Industry Updates

Emotional Branding in a Changing Marketplace

06 Mar 2011

By Winnifred Knight

Business is changing because our customers are changing. Their buying decisions and shopping habits are changing. Fundamental changes are taking place in their preferences and behaviour. And more so, the ways in which we talk to them are changing. They expect and demand to be spoken to on a personalised and one-to-one basis.

More than that, customers expect an unprecedented level of emotional commitment and honesty from the brands they trust, support and buy. Customer loyalty is weakening, because they constantly move on to new products and new brands entering the marketplace. They are thinking more with their hearts than with their heads.

For any company to be successful in this new and 'now' emotional economy they need to create and build emotional loyalty. Companies will have to build and strengthen customer relationships - connecting on an emotional level. And many questions need to be asked:

  • How do you get your product or service to stand out in this crowded marketplace?
  • How do you keep discriminating customers coming back for more?
  • How do successful companies use emotional branding to capture their customers' attention and foster long-term brand loyalty?
  • How do we connect our brands to our customers' hearts for a lifetime?
  • Are we only interested in single sales, or is it the lifetime value (LTV) of our customers?

Customers often claim they purchase rationally. But studies indicate that the factors influencing purchases are 80% emotional and 20% intellectual, even for business-to-business customers. Features and benefits may be used to justify decisions, but the initial motivation is almost always emotional.

Emotion is required to maintain a relationship after purchase.

Direct link to customer's emotions
Nowadays more brand-building efforts are converging with direct and interactive marketing.

Direct and interactive marketers have for many years not only talked about the power of emotional marketing through the use of effective database marketing and segmentation, but also implemented very successful measurable strategies across various industries, products and services.

Smart marketers have now identified the true value of measurable marketing by segmenting and managing their customer databases. They have recognised that marketing is an experience directly linking their customer's emotions to their brands.

By identifying their customers' needs, wants and aspirations, they can create buying experiences, which create frequent buying patterns, buying relationships and loyalty. And as experience tells us, loyalty is directly linked to sales and profitability. The well-known and yet rarely used RFM Model (Recency, Frequency and Monetary) comes into play and the profitability of customers increases.

Claire Brand, GM of Hallmark Business Expressions says that her company takes both a brand-building and a business-building approach, ensuring that the brand is integrated in each communication approach. They have learned that one approach supports the other and increases the overall effectiveness and responses of their integrated marketing efforts.

"Further," she says, "the customer's romance with your brand in its mass appeal can cause a greater response to your direct marketing efforts. And therein lies the beauty of a brand-based integrated marketing strategy: A brand can - and should - transcend multiple media and channels to help create an integrated "voice" for your communications that is even more powerful than the sum of its parts."

The message is clear
Those companies that have moved from being product-focused to customer-focused are the cornerstone of our economy - worldwide. Those who have moved (or are moving) from traditional branding to emotional branding and from using traditional communication methods to emotional communication methods will win the hearts and wallets of their customers.

The marketer influences both how people experience the brand and the resultant emotional memories; and how people experience the advertising and the resultant emotional memories. Brand marketing involves the management of the emotional memories of both the brand and all its communication.

Carl Ware, Coca-Cola's executive VP of communications and corporate affairs, is insightful in saying recently in The New York Times, that "Consumer democracy is becoming more and more of an issue. Indeed, brands do not belong to corporations anymore, but to people!"

Daniel Goleman, in his book, Working with Emotional Intelligence, expands on this change by saying: "The rules for work are changing. We're being judged by a new yardstick: not just by how smart we are, or by our training and expertise, but also by how well we handle each other and ourselves." For companies, emotional branding and connectivity starts at 'home.'

So what is Emotional Marketing and Branding?
Andrea Syverson, President of IER Partners, says it starts with how you view the branding process. She quotes branding expert Joel Desgrippes who defines it as follows: "Branding is not only about ubiquity, visibility and functions; it is about bonding emotionally with people in their daily life. Only when a product or service kindles an emotional dialogue with the consumer, can this product or service qualify to be a brand."

She elaborates, "emotional marketing is all about the 'why,' the feelings and emotions underneath a product or service. You know why it's important to brand, but emotional marketing goes a step further to help garner attention and really develop products."

Syverson calls the MasterCard "Priceless" campaign, which was developed by McCann-Erickson, one of the best examples of emotional marketing today. To demonstrate: A MasterCard ad featuring a little boy and a puppy. The copy reads: "Donation to animal shelter: $50. Collar, bowl, and food: $12. Shots at the vet: $85. Your first dog: Priceless." "They are not selling MasterCard credit cards in this particular commercial. They're really selling the love of man's best friend, a puppy," Syverson says. The reason why it is effective is that it is "very relevant to our daily lives," she continues. In other words, they don't sell a product; they sell a quality, an experience or convenience that we can all relate to as desirable and invaluable, or "priceless."

Marc Gob', author of Emotional Branding, gives his version: "Emotional Branding provides the means and the methodology for connecting products to the consumer in an emotionally profound way. It focuses on the most compelling aspect of the human character: the desire to transcend material satisfaction and experience emotional fulfilment. A brand is uniquely situated to achieve this because it can tap into the aspirational drives which underlie human motivation."

Simply put, it includes emotional benefits (feeling), rational benefits (informational, educational, economic, social, and environmental) and human contact - interaction with your customer. Emotional branding focuses on the long-term customer relationship and encourages connectivity and intimacy. The emotional aspect of products and their distribution systems will be the key differentiator between customers' ultimate choice and the price they will pay.

What is the difference between Experiential Marketing and Traditional Marketing?
Traditional marketing focuses on the superiority of functional features of a product or service, while experiential marketing focuses on the customer experience - the sense, feel, think, act that relate to your brand. (Bernd H Schmitt 1999)

Experiential marketing is a powerful marketing approach that brings brands to life - face-to-face with your customer, so that they can experience your product or service. Until then, your brand is not seen by your customer as real or tangible. Inter-linked with this is their emotional experience in making the decision to buy. Another plus on the side of experiential marketing is that there are no boundaries, and very few rules.

Experience also builds emotional connections. Customers buy when they trust, feel confident that processes are centred on them and expect that the purchase will make them feel better. Experiences must meet purchaser emotional needs, as well as their operational ones. Their experience begins from the time they feel a need and continues to the end of a relationship. By then the emotional connection is strong enough so that your customer doesn't feel disappointed if your company fails to deliver.

Making the Emotional Connection
Connections are made through experiences and emotions.

Emotional connections are crucial to delivering your brand's intentions and are a well-practised concept. However, when you apply emotional marketing strategies to your brand efforts, you need to know how your product or service makes your customers feel?

Smart marketers define their marketing strategy in psychological and emotional terms. This is more evident in companies that are using direct, interactive and customer database marketing techniques and principles. These successful companies have built relationships with their customers by creating personal interactive dialogue - at every point of contact (touch-points) - that responds to their lifestyle needs, wants and aspirations. This method of connecting with their customers has created strong emotional bonds with their brands.

Marc Gob', in his book Emotional Branding, advocates a shift in both corporate culture and consumer approach to include a better understanding of and direct dialogue with customers. "A more humanistic, imaginative and risk-taking style for conducting business and managing employees; the development of products and services that provide total sensory experiences; and an approach to branding that listens to your customers in order to bring more pleasurable, life-enhancing solutions to their world."

In 1969, Theodore Levitt (Marketing Myopia) said: "We are here to serve and satisfy our customers needs. Profit is our measure of success. It is better to make a customer than to make a sale. Adding to this, we should not define ourselves as sellers of products and services but re-define ourselves as buyers of customers." Never were truer words spoken.

How do you create emotional branding strategies?
In today's increasingly complex and diverse marketplace, emotional branding is a means of creating a personal dialogue with your customers on issues, which are most meaningful to them. Customers expect your brands to know them - intimately and individually - with a deep understanding of their needs and cultural orientation.

As Marc Gob' states: "This new model will be one of brands connecting with innovative products and services that are culturally relevant, socially sensitive and have presence at all points of contact in people's lives. Most importantly, the biggest misconception in branding strategies is the belief that branding is about market share when it is really about 'mind and emotions share."

Direct Marketing experts have been preaching the gospel on 'emotional' marketing and branding for years. This has been done through the integration of emotional marketing efforts into overall marketing vision and strategy, translating these into a concept of Integrated Marketing Communications programs.

They have over many years develop and perfected, customer communication and value management programs (in various formats), providing 'lifestyle' experiences - taking customers into an interactive dialogue through technology-driven systems, such as value-enhanced and value-driven customer databases and segmentation models.

Traditional marketers focus on the four Ps: product, price, place and promotion. Direct and interactive marketers use emotional marketing principles and techniques and incorporate all other personal factors to create an integrated, meaningful and measurable connection.

  • People: present, past and prospective customers, including employees - segmented into their respective value contributions to your bottom line
  • Personal buying experience (including payment behaviour) - using the RFMP Model
  • Personal branding - an emotive marketing tool, using your life story. There are dozens of entrepreneurs and unsung heroes that have built their businesses on personal emotional branding and bonding.
  • Physical evidence - that what makes your business offering tangible and reputable
  • Personal relationships - building of customer value programs and on-going integrated communication packages
  • Partnering and collaboration - with your customers, suppliers and employees
  • Processes, policies and procedures for your customer database systems and value programs
  • Each Point of Contact is a 'Moment of Truth.' It is not a short-term approach but a long-term attitude that looks at an opportunity to creative a positive synergy and happy and profitable customers.

There are many tried and tested ways of direct engagement.
Here are some of the quoted examples:

  • Haagen-Dazs ( first built its brand by handing-out samples on street corners and by opening ice cream counters in restaurants and upmarket hotels. It also introduced the 'two-person' cups of ice cream.
  • Guinness ( turned a part of a brewery into a fashionable shop/hangout for young shoppers to counteract it's ageing image.
  • Progressive Insurance ( adjusters provide refreshments, arrange alternative travel and write cheques for repairs on the spot, in addition to taking names and numbers at an accident scene.
  • The instant bonding of 'Hog' members and new Harley-Davidson buyers.
  • Disney's ( legendary ability to connect to the heart extends across generations.
  • Nike infuses its NikeTown stores with the aura of a sports stadium filled with sporting heroes.
  • Cadbury Chocolates' ( Cadbury Park interactively draws customers into the process of designing, producing and packaging chocolate.
  • Howard Shultz, CEO of Starbucks, speaks about romancing the consumer: "If we greet customers, exchange a few extra words with them and then custom-make a drink exactly to their taste, they will be eager to come back."
  • Even the auto industry is realigning brands around emotion. No longer do manufacturers sell cars. They deliver platforms for transportation, entertainment, safety and quality family time.

In South Africa, Smirnoff Vodka Marketing Manager, Nyimpini Mabunda, when asked what is the essence of the Smirnoff brand, said the following: "Liberation - this means accessibility, emotionally and physically. Emotional accessibility means freedom to enjoy the brand the way you choose, no format or taste restriction. You can mix it whichever way you want or have it straight - the product is taste- and smell neutral."

When asked: "Do you believe in the power of the brand, and how does it affect your customers?" Nyimpini said: "Yes I do. 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. There's a bigger emotional link to brands, partly because communication has evolved from intrinsic, functional benefits, to emotional connection.

Samsung South Africa is another company that believes wholeheartedly in the consumer experience and emotional branding. According to Sarit Reouveni, group marketing manager, "Experiential marketing captivates, encourages brand loyalty and increases positive perception." The group believes that "conventional advertising and sponsorship alone is not sufficient for us to fulfil our goal to become the leader in consumer goods".

This is true emotional marketing - and it connects your brand to your customers' hearts for a lifetime.

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