? Do they not choose Miller, COORS or Heineken because they do not’ like the taste? They may say they do, but in blind tasting only the savviest two or three percent of beer drinkers can distinguish any difference between beer brands. If they can taste a difference, they are hard-pressed to name the brand. (Read about the beer market in a market study here).

What Motivates Consumers?

Beer brand choices are obviously not about taste and rarely about benefit or attributes. If you want a customer to change brands, you must make them care. You must make sure you are branding with emotion. You must know what they care about, and it is no surprise that the thing people care about most is themselves — their beliefs, attitudes, convictions. Therefore, you should develop a strategy and execution that speaks to them in an emotional way that connects your brand with their beliefs. This means that you must understand your customer better than your competitors understand your customer. Discover the highest emotional intensity and work that intense emotion into your brand message.

You must learn to ask and find answers to these questions: What do they believe to be true about themselves? What do they believe to be true about the world in general? Consider laundry soap. We live in an efficient, competitive epoch of commodity products where Tide soap powder and ALL soap powder is assumed to be effective because they are both available in the market. If it is for sale, “it works.” The problem is that there is a Grand Canyon between a customer’s favored product choice and all the others in a category, and this attachment to a particular product has nothing to do with effectiveness. The products that become part of a consumer’s life do so because the consumer feels an emotional pull towards those products.

branding with emotion must be the ultimate goal
Emotional Branding is no Secret

Look for examples

Why has Tide remained the market leader? Does everyone who uses Cheer detergent wear only color clothes (Cheer has positioned itself as color safe), and do Tide users wear only white shirts to take advantage of the bleach in Tide? If the effectiveness of advertising were truly based on specific advantages of products, then all of us would keep at least two brands of laundry soap on the shelf: Tide for white clothes, Cheer for color clothes (read a market study on packaged goods here).

Soap brand managers must believe Tide users don’t care whether color clothes fade. Uh-huh. Tide has remained on top of the laundry heap because there is an emotional connection to the brand message that extends way back to its emergence as part of the American cultural landscape. Even consumers born in the eighties find comfort in the familiarity of the brand, and it’s not about heritage and habit as much as it is about family and family values. How much are consumers willing to pay for this feeling of connection?

Check out the price points next time you are in the supermarket. Consumers don’t pay this premium because of effectiveness or a brand promise of quality. They pay it because they desire a closer connection to their own lives. It emotional to them and your brand needs to reflect that emotional intensity. Those that steal share make closer connections. Their brands align themselves with the target audience’s precepts and “mean something.”

See How Stealing Share Focuses on Emotional Cues Here

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