You need to have feelings in order to make decisions

Strong and relevant brands outperform the market by an average of 28%, and brands that can elicit an emotional response in customers generate 11% more profit growth compared to the rest of the market. In addition, 80% of brands that are linked to a purpose outperform the market. We can agree that strategic long-term brand building creates competitive advantage, but in order to build and manage strong and resonating brands, we need to understand the underlying dynamics.

Renowned neuroscientist Antonio Damasio discovered that people with certain brain injuries that caused them to not experience emotions were unable to make effective decisions. Simply put, humans need emotions in order to know if a certain option is good or bad. Here is where the brand comes into the picture. Branding helps us decide which option is better, which service or product to choose. A brand is a feeling – a subjective representation of emotion.

A brand is a feeling – a subjective representation of emotion.

Thanks to Harvard Professor Gerald Zaltman, we know that 95% of our purchase decision making and choices are based in the subconscious, driven by emotional processes and feelings. The brand plays a critical role in influencing decision making and should be considered a key strategic asset for creating competitive advantage.

When the brand core elements are clear and the desired brand feeling has been identified, strategic brand management is about consistently delivering that feeling, both in marketing communications as well as in customer experiences. Due to a phenomenon called mood dependence, it is easier to retrieve emotional memories when a similar mood is activated. Therefore, the brand and the corresponding feeling will remain top-of-mind when the brand feeling is present throughout the customer journey.

Checklist for successful brand building:

  • Understand your customers. You must know your customers, understand what is meaningful to them and what role the brand can have in their lives. What do you share with your target audience?
  • Differentiate. How are you meaningfully different from competitors? What category and brand feeling can you own?
  • Be authentic. Engagement needs to be authentic and real. Inauthenticity or hypocrisy will always shine through. Be consistent across all touchpoints.
  • Inspire positive emotions. Customers appreciate experiences and brands that spark delight. They love experiences and brands that spark hope. Ensure emotional resonance, for example through neuroscientific market research methods.
  • Balance between the old and the new. Through our work with customers, we have found that often the key is in keeping the heritage and the roots of the brand at the core while creating modern relevance.
  • Invest in relationships. Commitment is a two-way street. When customers believe in the brand and both the brand and the customer are invested, the relationship flourishes.
  • Focus on experience. If brands are feelings, then by consistently delivering on that feeling through customer interfaces and channels, a long-lasting positive mood can be created. A mood is an affective state that is less intense than an emotion but longer in duration. Experience is what creates a positive, long-lasting relationship with a brand and drives loyalty.
  • Measure progress. Measure the impact your brand is having in the target audience and in different touchpoints, what attributes are associated with the brand and understand the effect they have on your main brand KPIs. Adjust operational marketing efforts accordingly.