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Wikipedia defines Emotional branding as a term used within marketing communication that refers to the practice of building brands that appeal directly to a consumer’s emotional state, needs, and aspirations.

Emotional branding is successful when it triggers an emotional response in the consumer, that is, a desire for the advertised brand (or product) that cannot fully be rationalized.

What is emotional branding?

Emotional brands have a significant impact when the consumer experiences a strong and lasting attachment to the brand comparable to a feeling of bonding, companionship or love.

Does your brand create this kind of emotional connection with your customers? Do your customers feel compelled and drawn towards your brand when faced with choices? These are the kind of questions you need to ask yourself when evaluating your brand message and marketing campaigns.

Most brands just talk about the functional benefits of their product or service. They communicate these “features” all the time without thought to how people are drawn to emotional benefits more than functional benefits. In this article, we will take a brief look at how you can create a brand that has an emotional connection with its customers.

Differentiate between “Features” and “Benefits”

No doubt you would have already read so much about how benefits are more important than features in sales and marketing. Features are important too. No doubt about that. But features should come in at a later stage in your buyer’s journey. Your first interaction with your target audience should be one based on benefits.

In fact, most brands do not really understand or nail down the emotional benefits of their product or service. Having a vague idea of the emotional value of your offering is not good enough. You must dig deep and articulate the emotional benefits of your offering.

A feature is an element of what something does or is. For example, an external iPhone battery charger may have a capacity of 2000mAh. Great! That is a feature. But what does it mean? Am I supposed to be impressed by that number?

A benefit is an element of how something makes a customer feel. In the same example of the external battery pack, if they were to say “Increase your phone’s batter life by over 300%”, how does that make you feel? Now, it connects with me. I know I am constantly apprehensive of my phone dying and this increase of the battery life makes me “feel” something.

Understand what needs people have

Vance Packard, an American journalist, social critic, and author talks about 8 hidden needs that drive consumers, which are:

  • Emotional security – feeling safe and comfortable
  • Reassurance of worth – feeling important
  • Ego-gratification – feeling great
  • Creative outlets – feeling stimulated
  • Love objects – feeling satisfied
  • Sense of power – feeling great
  • Sense of roots – feeling grounded
  • Immortality – feeling great

Each of these needs can be appeased by a symbol or theme that connects your brand with your customers. An important point to note is that these emotional needs are not to be understood for reasons of manipulation but rather as clues to what customers would react to and bond with.

Figuring out which features of your product or service would translate to emotional benefits should be done with caution and by always keeping in line with your brand’s core values. If an emotional benefit seems manipulative and counter initiate to what your brand stands for, it should not be used.

Create meaningful connections with your customers

Denise Lee Yohn, author of What Great Brands Do:  The Seven Brand-Building Principles that Separate the Best from the Rest, says “Great Brands Aim For Customers’ Hearts, Not Their Wallets“.

That is an awesome philosophy to follow when it comes to building an emotional brand. Most brands start thinking only about “pushing” their product or service. That is a strategy that is bound to fail in the long run. In fact, it may even fail in the short term. That is the reason why so many brands out there compete on price and enter price wars, effectively in a race to the bottom.

Creating meaningful connections with your customers is the right strategy. This starts with identifying the right kind of emotional benefits that your product or service has and then communicating that to your target market. It is about avoiding over promising and under delivering. It is about keeping your brand promise.

A great example of creating a meaningful connection with customers is how Zapos treats its customers and their insanely awesome returns and refund policy. Their customer service and support is so awesome that when one calls them, they can ask them about anything and their reps try and help – if they can – even order a pizza!

Use emotions to differentiate your brand

When conducting competitive analysis, you may often see that most players in any given market segment hardly ever use emotional values in their sales or marketing messaging. You may, however, find manipulative messaging that is simply trying to create a fake emotional connection.

If you can figure your brand’s genuine emotional values and communicate that effectively, then you will differentiate your brand and gain not only mind share but also market share.

Start by deciding which emotions you want to invoke in your target audience. Is it one based on aspirations? Or perhaps one of inspiration? One of family values or perhaps work ethics? An American dream or a global community? Steeped in tradition or connecting to modern values? Infused with trust and one of security or a more risky proposition?

Then create a brand story that communicates these emotions and paints the right picture for your audience.

Communicate that story through powerful symbols and metaphors. Create compelling brand messaging consistently across all promotional channels and touch points.

What does your brand mean to your customers?

Figuring out what your brand means or should mean to your customers is a critical task when building a successful brand. Does your brand stand for something in your customer’s minds? Does it connect with them in a unique and fresh way? Does it inspire trust and confidence in them?

A great example to illustrate what a brand means to customers is Apple. They have figured out and mastered the art of emotional connections. They have created loyalty and a cult-like status around the brand. They did this through creating consistent emotional connections. Not by selling features but rather by selling benefits and the power of aspiration.

Another example is Harley Davidson who has created a whole new modern Wild West and made Weekend Warriors out of Wall Street bankers. Harley owners belong to a tribe and are emotionally connected to the brand.

Emotions influence how and what we buy. When emotions are involved, price does not matter – to a certain extent. That is why luxury brands command such astronomical prices. That is what sets premium brands apart from commodity status brands.


Emotional branding is not a science. It is more of an art form. There is no standard blueprint or set of rules to follow to create a successful emotional brand. Each brand has to audit themselves to figure out how they can leverage emotional branding and turn customers into loyal fans.

If you pay attention to the fundamentals of building an awakened brand – such as core values, value proposition, brand story and so on – you can start on the path of creating an emotional brand.

This article is one of the lessons from my Ultimate Brand Builder Course. By completing the course you will have built a robust and stunning brand that will be poised to attract your target audience and dominate your market space.

Mash Bonigala

Mash B. is the Founder & CEO of SpellBrand. Since 1998, Mash has helped conscious brands differentiate themselves and AWAKEN through Brand Strategy and Brand Identity Design. Schedule a Brand Strategy Video Call with Mash.