The Role of Emotion and Storytelling For Brand Building

Updated: June 15, 2023
The Role of Emotion and Storytelling For Brand Building

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Every brand has to be built, and there are countless tools to do so.

However, one of the most powerful is to use emotions. Storytelling is a tried-and-true technique for building a brand, but it doesn’t go far without some type of emotional connection.

This part of brand building depends a lot on psychology as well as understanding the basic emotional needs of your customers.

Using emotion to drive behavior can be thought of as a subtle form of mind control. You want the customer to have a good experience so that they are more drawn and loyal to your brand.

Every part of a brand can be shaped through emotional branding so that your customers will be loyal.

The design, the logo, the icon, the message — all of it should be designed to create a specific emotional reaction in consumers.

You don’t have to be an enormous company in order to create that kind of emotional relationship. Companies of every size can do it by paying attention to the psychology of today’s buyers.

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    What is Emotional Branding?

    This is the use of emotions that are provoked by a brand in order to create a relationship between that brand and its customers.

    Provoking that emotional reaction is done by appealing to the aspirations, needs, ego, and general emotions of consumers.

    There are many things that most humans want. These include ego gratification, love, emotional security, and power. All of these needs are subconscious but are there and ready to be provoked by marketing that triggers them.

    When emotional provocation is used, it has been found to be more than 50% more effective than advertisements that do not tap into the emotions.

    When emotional advertising isn’t done well, it leaves the audience confused instead of emotional. It’s important to be careful about which emotions you are trying to tap in to and how that is done.

    Running a series of emotional ads is a good way to keep building that emotional bond. It’s common for brands to use major events to create emotional ads. These pull on the heartstrings first and then promote the product being sold.

    Current events, such as the lockdowns or the pandemic, can often push brands to create heartfelt ads that inspire consumers to feel.

    There are four pillars to building a brand globally. Each of these four works with the others to create a full strategy that can result in emotions that translate into customers and a higher level of loyalty.

    The name of the game is to balance getting the purchase made in the short term and building an emotional connection in the long term.

    To do this, there are four basic pillars that make up the framework of brand building. The brand should have a clear definition of its brand and have guidelines that determine its brand identity.

    There should be governance that helps marketers get the information they need to meet the guidelines as well as giving them the authorization needed for brand development concepts. The CMO needs to have the freedom to develop plans that can go to the market.

    And fourth, there needs to be a specific understanding, with established standards, about how to quantify and evaluate the equity of the brand.

    One way to appeal to basic emotions is to use the famous Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This hierarchy breaks down the specific needs of people to be happy and emotionally healthy.

    The hierarchy is in the shape of a pyramid, with the most basic physical needs at the bottom. Many of the basic emotional needs for humans are what we crave from others and ourselves. We all need belongingness and love through friends and intimate relationships.

    We also need feelings of accomplishment and prestige, and we need self-actualization. This is a feeling of achieving one’s own potential, and it often includes creative needs.

    By knowing these basic needs, you can work on giving consumers some of these things through brand marketing.

    This emotional side of advertising and marketing can come through evaluating each of these needs and coming up with ways to fulfill them. Many brands chase the prestige factor, but there is plenty of room to work on fulfilling other needs.

    Looking more closely at the hierarchy of needs, more things become apparent. Humans need to belong to a group.

    You may have noticed the famous PC vs. Mac ads that put everyone squarely into a group based on their computers.

    Appealing to group needs has worked for many other brands that define a group and then invite the consumer into it.

    Benefits of the Emotional Branding Strategy

    The impression that someone has about your brand is vital to whether they consider it for purchase.

    However, Princeton studies have shown that it takes less than a second to make a first impression.

    Part of emotional branding is seizing that first second so that the first impression is a good one.

    We may consider ourselves to be creatures of logic, but much of how we make decisions depends on our subconscious and instincts. That subconscious needs to be reached if we are to drive decision-making.

    The subconscious needs of the customers’ dreams, needs, ego, and aspirations are vital in creating an emotional connection.

    Three studies have shown that people may forget the specifics of a brand, such as the specific fonts or product pictures, but they remember the feelings evoked by the brand. 

    Emotional branding taps into this, creating attachments between customers and brands. This makes it the perfect way to stay memorable in the minds of consumers and to create relationships with them that can continue long-term.

    It’s a way of speaking directly to the consumer and having them respond with an emotional connection.

    When customers are satisfied with a brand, that’s good. However, when they are emotionally connected to the brand, they become more valuable to that brand by 52%.

    It has been found that TV ads that create an emotional response are three times more likely to result in purchase intentions. 

    Emotional branding also drives loyalty, and this is a result of a long-term relationship with a brand. When you have increased brand loyalty, you have higher sales numbers.

    How to Use Emotional Branding

    At the heart of emotional branding and creating that emotional reaction in consumers is to tell a story.

    Storytelling has long been known as a strong tool for both creating emotion and building brand loyalty.

    This strategy engages the subconscious of the target consumer, and it’s a powerful way to build that sought-after emotional connection.

    There are many commercials that run that tell a story. Sometimes, it’s overt, with a narrative that runs through it, and sometimes, it’s more subtle.

    Focusing on a family and their love of a product is storytelling. It may not be a narrative story, but it still tells a story about characters and situations.

    Some of the best emotional branding ads transport the viewer to another place where the story is taking place.

    People remember ads that tell an in-depth story. They remember not only the ad but the emotions they felt while watching it. Those emotions are strongly tied to the brand itself.

    When a person sees storytelling that sparks emotion, they get a hit of dopamine to their brains.

    This process is also linked to the person’s memory. It actually helps people remember the story better. The telling of the story engages many parts of the brain, and this includes the amygdala, which is the brain’s memory center.

    This is why brands use storytelling — it gets an emotional reaction and is more likely to be remembered. And when the ad is remembered, the brand is remembered. It’s the essence of emotional branding.

    brand that stay in the consumer's mind

    With so much competition out there in today’s global marketplace, storytelling is more essential than ever for helping consumers remember your specific brand.

    The act of creating that emotional experience with a brand requires using a complex approach.

    First, it’s important to look at the trends in the marketplace that are supportive of this type of branding that includes creating good customer experiences, giving consumers a warm glow, and letting them be their authentic selves.

    Then, it’s important to use marketplace trends from your industry to create your strategies for emotional branding. These usually include storytelling, empowerment, sensory branding, and cause branding. All of these work together to build that emotional response.

    Use either one of these strategies or a combination of them to create an integrated marketing strategy.

    Today’s consumers want a personal connection to brands far more than they did in the past. And, they expect more out of the brands they do business with.

    Every brand has an inherent promise that customers will have a better experience, have a better solution to a problem, and/or have better results from the product.

    Storytelling is a way to both connect and convince them that all of these are true. Storytelling conveys the brand’s message in a way that is personal and delivers that message in a way that won’t be forgotten.

    One of the most important aspects of storytelling is reliability. Consumers have to relate to the story in some way so that the connection to it is highly personal.

    You have to make them relate instantly so that they follow the story and get the emotional attachment. If they relate to it from the beginning, they will listen to the marketing message, and that gives you the opportunity to tell them about your brand’s benefits to them.

    This is especially helpful if your brand is a new one and it needs to build a customer base. Instant reliability helps your brand’s voice gets heard.

    In a larger sense, brand storytelling is telling the story of your company/brand and how it came about.

    Every ad may not go into this, but it’s important to have that as a part of the integrated storytelling strategy. There should be an in-depth story about how and why the company started as well as what it aspires to.

    What is the vision of your company? What is its mission? What does the company stand for? How is it keeping up with today’s many technological advances?

    Answering all of these questions is an essential part of building the brand’s story.

    What is a story in its essence?

    A story is a set of events that happen in a sequence. These move in one planned direction and flow with a specific purpose.

    Using this simple explanation, it’s easier to see how more of your marketing messages can be communicated in story form.

    The information on the outside of a product’s box, for example, can contain your brand’s story. The beginning of your commercials can contain it. Even your logo may incorporate something to do with it.

    This integrated approach drives home the story, creates a connection to it, and is then remembered by the consumer.

    Brand storytelling should also be an intimate affair. It needs to show some of your company’s culture as well as showing how it works to fulfill the promises it makes.

    It’s the human side of a company that encompasses its people from the beginning to the current day. It’s easier to forge a connection with people than with products, and the storytelling aspect provides that human face.

    When many companies think about their brand story, they equate it with the “About Us” page on their website.

    While that is a good place for some of this story to take shape, it is not the only place where it should be found. The brand’s story should be a part of every marketing campaign and should transcend the divisions of locations, time and culture.

    It fills in the gap that exists between the brand and the consumer by showing very human qualities as a part of that brand. It can show frailties and mistakes as well as strengths and triumphs.

    Often, it is the adverse events in a story that make it more human. The story can also include things like poor choices that were made so that the story is instantly relatable.

    It builds to show how the company genuinely cares about customers and created its products to get rid of a problem its customers were having.

    The story that you tell should be told both through words and images. Images are an extremely important part of this process.

    You probably knew that some people are visual learners, but did you know that they encompass 65% of the total population?

    If you aren’t working to engage that segment of the population, your efforts will not be as successful as those that have that visual aspect.

    The Elements of a Story

    We know that the story is a sequential set of events and that it has to be relatable and evoke an emotional response.

    So, how do you create that story? What are the building blocks?

    The first is to make it clear why the business exists and how it is different from the competition.

    Why was it started? Did it come with a mission statement?

    During this portion of the story, you can show some of the struggles endured by your company and what it had to do to overcome its struggles.

    One common way to do this is to talk about the refinements done to the product over time so that it was better than the competition.

    The protagonists are the next aspect of the story. Every story has people that the audience roots for.

    Who within your company has been important to it? Which of them have influenced the company’s direction or products?

    You need heroes in the story. That’s why so many brands have a story that is wrapped around one or two people who have figured large in the company’s story.

    Apple used its founder, Steve Job, as a human face to the company that had developed these computers in his garage and made some mistakes along the way.

    He had even been fired at one point and was then brought back as an even stronger human face for the company. Wendy’s makes similar use of its founder, Dave Thomas, as well.

    Burt’s Bees uses its founder in its story, on its products, and in marketing. The story of the hippie who wanted to make products out of natural ingredients is one that has stuck with the brand, even after they were bought out by a larger corporation. His picture is still often used on the product’s packaging and in advertisements.

    steve jobs

    Next, expand on the mission of the company.

    What does it try to achieve? What can it promise to customers? What kind of problems are you seeking to solve with your products? Then, share the failures of the company.

    People love stories that include failure and the protagonists bouncing back from it. Companies often fail repeatedly until they have refined the product enough that it is ready for consumers.

    The bouncing-back part of the story is an essential one for building an emotional response. Everyone can relate to this scenario, so it creates a deep level of connection with customers.

    Then, there are your business gaps. It can take time for a company to perform at its best, and sometimes, business is just slow.

    As part of your authentic story, show customers when it’s a slow year for you. Don’t try to explain away mistakes — own them and accept the challenge of overcoming them and performing better.

    Don’t try to blame mistakes on circumstances. Your story should show that your brand is improving over the years as it gains experience.

    How to Measure or Track Emotional Branding

    It can be hard to quantify emotional reactions and how it relates to higher sales. The depth of emotion may not be quantifiable, but you can quantify how it affects interactions with the brand.

    When a customer expressed any kind of connection with and reaction to a marketing message, that is customer interaction.

    Online, this can be easier to track. You can look at the number of friends or followers the brand’s social media accounts have. You can also look at the analytics for your website and see how often the brand’s story is read and how much time people spend on that page.

    How often do they click links in your email marketing messages? How many people watch your brand’s videos and like its photos? How often do they buy from your marketing links?

    All of this interaction is the starting point of the emotional relationship with a brand.

    Next is your customer engagement. When there is an active customer response to some interaction with your brand, this is engagement.

    You want to be sure about the interaction’s quality and how else they will want to engage after their interaction with the brand. To measure this, you can track the amount of response your business gets when it asks something of its customers.

    Do they provide an email address or sign up for a pre-order? Do they participate in your crowdfunding? Do you get a lot of comments on social media posts? All of this is a measure of engagement.

    The next step is participation. This is the level of emotional value that you want from the relationship between the brand and its customers.

    This is apparent when customers perform actions that show just how devoted they are to your brand.

    They may talk about the purchase they made from your brand. They may come to the events you put on. They may proselytize to others about your brand. They are often enthused to be a customer of your brand.

    Being a fan of your brand can become a part of their identity. They will wear clothing with your logo and share photos of it because they are proud of their association with it.

    Think about the devotion to Harley-Davidson and the many ways that people express their pride in participating with the brand. They show up to events, wear its branded merchandise and even get tattoos of the logo.

    If you can get people to identify with their brand so much that they are proud to show it off and tell others about it, you have a brand that has effectively used emotion to create a strong, ongoing bond with consumers. 

    To really position your brand in the market, you need to make sure that all the guidelines are being followed.

    Download our brand guideline bundle and get the best templates to create your brand’s identity


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