Building Brand Emotion - Part 4

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Posted Feb 17, 2012
Susan Gunelius

Emotional Branding and Market Research

You can't build brand emotion through strategic messages and experiences that lead to loyalty if you don't understand the emotions that motivate consumers in your market to make buying decisions. Without that knowledge, you have no chance of developing consumer perceptions for your brand -- a fundamental component of emotional branding success. That's where market research comes into the picture.

building brand emotion

Identifying and measuring brand sentiment is a critical piece of the emotional branding puzzle, but first, you need to conduct subjective brand research to learn how consumers feel about your market, your brand, competitor brands, and their own wants and needs.

Sometimes, consumers don't consciously realize what they want or need until a brand tells them in an effective message that appeals to emotional triggers. You need to identify the key emotional triggers that motivate your target audience, and subjective brand research can help you do it.

Conducting one-on-one interviews where consumers are more likely to reveal their true feelings is an excellent method for identifying consumer brand emotions. However, one-on-one interviews aren't always feasible when research budgets are tight. That's when strategically developed surveys can provide the information you need without the high price tag.

multiple choice

The kiss of death for subjective brand research is a survey filled with yes and no questions. There is no black and white or right and wrong where emotions are involved. It's the survey writer's job to develop questions that can reveal subjective feelings without directly asking respondents if they like or don't like something. The goal of subjective brand research is to reveal the why of consumer behaviors, which is often driven by emotions.

For example, ask probing open-ended questions and use anecdotes to illustrate points and motivate respondents to answer more subjectively than objectively. Ask respondents to tell stories, too!

Rating and ranking questions are particularly useful in revealing underlying emotions. To make these types of questions work effectively, the response choices provided must appeal to a spectrum of emotions. For example, an organic household cleanser survey shouldn't simply ask, "Do you like organic cleansers?" with a yes or no response option. Instead, the question should be, "Why do you like organic cleansers?" and answers should appeal to a variety of emotional triggers such as the responses in quotes below:

  • Security: "It's safe for me and my family."
  • Fear: "Other cleansers will kill you."
  • Guilt: "I know I'm not using a product that could harm the environment."
  • Desire to be part of a group: "All of my friends use it."
  • Competition: "I tell my friends that it costs more but I can afford it and Martha Stewart and all the top home experts recommend it."

Respondents should be asked to rank the quotes in order from the one that's most important to them or most likely to affect their buying decision to least important.

However, a word of caution needs to be provided at this point, because consumers don't always tell the truth about why they make purchase decisions. For example, a respondent might not want to admit that she pays close attention to what home experts say or that she cares what products her friends use. That's why it's important to ask subjective questions in a variety of ways to get a true measurement of emotions that drive purchase decisions.

Bottom-line, emotions are subjective, so market research used to define brand emotions should be subjective, too. Save your objectivity for the results analysis process.

If you missed previous parts of the Building Brand Emotion series, you can follow the links below to read them now:

Images: stock.xchng, Flickr

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