The power of emotion in branding hero
The power of emotion in branding

At Huxly we believe that successful products need to create a balance of emotional, functional, social, sensorial and rational benefits to be really successful. In this blog we're going to explore the reason why emotions have a powerful role in building your brand, and how you can use communications to embed a clear emotional signature with your target consumers. We've come up with 5 reasons why you should think hard about the emotional aspects of your brand positioning.

1. Emotion is the real powerhouse in human decision making

Who is really calling the shots here? We used to think the mind was a computer, carefully weighing up facts to make decisions. Now we know fast, feelings-based reactions pack the punch in decision making, and that has major implications for brand owners. Binet and Field, authors of The Long and the Short of it: Balancing Short and Long-Term Marketing Strategies, reference Nobel Prize laureate Daniel Kahneman, who proved that emotions are the primary driver of human behaviour, while "cognition usually merely 'rubber stamps' the emotional decision"

It happens quickly too. Emotional reactions come from the lightning fast processing of the limbic system, the brain's feelings hub, whereas information travelling through the neocortex, the thinking hub, is more laboured. In categories awash with easily replicated functional stories, an emotional first-mover advantage, physiological, intangible, and harder for competitors to copy, could be the silver bullet all marketers are searching for.

2. Emotional campaigns create greater business impacts in the long term

Let's return to Binet and Field's report, where a review of 996 case studies lead the authors to the conclusion that "Emotional campaigns, and in particular those that are highly creative, and generate powerful fame/buzz effects, produce considerably more powerful long-term business effects than rational persuasion campaigns"

The business effects they describe are the metrics that we commonly use to track success: profit, sales, market share, penetration, loyalty and price sensitivity. Binet and Field aren't saying that we shouldn't focus on the short term rational messages such as promotions, rather that rational and emotional messages need equal weighting over time. The most successful approach they say "is to develop highly creative fame campaigns supported by powerful activation to drive short-term sales whilst the brand effect gains momentum"

3. Emotionally priming consumers make them more receptive to rational messages about your brand

Our MMR colleague Professor David Thomson explains that the principal reason for new product failure is that the bundle of benefits delivered by some new products just isn't motivating enough to change consumer behaviour the long term.

Now research shows us that emotion not only co-exists with the rational but has the power to influence it. Warming consumers up with emotions, or "emotional priming" allows marketers to push on an open door with a brand's rational messages, offering marketers the chance to deliver a "double whammy" within creative. Binet and Field explain:

  • "Another intriguing effect of emotional priming is that it makes people tend to believe positive rational messages about the brand, whether or not they are presented with any evidence"

4. Products and brands have the power to make people feel things

Emotions can have a physical feeling. Ever caught a whiff of an ex's after shave or perfume and experienced an arrow straight to the heart? You are not alone.

We love this TED talk by designer Richard Seymour, who speaks eloquently on the power of emotion in design to evoke a physical reaction. He feels it, he says, in his solar plexus. Watch (tissues at the ready) at how easily he is able to add a moving emotional context to a simple image and transform it into something visceral.

Or, if you'd rather spark a little joy, watch this film created by US airline WestJet

Karen Poole, 18th June 2018