The Ultimate Guide to Emotional Branding

This guide illustrates why emotional branding is essential to all brands when developing brand strategies in a such competitive marketplace

What is Emotional Branding?

Emotional branding is a term used in marketing that refers to the practice of building a brand that appeals to a consumer’s emotional state, their needs and their aspirations. It’s about forming an emotional connection with your customers.

What makes emotional branding?

Not only does emotional branding differentiate companies from their competitors, it also helps create a deep relationship between the brand and the consumer.

Only with an insight based, personalized marketing approach can you form a bond with a brand that evokes these emotional reactions from customers. In order to create this emotional brand and bond, it requires great marketing, which requires an ‘emotional strategy’.

How do you develop an emotional brand strategy?

Emotional branding needs to be part of your marketing strategy. It should occur at every stage of the customer journey and relate to every aspect of your business. Is essence, anything that affects your customers or your business can have an impact on your brand.

Your strategy should be geared towards developing a user experience that feeds the emotion but also feeds off emotions. It’s important to understand the six stages of emotional branding before you set out on your strategy.

  1. Capturing attention – how do you nurture and continue to encourage interest in your brand? Who are you targeting and what might be the emotions those people respond to? These are all key things to consider when implementing a strategy.
  2. Encouraging purchasing – how do you set about encouraging your consumer to make that purchase or commitment with your brand? How can you switch capturing their attention into a purchase? This again comes down to understanding the emotions of your audience and what drives their decisions.
  3. Developing a relationship – this is all about reassuring your customers that they have made the right decision to spend their money with you, and that you value and nurture that relationship.
  4. Developing customer loyalty – turning a one-off purchase into a regular purchase helps to build your brand loyalty, increasing the lifetime value of that customer. This stage is all about adding incentives, offers, discounts and cross selling products.
  5. Making your brand part of your customers life – this is all about developing a deep and long-lasting relationship with your customer.
  6. Benefiting from word-of-mouth – finally, once you have done all the above you can almost guarantee that you will reap the rewards of word-of-mouth, with your customers providing free advertising and referrals.

Related article: Complete Guide to Digital Psychology

How do you build an emotional connection with a brand?

Emotion is what drives our thoughts, actions and decisions and purchasing behaviour. Giants like Amazon and Walmart very cleverly present shoppers with similar product choices at comparable prices, which increases that customer’s emotions in the purchasing journey.

In a competitive market you need to have strong relationships with prospect customers before they make a purchasing decision, which can be difficult. With previous customers, this is much easier, but with prospect customers it requires more effort.

How do you get your brand to stand out?

Getting your brand to stand out can be a difficult task, but here’s some key pointers that should help:

  1. Tell your story – this is key when it comes to ensuring your brand stands out. The world is full of brands but in order for yours to stand out you need people to know how your brand got to where it is today and what you stand for. This can be tricky to do, but it’s important to spend time over.
  2. Show your personality – this might seem obvious but audiences enjoy seeing and hearing about the people behind a business. Reminding your customers that there are real people behind it makes it more likeable and personable, enhancing that connection with your clients.
  3. Make it meaningful – your brand needs to be meaningful and memorable if it’s going to stand out from the crowd. The most effective brands form a connection with their audience by tapping into different emotions. Striking a cord with your customers is vital to making long lasting relationships.
  4. Offer a brand experience – your brand is much more than just a logo and a tagline. It can be subjective and should focus on creating an experience. Your customer needs to have a positive encounter each and every time they use your product or service.
  5. Focus on your strengths – It’s crucial to focus on your best strengths to allow you to distinguish your brand from others by identifying the skills that make you different. Focus on that USP and deliver a memorable brand experience, ensuring you stand above the rest.

It’s important that we look closely at the exact meaning of an emotional connection in order to understand how this plays in hand with emotional branding, in particular an ‘appeal to emotion’.

This can be highly effective as a rhetoric technique due to the nature of human cognition.

Hear the honest truth from Brian Smith about the set back and hurdles it took for UGG to now be ranked the #1 Top Omnichannel Retailer according to TotalRetail and the importance of loyalty, perseverance and tenacity in this journey.

What is the reason for this?

It’s because when humans process information and make decisions they rely primarily on their intuitive and emotional response to things, rather than logical and fact based reasoning because it appeals to their emotion.

Because appeals to emotion are so effective and play a critical role in any business, it’s important to fully understand them. There are two main types that people will experience:

  1. Positive emotions – this is an emotion such as joy, hope, kindness, compassion, empathy or gratitude
  2. Negative emotions – anger, hate, distrust, pity, fear, despair or shame

It’s important we think about the types of emotions we are conjuring when we present something from a brand and how this will appeal to someone’s emotions.

Related article: What is Digital Leadership? Definition, Examples, Skills, Qualities 

Rational Branding

This leads us nicely into looking at rational branding. Rational branding is anything that is based on logic or reason and therefore can be called rational. Essentially this is the opposite to emotional branding.

If you are to build a strategy for rational branding it would be devised by considering the benefits of your product or service. It would highlight the reasons for choosing it and make the product or service the center of the strategy.

Here is a quick chart that defines the difference in the two:

Differences between Rational Branding and Emotional Branding

Rational branding can help you to develop a strong foot in the market. It allows you to help inform customers all about your brand, and if that person ends up finding it useful, ultimately they will then purchase.

However, the ideal marketing strategy when it comes to branding would be to combine the two to get the best results.

So how do you develop a brand strategy? 

We’ve talked about it a lot throughout this article, but creating a strong brand comes down to having a good brand strategy.

Here’s what we consider the best steps to take when building out your brand development strategy:

  1. Start with your overall business strategy – this will form the context for your brand development strategy so it’s naturally the first place to start.
  2. Identifying your target audience – research shows that every single business will have a target audience, it’s not possible that you’ll be wanting to target absolutely everybody. The narrower your focus, the faster the growth.
  3. Research your target audience – research helps you to understand your target audience and their wants and needs.
  4. Developing your brand’s positioning – how is your company different from others? Why should customers choose to work with you?
  5. Develop your messaging strategy – you need to build messaging that resonates with your various target audiences. Whilst your core branding and messaging will remain the same across all, it’s important you define the specifics for each.
  6. Developing a content marketing strategy – your brand’s strength is driven by both reputation and it’s visibility. Good content marketing can improve both of these and is the perfect way to make your brand relevant to all your audiences.

Watch below a thorough guide for Developing & Defining Your Brand in an Increasingly Crowded Landscape perfectly delivered by Yelena Fradlis during our NG Retail Summit.

What are emotional motivators? 

Marketing success mainly comes down to how you model your target customer’s behaviour. If you think of motivation as the driving force of someone’s life, then it’s that motivation that gives them a sense of purpose and reason to act.

So, what really does drive our behaviour? Clark L. Hull came up with a very well known theory, the Global Theory of Behaviour to help describe what motivates us. The formula is:

sEr = SHR x D x V x K

sEr = reaction potential

SHR = number of reinforced training (habit strength)

D = drive strength

V = clarity of stimulus

K = incentive momentum

In his formula above, sEr is positively correlated to D which is determined by a need state; the longer the person is deprived of a need, the higher the drive strength becomes.

When it comes to emotions, it’s good to understand Plutchik’s “Wheel of Emotions”:

Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions for Emotional Branding

Emotions are closely linked to behavioural tendency. Emotion is the driving force behind motivation whether that is positive or negative as discussed earlier.

How do brands make emotional connections?

We know that people become emotionally connected to a brand for several reasons, but there are many ways that businesses can set out to achieve this connection, from advertising to consumer membership organisations and sponsored consumer events, building this emotional connection can take your customers brand loyalty to a new level of brand advocacy.

When seeking to create emotional connections you should always find ways to tap into the underlying human motives.

Four steps of branding

This leads us nicely onto the four steps of branding:

  1. Define how you want your brand to be perceived – how do you want your customers to describe their experience when using your product or service? If you owned an Italian restaurant for example, you would want people to go around shouting that it’s the best italian restaurant in town.
  2. Organize your business based on this promise – this sets you apart from your competitors!
  3. Communicate that promise – across all of your marketing collateral, you must deliver that promise and align with your messaging. It is at this point that your brand becomes central to your campaigns, but makes it all the more effective since the messaging is clear.
  4. Be consistent – once you have done all the above, now is the time to stay consistent and in time, you’ll develop loyalty and trust from your customer base. Going back to the example of the Italian restaurant, there could be 5 or more Italian restaurants in the area, but only one where customers know what they are getting or know as the best in town. More importantly, when new customers or even existing customers visit, they expect that quality and consistently receive it.


It’s clear that in order for you to build a successful and trustworthy brand, you need to spend time on your emotional branding strategy.

Hopefully this helps provide you with the building blocks and encourages you to think differently about how you can appeal to your customers through all of the points we have discussed throughout the article.

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