The Power of Emotion and Identity to Brand Success

ITA Group

Yellow gift back isolated on a black background

The world of branding has changed dramatically over the past 20 years. These changes are due, in large part, to increased competition, customer empowerment through technology, and the growing understanding that emotion and identity play a critical role in human behavior.

To remain competitive and cutting-edge, organizations must be more than a collection of products and services that meet the functional needs of their partners and customers. Organizations must also provide benefits that help them feel how they want to feel and be who they want to be.

Understanding the emotional payoffs—both expected and desired—is key to building and maintaining loyal and engaged customers.

Humans are Guided by (Wait for It…) Emotions

The commonly accepted path to purchases—linear, based on rational behaviors—has shown to be far less linear and far less rational. Turns out, customers are real people who make impulse and thought-out decisions based on emotion and societal norms—no just “maximizing utility.”

A recent study from Harvard Business Review proves that customers feel most connected with a brand when its value proposition aligns with their motivations and desires.

For example, people who strongly wish to “stand out from the crowd,” “feel a sense of freedom” or “feel a sense of belonging” will choose products that market that feeling.

Successful Brand Strategies Know Their Customer and Center on Them

The successful brand clearly communicates how they fit into people’s lives—they leverage consumer psychology to guide how a presents itself to its target audience for greatest impact.

Consumer psychology-based measurements are critical techniques to help create a truly customer-centric brand. A recent self-funded study of 90 brands in 5 industries from market research firm, Chadwick Martin Bailey (CMB), found that a brand’s overall emotional impact score heavily influences future likelihood to purchase along with other key KPIs (advocacy, engagement, etc.).

Where the brands of yesterday focused on positioning themselves in the minds of their customers, today’s brands focus on positioning their brands in the lives of their customers.

Furthermore, they engage customers more as end-users rather than buyers—shifting their investments from pre-purchase promotion and sales to post-purchase renewal and advocacy.

Nike Evokes Customer Emotion to Connect and Inspire

While part of the draw of emotional marketing campaigns is that they help to build stronger connections with your audience, another benefit is that they can inspire people to act. Take Nike’s “Dream Crazier” ad featuring Serena Williams, which shines a spotlight on female athletes who have broken barriers and brought people together through their performance. The emotional pull of the ad was about inspiring generations of athletes to chase after their dreams.

Nike’s 2018 ad campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL quarterback known for kneeling during the national anthem in protest of police brutality, is another example. There is no denying the ad evoked emotions. And it did this because Nike was authentic and culturally relevant, and connected with customers on an emotional level. They understand that if you fade to the background of your customer’s emotional relevance, they will be open to emotional messages from direct competitors.

Emotions Offer Another Chance with Customers

It’s true that bad press and bad experiences linger longer in peoples’ memories than positive ones—but this doesn’t mean all those who oppose a campaign are out for good.

CMB research found that emotional reactions to the most recent experience have a much bigger impact on likelihood to buy in the future than the worst experience a customer has ever had with a brand—or the best.

In other words, even brands that mess up big time (in the eyes of their customers) can recover if they deliver customer experiences and marketing communications strategies that foster the right emotions.

Creating an emotional connection to your brand is the way that you turn customers into raving fans that beat down doors to buy your latest offering.

CMB (Chadwick Martin Bailey) logo

Want to learn more about how CMB is revolutionizing emotional measurement with their EMPACT solution? Watch the webinar. Learn more about how market science can drive your business forward, and ways ITA Group and CMB can give you a competitive advantage.