Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Creating emotional connections

Strong and enduring brands create an emotional connection with their core customer. For example, tapping into personal values such as freedom, creativity and independence are at the core of Apple’s success, whereas brands like BMW tap into values of excellence, speed, and competition.

In brand communication, there’s always been a debate between the effectiveness of the purely functional/rational hard sell (think Tide gets clothes clean) and the emotional (think Sunlight – modern, caring, gentle). In "Brand Immortality" a book published by two Brits, Hamish Pringle and Peter Field, these former ad agency execs demonstrate that there’s a quantitative link between the effectiveness of emotional advertising and business results. In fact, they posit that emotional campaigns are almost twice as likely to generate large profit gains as rational ones, with campaigns that use facts as well as emotions in equal measure falling somewhere in between the two.

With trust at an all time low in today’s economic and corporate climate, this is a timely book. The current environment gives brands the opportunity to deepen the emotional connection by addressing consumers’ needs for stability, honesty and simplicity.

Brands that “get” this will win. In the case of Tropicana, we’ve seen how a change in packaging has sparked a huge negative emotional reaction. On the other hand, General Mills is using consumer sentiment to its advantage and is leveraging nostalgia to drive sales. They’ve gone into their archives and have re-introduced box designs for some of their best-selling cereals - Cheerios, Honey Nut Cheerios, Lucky Charms, Cocoa Puffs and Trix.

Do you have an example of a brand that has leveraged current consumer sentiment effectively to create an emotional connection?


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I've been thinking about your question and it's taken me awhile to come up with a good example. I think there are a number of marketers that are effectively pushing lower prices of course, but the vast majority approach things from a 'features and benefits' basis. Apparently, they have little clue how to skillfully deal with what is, no doubt, the most powerful approach that any marketer has - and that is positively addressing the emotions of their consumers.

    A company that I think is doing a great job now is Schwab. Their new campaign "Do Something About It" not only takes on the anxieties of those on "Main St.", but it also - very deftly - reinforces the 'take charge' aspect of their entire value proposition. The spots highlight people discussing where they find themselves financially at the moment: "We had our whole retirement in place and then it just went boom. You know. Up in smoke." These vignettes effectively articulate the fears of many many people throughout this country now and in sort of a call/response fashion are balanced with text responses that lead to the Schwab solution: "Last year over 250,000 people didn't accept it." - "They did something about it" - "They moved to Schwab." - then "DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT." While I think there may be some slight logical inconsistencies with their approach (i.e. certainly Schwab customers have lost money in the recession just like everyone else) - they very nicely wrap their brand and business message in an empowering, uplifting emotionally resonant package that works.

    Here's a clip:

    Bottom line, we are in a period where because of the economic instability, there is a lot more emotion - anxiety, fear, frustration, etc. - in the air. Companies who can tweak their brand positioning and marketing messages to offer a solution to those negative emotions - however small - can reap huge benefits both now and when things turn around. Something even like chewing gum, for example, might not be able to credibly suggest that they can solve everyone's problems, but they can market themselves as a brief and affordable respite/oasis/breather from the seemingly incorrigible rat race. Obviously products and services that play a greater part in peoples' lives can tap into even greater wellsprings of emotions to their benefit. Marketers just need to understand how their brand's can become emotional solutions - in addition to meeting whatever physical features and benefits that they do. And there's no better time than now to do so!

  3. Hi Michael - thank you for your very thoughtful comments. What a wonderful example. Our world has certainly changed. More than ever, transparency, authenticity but also empathy are brand requisites. kk