Editor's note: Edmund M. Jessup is an academic librarian at the New York Institute of Technology's Manhattan campus. He can be reached at email@example.com. This article appeared in the May 12, 2014, edition of Quirk's e-newsletter.
Emotional branding has been described as the practice of building brands that appeal directly to a consumer's ego, emotional state, needs and aspirations. And what company wouldn't want its brand to resonate emotionally with consumers? Christie Barakat, assistant professor of media and psychology in Florence, Italy, says that while "traditional consumer decision-making models are grounded in the theory of rational choices and are largely cognitive and sequential in nature, emotional branding is irrational." It is irrational in the sense those consumers might place an attachment to a product in the abstract or the way a product makes them feel or appear.
Paving the way
Though irrational in nature, the emotional bond to a product or service can strengthen a consumer's tie to it, paving the way for a devoted relationship between the consumer and the brand. Developing an emotional connection with consumers can give a brand a special edge over its competitors when done correctly.
Steve Goldner, digital and social marketing executive consultant, says "emotional branding goes beyond loyalty." In his article "The Six Stages of Emotional Branding," Goldner indicates that emotional branding can create an 'I-am-with-<brand-name>-no-matter-what' mind-set, all for their love of a brand."
Campaigns done right
There are many great brands that have accomplished this over and over again. Take, for example, The Coca-Cola Company. The historical ad "I'd like to buy a world a Coke" began in January 1971. After noticing jaded passengers stuck at an airport in Ireland due to bad weather, Bill Backer, creative director on the Coca-Cola account at the time, saw them all as being "brought together by a common experience," as many were laughing and sharing stories over snacks and bottles of Coca-Cola. Thus, the jingle "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke" was born.
Designed as merely a "liquid refresher," Bill Backer saw Coca-Cola as being more than just that. In the popular campaign, Backer saw Coca-Cola as "as a tiny bit of commonality between all peoples, a universally-liked formula that would help to keep them company for a few minutes." The 1971 campaign for the soft drink was both groundbreaking and memorable. It transcended the Coca-Cola brand as a typical and tangible product, into something that could bring people together; something that people could share.
Recently, Kellogg Co. launched a risky but very effective emotionally-driven campaign for Special K. In its commercial "Shhhhut Down Fat Talk," launched December 2013, they specifically courted the female demographic by creating a fictional clothing store called Shhhh, where instead of prices, the tags included self-deprecating comments such as "I look fat in this," "I have a muffin top" and "Cellulite is in my DNA." The idea behind the ad was to empower women and to #FightFatTalk, as the given hashtag promotes.
What made this a risky move was that nowhere in the commercial did the product appear. Riding on the success of this campaign was visibility for the brand and power of drawing the attention of the female target audience to emotionally connect and empower themselves by shutting down the fat talk through common themes of self-loathing. Not featuring a product or service in ads has been done before but with mixed results.
A fine line
In the end, connecting emotionally with consumers is something that all companies strive for but requires great finesse. A good emotional bond between consumers and a brand increases the longevity of the product/service and creates brand loyalty. This is a key factor, as clutter in marketing is unlikely to dissipate anytime soon.
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