We all believe that getting your message right will resonate with potential buyers, improve your brand’s positioning and increase your sales. By reading this article, you’ll have a better understanding of a valuable tool – emotional branding – to improve how you communicate with your market.

If you sell your products or services based on features, functionality or price, you’re an incredible idiot, and ridiculously stupid.

So how dd that make you feel? The words “idiot” and  “stupid” are pretty emotional words that evoke a fairly strong feeling in most people. And how do you physically describe that feeling? It’s pretty tough to describe, isn’t it?

You’re actually not stupid, and you’re not an idiot. You can definitely be successful selling based on these foundations, and the majority of products and services on the market are sold in this fashion. When you walk into a pharmacy, which medication will you buy? You’ll compare your symptoms to the products on the shelf and then buy the one that best meets your needs. Very factual. Very easy.

But what if the packaging said “We’ll get rid of your stuffy nose, and we’ll also put a smile on your face while improving your relationship with your significant other. We make you happy”. 

How cool would that be? An over the counter cold medicine that makes you happy! But, in reality, most cold medicine does usually make you happier. It gets rid of nasal congestion, lets you breathe easier, and helps you get a better night’s sleep. Yes, the alcohol in it might act as a mild depressant, but the good effects tend to outweigh the bad (I’m just putting that in there for the naysayers out there). 

But, regardless of the fact that this particular cold medication probably is the exact same as the rest, you would probably buy it because it offers you a life improvement.

And that’s where emotional branding and emotional marketing come in.

Emotional Branding is Based on Science

I highly recommend you read through this carefully. This is science, not conjecture, and can make a huge difference in how you position your company.

I’ll summarize and try to keep this short.

The brain has many parts, but we’re going to focus on the neocortex and the amygdala. The neocortex is the part of your brain that deals with sensory perception, generation of motor commands, spatial reasoning, conscious thought and language. The amygdala has been shown in research to perform a primary role in the processing of memory, decision-making, and emotional reactions.

Note that the amygdala deals with decision making  and emotions but does not have to do with conscious thought or language. Also, note that the neocortex does deal with conscious thought and language, but does not control decision making or emotion.

So, when you’re marketing your products, which part of the brain do you scientifically target?

The limbic system is also the part of the brain that deals with long term memory, and emotion has a big part in forming these memories. When you think of a past experience, it’s hard not to tie a feeling to it.

But the problem with the limbic system is that it can’t verbalize emotions. That’s why it’s so difficult to explain how happiness feels

So, it’s important to primarily target the amygdala, but still give facts and figures to allow the neocortex to explain why you made the decision. This is part of a broader discussion in the field of emotional intelligence or the emotional quotient (EQ).

So What Does This Have to do With Marketing?

There’s a great TED talk by a guy named Simon Sinek – “How great leaders inspire action”. I highly encourage you to watch it. It’s a great 17 minutes.

In it, he talks about positioning your products by asking “Why?” as opposed to “What?” or “How?”. To quote Simon, “The problem is that WHAT and HOW do not inspire action. Facts and figures make rational sense, but we don’t make decisions purely based on facts and figures. Starting with What is what commodities do. Starting with Why is what leaders do. Leaders inspire.”

“What” and “How” address your neocortex. “Why” addresses your limbic system, and your amygdala. “Why” is an emotional connection to a brand, and is the reason you decide to choose one thing over another. The amygdala will make the choice based on emotion, and then leverage the neocortex to explain the choice based on facts.

Look at the following two “pitches”:

  • We stop nasal congestion, coughs, itchiness, sore throats and headaches.
  • We make you happier. We make the people around you happier. We stop nasal congestion, coughs, itchiness, sore throats and headaches, and we make you feel like that cold of yours doesn’t exist.

Emotional Branding of Medicine

Now, I’m not saying that this marketing message is anywhere close to developed, but I’m sure you see what I’m getting at. You’re focusing on the “Why” you should choose this medicine over “What” it does.

How do I put Emotional Branding into Practice?

You only have to ask a few questions, but they can often be difficult to get right. People tend to gravitate to the “What” since it’s easier to describe.

Ask yourself these questions as you build your message:

  1. Why does this product or service help the individual who uses it?
  2. Why does this product or service help those around the individual that uses it?
  3. How does it help?
  4. Then, what does it do and how does it do it?

One of the primary goals here is to associate a positive emotion with a long term memory of your product or service.

Let’s take a quick look at the opening statement of this article – “We all believe that getting your message right will resonate with potential buyers, improve your brand’s positioning and increase your sales. By reading this article, you’ll have a better understanding of a valuable tool – emotional branding – to improve your how you communicate with your market.”

What’s the Why? “We all believe that getting your message right”.

What’s the How? “By reading this article you’ll have a better understanding of a valuable tool.”

And, what’s the What? “Emotional branding – improve how you communicate with your market.”

Hopefully you’ve read all the way through and have actually accomplished the goal – to give you a better understanding of how the emotional component of your brain plays a huge role in decision making. If you can apply these lessons to your own messaging, you’ll have an opportunity to increase your sales and create an emotional long term bond between your brand and your customers.

Let me know what your thoughts are on this subject, and I’d love to hear more examples of how emotional branding has been successful for your organization.


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Chris is Managing Partner of Fair Winds Strategies. Prior to this he was the Chief Innovation Officer at Internet Marketing Ninjas where he managed M&A activity, legal work, and also focused on the use of technology and other solutions to lead innovation and growth. Before IMN, Chris led the sale of his $10mil information technology company, twice an Inc500 fastest growing company in the US, to an investment banking firm in NYC. He has a strong passion for sailing, and had the opportunity to spend two years travelling from Lake Champlain to the southern Bahamas and back with his family.
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