• Transform magazine
  • August 23, 2017

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Opinion: Why do emotion-driven brands succeed?

STEVE_BECKWORTH_COLT copy.jpeg

Brand managers are no strangers to the value of tapping into their target audiences’ emotions. It’s a well known industry fact that Coca-Cola sells happiness and Apple, in its own words, focuses on delight, surprise, love and connection. What is talked about less often is the value of a brand taking its own emotional temperature. Steve Beckworth discusses the impact of emotion on brand

Trying to define which emotions are most likely to accelerate brand growth is an exercise in futility if they don’t first identify which emotions the brand is already eliciting from its consumers.  

I don’t mean checking on how liked a brand is. The kind of soul searching exercise I am referring to involves honestly reviewing the good with the bad. Ultimately identifying and eradicating negative associations is where we are most likely going to unblock what is holding a potentially thriving brand back.

Some brands don't elicit any emotion. This requires going back to basics to uncover the buried heart of a brand. It is a powerful exercise that reaps rewards. Fruit juice brand Frobisher’s took this drastic measure when it found it was simply selling a product in the crowded fruit juice sector.

It took some serious soul searching to move beyond the confines of the product to reveal the brand's heritage in juice based on an unwavering focus on premium produce. This realisation became the platform from which to affirm Frobisher's deep knowledge of juice.

Consumer research pointed at a gap in the market for an alternative fruit juice that was premium, without being preachy. Consumers were tired of being told how good something might be for them, they just wanted a brand they could intrinsically trust. By communicating the brand's superior knowledge and a heritage of premium produce, Frobisher's now taps into its consumers’ emotional need for trust, without the fuss.

Jensen’s Gin, on the other hand, was not sufficiently evolved enough to be considering emotional cues. It certainly understood its customers, yet after a period of rapid growth, sales were levelling out. Jensen's realised that the way to continue on an upward curve was to take its own brand temperature, to find out what narrative it was unintentionally telling.

This highlighted the fact that there was greater emphasis on the product rather than the brand. Recalibrating brand communication made Jensen's realise it was much more than great gin. It was at the forefront of the craft alcohol movement in London and it 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. Its consumers’ feeling of belonging and attachment is much stronger than their desire to drink a ‘new generation of gin,’ and this is reflected by a brand that loves London as much as they do.

Jensen's effectively tapped into its consumer’s subconscious pride at being part of London itself.

The abundance of information that consumers can now tap into shapes their views of the world and of themselves. As a consequence, today’s consumers are regularly reconstructing their identities, personas and emotions, and have become chameleon-like and elusive.

New brands may have no past brand temperature to take. They start with a clean slate, yet unless the product is completely innovative, their struggle will be one of breaking through the noise and making a differentiated statement that resonates and aligns with their target audiences emotional status. Deciding what this should be requires defining the emotion they want to trigger based on a clear understanding of its values, and this is not always immediately obvious.

Start-up beer company Hiver had to dig deep to uncover the emotional cues it might evoke in its consumer. The company's independence separated it from mass-produced honey beers and pointed to a more bohemian personality, while its 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 does things its own way and appeals 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. It is emotions that drive purchase behaviour, loyalty, and advocacy, not a post code or a gender, and most brands are eliciting some sort of emotion whether they mean to or not. Being in control of that is an important step toward positively connecting with your consumers.

Ticking all the logical boxes does not guarantee success, it’s time to get emotional.

Steve Beckworth is the business account director at brand consultancy Colt