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Five Tips for Effective 'Emotional Branding'

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What we're now calling emotional branding isn't new. Dale Carnegie developed famous courses in self-improvement, salesmanship, corporate training, public speaking, and interpersonal skills.

In case you're inclined to sneer at the self-help philosophy, consider that this stuff works. And sells. How to Win Friends and Influence People has sold over 30 million copies since its first printing in 1936.

And what is it that worked so well? Carnegie advised businesspeople to appeal to their customers' emotions.

Yet, even with the explosion of inbound marketing, the typical salesperson is still armed with facts and figures and stock responses to questions and objections. Salespeople are generally well prepared to sell a product or service. But the truth is, products and services aren't what you're selling anymore. You're selling a way to improve people's lives; and to do that effectively you have to make them feel—not just think—that you're the right answer to their problem.

Feeling is what emotional branding is about. And the feeling doesn't even need to be directly connected to the brand. In this Coca-Cola commercial and this longer, even more heart-touching mobile telephone commercial, you see the product only at the very end of the video. The marketing makes a connection that isn't actually there, with the hope that the emotional connection stays in the audience's collective mind.

Manipulative? Sure it is. It's also brilliant. Because it works.

So what do you need to do to launch an emotional branding campaign for your company or product? Here are five tips to get you started.

Tip No. 1: Shift your focus

Think about people, rather than consumers. Think about experience, rather than products. Think about dialogue, rather than information delivery.

Emotional branding works best when you're approaching your audience as individual people who live and work and think and dream—and when you engage them with all of that in mind.

If you really know your customers, then this is easy. Studying who they are and what they want will help you with your emotional branding.

Tip No. 2: Create material so emotionally compelling that it's eminently shareable

Sharing is the best advertising out there, because it's both heartfelt and free. You couldn't pay for the kind of sharing that happens when a video or meme goes viral. So examine what is working in the media you select—videos, ads, even memes—and tailor your message to that tone and approach.

Tip No. 3: Learn about the emotional hot buttons that get people to purchase

Veteran marketer Barry Feig has carved out 16 hot buttons in Hot Button Marketing: Push the Emotional Buttons That Get People to Buy: desire for control, I'm better than you, excitement of discovery, revaluing, family values, desire to belong, fun is its own reward, poverty of time, desire to get the best, self-achievement, sex/love/romance, nurturing response, reinventing oneself, make me smarter, power/dominance/influence, and wish fulfillment.

It's a great list. But not everything on it will work for you. Think about your ideal customers (remember, we're talking people here, not products), pick out three or four of those hot buttons that will appeal to those people, and focus your branding efforts around them.

Tip No. 4: Tell a story

It really is all about the story. Storytelling is how we have for centuries—even millennia—made emotional connections. Who didn't cry at Bambi? Stories aren't about facts. Everyone knows that the best stories are the ones that stay with us long after the book is closed or we've left the theater. The same goes for business storytelling: You want your customer to keep thinking of you, so make sure you use your story to make them feel what you want them to feel.

Tip No. 5: Leave them with a strong feeling, happy or sad

It's not about what information about your brand you want to leave your audience with. It's what feeling you want to leave them with.

As William McEwen in the Gallup Management Journal notes, "Emotional connections are not merely warm and fuzzy, nor are they simply interesting to contemplate and debate. They have powerful financial consequences, ranging from share-of-wallet to frequency and amount of repeat business. 'Fully engaged' retail customers spend more and return more frequently than those who are disengaged."

You don't have to make a direct link between your product and the feeling you want associated with it. You only have to link them in your prospects' and customers' minds. This is the best way for you to stand out from your competition: by going in a completely different direction, seizing a new demographic, and making people smile or cry.

It doesn't really even matter which.

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Jeannette de Beauvoir is a principal at Harbor Marketing Associates, a marketing company engaging clients with digital strategies and tools for brand success.

LinkedIn: Jeanette de Beauvoir

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  • by Cory Tue Nov 4, 2014 via web

    I think if we focus on the person and the story rather than the product than not only will it be successful domestically but internationally as well. Of course you'll have to tweak your product for your market but focusing on the culture and the people in it will always be more successful than just trying to convince them your product is great.

  • by Judy Gibbons Tue Nov 4, 2014 via web

    I always say "The more expensive the product the better the story needs to be!" I agree Jeannette, Storytelling is the key to a successful business. The Sotheby's International Realty brand and to my own personal brand as a Realtor rely heavily on storytelling.
    Thank you for the spot on article.

  • by PrintechGlobal Tue Nov 4, 2014 via web

    Insightful article on emotional branding. People often make purchasing decisions based on emotions. A good story can sell a product better then pitching and advertising approach. At Printech Global we provide one-one-one web demo of our payment solution CheckPlusCFO for processing checks and ACH. We try to identify the needs and pain point of the potential client, tell a story of similar implementation and benefits of the solution for their business. We encourage question and concerns to better address the problems. Our software reduces payment processing time from days to 1 hour, lowers labor cost and automates AP operations. This is our story and we try to help our clients become more efficient.

  • by Sue Brady Tue Nov 4, 2014 via web

    Telling the story is so important and not that hard to do! Make it interesting and compelling and about the product user, not the product itself! I just wrote a post on that very subject!

  • by Dave Chapman Wed Nov 5, 2014 via web

    People don't care how much you know. They want to know how much you care.

  • by Web Design 1 Sat Nov 15, 2014 via web

    This article is great and hits on many key points that I've seen when discussing emotional branding. I completely agree with the simplicity of the heading 'tell a story'. It's so key to engage with the viewer in a means to lead them through a relational idea that drives them to an emotional co-related reaction. I just wrote an article about this exact topic that showcases a multi-award winning emotionally branded commercial. Feel free to visit:

  • by Allen Robert Wed Nov 19, 2014 via web

    Stop trying to do social media and just be social. Treat social media platforms and new connections just as you would in real life, be human.

  • by Jeannette Koczela Wed Dec 3, 2014 via web

    I really appreciated this article---especially the last point about leaving them with a strong feeling. I think many of us tend to be too timid in our sales approaches because we don't want to come off as hypey or salesy. But it only makes sense to appeal to a strong emotion since people buy from emotions. And if you've built a solid relationship including valuable content, your subscribers won't view you as too saley.

  • by Evangelia Tsirikos Wed Jan 21, 2015 via web

    Fantastic article! I love that it's focused on a deeper level of marketing that makes a meaningful connection and stays with people, it's not about social media which is actually quite anti-social by the standard of human interaction. Statistically, people are more likely to commit, follow through, and care about something/someone more when they've taken the time to MEET and SEE it/them in person. Investing time in such a way is stronger than sitting behind the screen and clicking away.Havign said this, marketing promotions with brand ambassadors have been extremely successful at making emotional connections with their consumers - it's one person to another, sharing their thoughts, stories, and while connecting with one another, they connect with the brand being represented. Experience!

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