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.