Building a Brand Based on Emotions: A Lesson in Brand Strategy

People are ruled by their emotions. Yes, practical minds can affect consumers’ decision-making processes, but more often than not, some type of emotion is the catalyst to a purchase. That’s why a brand strategy that focuses on building a brand based on one or more emotions is critical to brand success. However, emotional branding isn’t as easy as picking an emotion, creating an ad, and watching the sales roll in.


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building a brand based on emotionIn my new and ongoing series about emotional branding, you’ll learn how emotions can be effectively integrated into a brand strategy to drive positive results. Up first, an overview of how emotional branding works.

Think of it this way — even Google has shifted from a very pragmatic brand message to a far more idealistic message based on emotions in recent years. You can see it in Google’s ads that show how all of Google’s products integrate so seamlessly to help people and bring them together. Taking its cue from Apple’s successful emotional branding efforts that have turned the Apple brand into one of the most powerful relationship brands in the world, Google’s brand message and advertising have moved in a more emotional direction than ever as you can see in the ad below.

The key to leveraging emotions to build a brand is to identify your brand promise and personality, as well as the features and benefits of the products and services under your brand umbrella, and determine how these features and benefits relate to consumers’ emotions.

Targeting Emotions

Emotional triggers that might affect how people feel about your brand and their decisions to purchase your branded products and services can be both negative and positive. Some of the most commonly used examples in brand strategies include:

Fear: Fear of being left behind, not fitting in, not being prepared, missing out on something, and so on.

Guilt: Guilt because you don’t spend enough time with your family, you don’t help other people like you should, you’re selfish, you’re not taking care of yourself, and so on.

Trust: Trust that a brand is honest and will meet your expectations based on the brand’s claims.

Security: Security and peace-of-mind that you and your family will be safe, that your stress level will go down, that you won’t have to worry, and so on.

Competition: Competing to keep up with the Joneses, be better than your friends, family, neighbors or coworkers, and so on.

Love and a sense of belonging: Most human beings want to feel emotions of love and a sense of belonging to a family, team, group, and so on.

Control: A feeling of control over your life, your environment, your future, and so on.

There are also a variety of desires that are rooted in emotion which can be used in emotional branding:

Desire for freedom and independence: A desire to feel like you can make your own decisions, can act and live how you want, and so on.

Desire to be a leader or first: A desire to be the first to try new products, be an early adopter, be cutting-edge, and so on.

Desire for instant gratification: A desire to get what you want immediately, meeting urgent needs and wants, and so on.

Desire to be trendy or cool: A desire to keep up with trends, feel cool, and so on doesn’t go away in high school for many people.

Desire to get a good deal or value for your money: A desire to find the best deal available for any purchase in order to feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. This emotion ties in with a desire to not feel taken advantage of.

Desire for more free time: A desire to do things more quickly so you have more time for your family, your hobbies, and so on.

The list of emotions goes on and on, but they typically have something specific in common. Did you notice that most of these emotions are very egocentric? That’s because consumers don’t care about brands. They only care how brands can help them, solve their problems, make their lives easier or better, and satisfy their emotional needs. With that in mind, it’s not surprising that emotional branding is so powerful.

However, marketers have to try to figure out which emotions to tap into through brand messaging and experiences. Triggering the wrong emotions can do more harm to the brand than good. That’s where market research comes into the picture. You can’t assume that you know which emotions matter to your audience.

Stay tuned for future posts in the Building a Brand Based on Emotions series where you’ll learn more about conducting market research to leverage specific emotions as part of your brand strategy.


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Image: Abdulaziz Almansour

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Gunelius
Susan Gunelius, MBA is a 25-year marketing and branding expert and President and CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She is the author of 10 books about marketing, branding and social media, and her marketing-related articles appear on top media websites such as Entrepreneur.com and Forbes.com. She is also the Founder and Editor in Chief of WomenOnBusiness.com, an award-winning blog for business women.