The Blake Project, the brand consultancy behind Branding Strategy Insider, delivers interactive brand education workshops and keynote speeches designed to align marketers on essential concepts in brand management and empower them to release the full potential of the brands they manage.
Category: Building Emotional Connections
Although the importance of emotions in consumer behavior is certainly not a new topic, there is still a feeling that marketers have minimized them in their market approach in the past. Of course, it is easier to change the packaging of your product or add a different ingredient than to make your brand ‘less sad’ or more ‘passionate’. However, recent neuro-research illustrates that we have been underestimating the impact of emotions on decision making for a long time. There are three different levels in our brain:
The first layer is called the ‘visceral brain’ or ‘automatic brain’. These are the type of brain cells we have in common with the most primitive animals. For simple animals like lizards, life is a continuing set of threats and opportunities and an animal has to learn how to react appropriately to all of them. The visceral level is fast. It compares information from the senses with pre-wired patterns of information. Based on this judgement, it swiftly gives instructions for routine deeds: running away, freezing, fighting or relaxing. This part of the brain is therefore responsible for instinctive behavior.
The second part is the limbic system. This brain adds emotions to the sensory information from the visceral brain. It is the base of the amygdale, a brain structure that is responsible for experiencing positive and negative emotions. Based on the emotional evaluation of a stimulus, the limbic system decides to continue or stop certain performances. We have this brain in common with other mammals. This limbic level is not conscious. It is responsible for so called automatic acts. Think of the way you drive your car or how a skilled piano player seems to do cerebral activities without much effort.
The limbic system interacts closely with the neocortex, the brain part that developed in the last stage of human evolution, called the ‘rational brain’ or the ‘reflective brain’. It reflects back on our acts and links sensory information to existing memory structures. Based on these reflections, it tries to alter behavior. This leads to informed decisions and is therefore often called ‘the ratio’.
The actions we undertake are the results of co-processing done by all three layers in our brain. However, research by Joseph LeDoux has shown that the impact of our limbic system is the biggest. Contrary to long-held beliefs, it is not our rational brain that is in the driver’s seat. Consumer behavior is largely controlled by emotions and only sporadically overruled by our ratio.
Implications for branding and marketingRead More
If I ever needed proof that our emotional response to the world around us is quicker than our ability to think, I got it a couple of weeks ago. Anticipating that I was about to hear another pseudo-science sales pitch, I cut off the speaker with an ill-considered outburst. In retrospect, I suspect that I did them an injustice. But the episode does highlight the powerful role that emotions play in shaping our behavior.
The primary role of emotions is to dictate our response to the world around us. Based on our prior experience, the emotional “charge” either impels us toward or away from something. What was being said on this occasion triggered a negative anticipation for me, and I reacted without engaging my conscious brain first. But then my conscious brain caught up and shut down my ill-tempered rant. I could then reflect on why I had acted the way I did and take action to put things right.
At the time of the outburst I am not sure I was conscious of any particular emotion, but afterwards I interpreted the reaction as anger. And that led to me feeling guilty and defensive. I had behaved badly and felt the need to make amends.
Now let’s look at this event from the research viewpoint. Could we have predicted that I would react this way?
This blog proves that I am allergic to the suggestion that traditional research gets it wrong most of the time. If I was asked in advance, then I could have easily predicted my reaction to the speaker's statement (he was suggesting that people don’t know why they act the way they do). What I could not have predicted was the strength of my reaction or exactly when it would come to fruition; that depended on the specific circumstances and what was said. However, after the event I was able to easily reflect on why I behaved the way I did and how it made me feel.Read More
To be truly effective at brand marketing we need to understand which concrete features and functional benefits of our brand (as well as the brand as a whole) evoke feelings most strongly and which do so without simultaneously creating emotional anti-benefits (aversive feelings).
This is not a new concept. "Laddering" is a term used to refer to a technique wherein a focus group moderator begins with a specific product feature and continues to ask the respondent 'what is good about that' until a specific emotional benefit that supports the respondent's self esteem is unearthed. The essential concept is that every functional benefit or feature which is sought after, is sought after for an emotional reason.
Even a completed price based benefit (e.g. 'costs less') is understood to be emotionally motivated because people in different categories may desire that benefit for different reasons. (Saving money in the automobile category may be found to lead to 'I am safe' or 'I am financially secure' whereas saving money on a package of gum may more likely lead to 'I feel wise' or 'I am a smart shopper'). Even brand choices can be 'laddered on' to determine the key emotional benefits which are associated with them. One limitation of laddering however, is that in reality there are MANY emotional benefits associated with each product or service feature (laddering tends to assume just one). To craft an effective marketing strategy we wish to know the extent to which each product feature supports EACH of the desired emotional benefits in the human spectrum. (We also need to know where the competition is in this emotional terrain, what the multivariate emotional field looks like — what SETS of product features are most associated with desired emotions or desired SETS of emotions)Read More
Emotional and psychodynamic factors are long known to drive brand selection and loyalty. Even in today's price-sensitive economy, the imagery attached to brands goes far beyond product attributes, functional benefits and price.
All products and brands develop personas in consumers' minds. All project varying user images, which differ by audience. Members of one audience may buy a product because it makes them feel affluent. Members of another, which values thrift, buy a brand because it makes them feel like smart shoppers.
More generally, consumers buy products with imagery that is either consistent with their positive view of themselves ("I'm sophisticated and therefore buy this type of wine to complete my image") or which conveys a plausible aspirational model – something they would like to be and believe they could conceivably achieve ("I can be a real ladies' man if I drive a sports car.")
In fact, we have discovered that the essential component of Brand Character goes far beyond advertising slogans and packaging. The most powerful influencing factor in purchasing habits is the subtle, often-overlooked product/consumer relationship. A vital brand has a "relationship" with loyal users not unlike a healthy relationship between two people.Read More
The ‘emotional’ revolution that has engulfed the marketing world is undeniable: brands are constantly seeking to win our wallets by way of our hearts. The mythmakers of Madison Ave did so by crafting poignant stores that masked products’ imperfections or downright uselessness. Though today’s marketers are forced to meet a slightly higher standard of credibility, their goal is still to teach us how their brand is supposed to make us feel. It seems it’s not enough for soap to clean and moisturize – it must also compel us to philosophize about what it means to be beautiful.
Psychology, and more recently, Cognitive Neuroscience, have elucidated the critical role emotional plays in our day-to-day existence. We have entire brain regions dedicated to expressing, perceiving, and processing emotions, and so it is no surprise that emotions lie at the core of many of our decisions and behaviors. But marketers have, for the most part, misinterpreted the implications of our biology for their brand-building activities.
The most successful companies in the world understand that brand and business growth don’t result from the kind of emotion that is manufactured in an advertisement. Instead, these companies channel all of their energy into creating magnificent products that add true, tangible value to people’s lives. Emotion – and the financial commitment it inspires – actually emerges as an organic side-effect of satisfied functional needs.Read More