In the past couple of years, we’ve seen a number of big retailers like John Lewis tug at the heartstrings through advertising focussed on emotion and, in particular, friends and family.
Although these glossy and expensive campaigns can border a little too much on the saccharin, their intention is sound… to make an emotional connection with potential customers in order to leave a lasting impression.
Large corporates are often perceived as cold and calculating organisations, without a care for those they serve. Surely, they have too many sites, employees and suppliers to have a living, beating heart. Not so, in fact in our experience, most of the large organisations we work with invest heavily in making their businesses a united family. Not just because happy employees make happy customers, but also because it’s the right thing to do for everyone involved.
To understand how emotional branding makes genuine connections with customers, we must first look into our own psyche. Imagine meeting someone for the first time, someone you think you’d like to get to know better.
You know that, in order to engage in meaningful conversation, you should listen with interest to what they have to say. You might also share something about yourself with that person… perhaps something you wouldn’t normally tell someone, a secret perhaps.
At this point the conversation enters a new level in relationship terms. You both know more about each other than you first did, and there is an element of trust associated with your interaction. Some of it may have even been said in confidence, introducing responsibility into the mix.
This is where connections that last are made between people. They last because both of you are now the keepers of each other’s information, and a mutual bond has been formed.
In our view, the very best brand communications mimic this inter-personal process, and benefit from loyalty in return.
In much the same way as above, organisations can listen intently to customer input, publicising and congratulating those who make constructive suggestions and criticisms, which help to build a better service.
They can share secrets, in the form of unique benefits to special customers (by the way, all customers are special), and offer the best possible service to those who return and share their great service experiences with friends and family.
Wherever possible, organisations should reach out to individual customers, across social media channels, for example, and also more traditional channels like email in, order to enforce the love.
Technology can (and should) be used to keep in regular contact with customers and to inform them of recent changes and exciting news.
When used correctly the communication tools at any organisation’s disposal can build lasting relationships that are two-way and multi-dimensional.
Language is critical in emotional branding. Choosing the right words when addressing those one wishes to be customers will make or break the approach.
Influencing factors range from sex, age, ethnic background and sophistication of understanding when it comes to an organisation’s products and services.
Because, thanks to a recent increase in fast moving media, we have become skim-readers and selective consumers of content, it’s often one phrase or sentence that wins the hearts and minds of potential customers. As a result, there is no room for poor copy or lack of sentiment – the window of opportunity is that brief.
The role design plays in conveying key messages to audiences is often overlooked. We see too regularly information being effectively eliminated so that it fits within a prescriptive design style or layout.
Core messages should be designed along with a business’ communication systems. If the killer sentence or phrase is not uppermost in the design of the communication then it should be revised.
Be the organisation big or small, the key to the success of emotional branding is to agree what it is you want to be seen as.
For example, the multi-national organisation Unilever has a goal to change its carbon footprint, while influencing the distribution of wealth across the globe. Something we can all take hope from.
But the approach need not be so grand. Most consumers want to know that the organisations they use in everyday transactions do their best in providing products or services. After all, without customers there can be no business.