How to Brand - Part 5: Develop Emotional Involvement and Branded Experiences

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Posted Aug 10, 2011
Susan Gunelius

If you haven’t read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 of the How to Brand series, follow the links and read them now. You can’t develop emotional involvement in your brand and create branded experiences (as you learn here in Part 5), if you haven’t done the preceding steps. Once you’ve read those articles, it’s time to create the kind of emotional involvement in your brand that leads to brand loyalty and word-of-mouth marketing.

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How to Brand

Emotional Triggers and Connections

A brand’s growth is severely limited if it lacks an emotional connection with consumers. It’s up to you to create branded experiences that allow people to become emotionally involved in your brand. In copywriting, wordsmiths create marketing messages that appeal to consumers’ emotional triggers. In branding, the process of creating emotional involvement begins with those same emotional triggers.

What emotions does your brand evoke? Consider some of the common emotional triggers used in advertising copy:

  • Fear: Examples include the fear of not being accepted by peers or being left behind. Do all of your friends have iPhones already? You need one, too!
  • Competition: This is a common emotional trigger that taps into the desire to “keep up with the Joneses.” For example, you don’t want your neighbor to drive a nicer car than you -- right?
  • Instant gratification: These days we can’t wait for anything. Whether it’s an instant purchase, instant credit approval, or anything else you can imagine, consumers want it right now.
  • Guilt: This is a favorite emotional trigger for nonprofit organizations. For the price of a cup of coffee each day, you could feed a hungry child, help abandoned animals, or do dozens of things to help the less fortunate rather than caffeinating yourself. Do you feel guilty yet? Then it’s working.
  • Trust: If you can evoke feelings of trust in consumers when they hear your brand name, then you’ve hit the jackpot. Trust typically leads directly to word-of-mouth marketing and loyalty.
Paris Hilton

If your brand doesn’t hone in on an emotional trigger, then it will have a much harder time generating word-of-mouth marketing and loyalty. People don’t often talk about things they have no feelings for or about, and that applies to brands, too.

Entertainment and celebrity brands provide the perfect example of how emotional involvement fuels brand buzz and loyalty. Why do celebrities believe that even negative press is a good thing? When did it become a positive career move to allow a personal sex tape to go public? If you ask Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian that question, you’ll hear even negative emotions can help build a brand.

However, for non-celebrity brands, I recommend avoiding the sex tape marketing strategy. Instead, identify the emotions that make people choose your brand, that make people listen to and believe your brand promise, make them want to buy your brand again, and make them want to tell their friends about it. When you can identify those emotions, you can tap into them in your marketing messages and you can create branded experiences that exploit those emotions and increase emotional involvement with your brand. The goal is to create vocal brand advocates who talk positively about your brand and defend it against negative buzz.

In Part 1 of the How to Brand series, you learned about researching consumers and the market to determine where your brand fits. It’s time to do some more research to confirm that the emotions you’re focused on connecting to your brand are the same ones that consumers feel about your brand. Don’t assume you know how consumers feel. Take the time to ask them or you could waste a significant amount of time and money trying to tap into the wrong emotions.

Creating Branded Experiences

Once you’ve identified the most effective emotional triggers tied to your brand and understand the feelings consumers have for your brand and your competitors’ brands, it’s time to create branded experiences that allow emotional involvement in your brand to grow deeper. Branded experiences include the atmosphere in your brick-and-mortar location, the user experience and content on your website, the conversations on your blog, your behavior and offerings at events, and so on.

Look for ways to allow people to experience your brand first-hand and develop their own emotional connections to it. Russ Meyer, Chief Strategy Officer at Landor Associates, recently wrote a great post on the Landor blog about creative brand experiences. It’s worth a read and can help you start thinking out-of-the-box when developing your own brand experiences.

Up next in the How to Brand series is the final part, which discusses monitoring your brand for long-term success.

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