The emotions of branding

It's emotions that drive purchase behaviour, says guest writer Steve Beckworth of creative agency Colt.

Gone are the days when demographics were a marketer’s only reliable guiding system. Research now confirms that on average 50% of purchase decisions are based on emotion. In some categories, such as vodka, this can reach as high as 90%.

It is emotions that drive purchase behaviour, loyalty, and advocacy, not a postal code or a gender.

Yet using emotions to accelerate brand growth first requires identifying which key emotions a product wants to convey in its consumers, and which ones it is currently eliciting. Only then can it work towards aligning with what it wants the consumer to feel and experience.

The value of pride

Accurately measuring a brand’s ‘emotional status’ involves honestly reviewing the good with the bad. Identifying and eradicating negative associations is essential to building a thriving brand.

Jensen’s Gin found this when, after a period of rapid growth, their sales started levelling out. They realised that the only way to continue on an upward curve was to first take their own brand ‘temperature’.

They found they were selling a product, not a brand. In recalibrating their brand communication they realised they were much more than great gin. They also had great timing. They were at the forefront of the craft alcohol movement in London and they had a heritage that other brands could only aspire to. This mixed with a loyal, local following pointed at a strong emotional cue: pride. 

London became the focus of the brand. Their consumers’ feeling of belonging and attachment is reflected by a brand that loves London as much as they do. Jensen effectively tapped into their consumer’s subconscious pride at being part of London’s DNA.

Despite marketers acknowledging the importance of emotions and their impact on brands, capitalising on this knowledge in a transformational way that impacts brand growth can still appear elusive. Creating customer-centric campaigns without first taking stock of a brand’s emotional status is an exercise in futility.

Beyond the hive

Honing in on the emotions a brand wants to trigger is based on a clear understanding of what it is really about, and this is not always immediately obvious. 

Those marketers who are already aligning with their customer’s subconscious needs are reaping the rewards.  Coca Cola has very little to do with a drink and much more to do with happiness, and Volvo is less about a car, and more about safety. Cocooning, trust, satisfaction, peace of mind are all emotions that cross through every product category and resonate with consumers on a deeper level.

Start-up beer company Hiver followed this lead and built their marketing strategy around a ‘why’. By addressing ‘why' Hiver existed, they wanted to uncover the emotional cues they might evoke in their consumer. 

The answer was straight-forward, Hiver was the definitive British honey beer. Independently made using honey from independent British beekeepers, they passionately believed in giving their customers nothing less than the genuine article. 

Their independence separated them from mass-produced honey beers and pointed at a more bohemian personality, while their passion and attention to detail could also be leveraged emotionally. 

The idea of 'Passionate independence' has spawned a brand built on those principles, from using 100% British ingredients and suppliers to supporting pollinator charities with 10% of profits, Hiver do things their own way and appeal to consumers that follow the same mantra. 

An emotion led approach to branding is nothing new, yet many organisations still fail to explore an avenue that could lead to an increased market share. Success leaves clues and if it’s an approach market leaders are embracing, why not take inspiration from that? 

Ticking all the logical boxes from a marketing perspective does not guarantee success - it’s time to get emotional.