Emotional Branding in a Changing Marketplace
Business is changing because our customers are changing. Their buying decisions and shopping habits are changing.
Fundamental changes are taking place in their preferences and behaviour. And more so, the ways in which we talk to them are changing. They expect and demand to be spoken to on a personalised and one-to-one basis.
More than that, our customers expect an unprecedented level of emotional commitment and honesty from the brands they trust, support and buy. To be successful in this new and ‘now’ emotional economy we need to create and build emotional loyalty through customer relationships.
And many questions need to be asked:
• How do we get our product or service to stand out in this crowded marketplace? And keep discriminating customers coming back for more?
• How do successful companies use emotional branding to capture their customers’ attention and foster long-term brand loyalty?
• How do we connect our brands to our customers’ hearts for a lifetime?
• Are we only interested in single sales, or is it the lifetime value (LTV) of our customers?
Customers often claim they purchase rationally. But studies indicate that the factors influencing purchases are 80% emotional and 20% intellectual, even for business-to-business customers. Features and benefits may be used to justify decisions, but the initial motivation is almost always emotional. Emotion is required to maintain a relationship after purchase. They are thinking more with their hearts than with their heads.
Direct link to customer’s emotions
Nowadays more brand-building efforts are converging with direct and interactive marketing. Direct and interactive marketers have for many years not only talked about the power of emotional marketing through the use of effective database marketing and segmentation, but also implemented very successful measurable strategies across various industries, products and services.
Smart marketers have now identified the true value of measurable marketing by segmenting and managing their customer databases. They have recognised that marketing is an experience directly linking their customer’s emotions to their brands.
By identifying their customers’ needs, wants and aspirations, they can create buying experiences, which create frequent buying patterns, buying relationships and loyalty. And as experience tells us, loyalty is directly linked to sales and profitability. The well-known and yet rarely used RFM Model (Recency, Frequency and Monetary) comes into play and the profitability of customers increases.
Claire Brand, GM of Hallmark Business Expressions says that her company takes both a brand-building and a business-building approach, ensuring that the brand is integrated in each communication approach. They have learned that one approach supports the other and increases the overall effectiveness and responses of their integrated marketing efforts.
The message is clear
Those companies that have moved from being product-focused to customer-focused are the cornerstone of our economy – worldwide. Those who have moved (or are moving) from traditional branding to emotional branding and from using traditional communication methods to emotional communication methods will win the hearts and wallets of their customers.
The marketer influences both how people experience the brand and the resultant emotional memories; and how people experience the advertising and the resultant emotional memories. Brand marketing involves the management of the emotional memories of both the brand and all its communication.
Carl Ware, Coca-Cola’s executive VP of communications and corporate affairs, is insightful in saying recently in The New York Times, that “Consumer democracy is becoming more and more of an issue. Indeed, brands do not belong to corporations anymore, but to people!” For companies, emotional branding and connectivity starts at ‘home.’
So what is emotional marketing and branding? Andrea Syverson, President of IER Partners, says it starts with how you view the branding process. “Emotional marketing is all about the ‘why,’ the feelings and emotions underneath a product or service. You know why it’s important to brand, but emotional marketing goes a step further to help garner attention and really develop products.”
Syverson calls the MasterCard ‘Priceless’ campaign, which was developed by McCann-Erickson, one of the best examples of emotional marketing today. To demonstrate: A MasterCard ad featuring a little boy and a puppy. The copy reads: “Donation to animal shelter: $50. Collar, bowl, and food: $12. Shots at the vet: $85. Your first dog: Priceless.” “They are not selling MasterCard credit cards in this particular commercial. They’re really selling the love of man’s best friend, a puppy,” Syverson says. The reason why it is effective is that it is “very relevant to our daily lives,” she continues. In other words, they don’t sell a product; they sell a quality, an experience or convenience that we can all relate to as desirable and invaluable, or “priceless.”
Marc Gobè, author of Emotional Branding, gives his version: “Emotional branding provides the means and the methodology for connecting products to the consumer in an emotionally profound way. It focuses on the most compelling aspect of the human character: the desire to transcend material satisfaction and experience emotional fulfilment. A brand is uniquely situated to achieve this because it can tap into the aspirational drives which underlie human motivation.”
Simply put, it includes emotional benefits (feeling), rational benefits (informational, educational, economic, social and environmental) and human contact – interaction with your customer. Emotional branding focuses on the long-term customer relationship and encourages connectivity and intimacy. The emotional aspect of products and their distribution systems will be the key differentiator between customers’ ultimate choice and the price they will pay.
Making the interactive emotional connection
Traditional marketing focuses on the superiority of functional features of a product or service, while experiential and emotional marketing focuses on the customer experience – the sense, feel, think, act that relate to your brand. (Bernd H Schmitt 1999)
Experiential marketing is a powerful marketing approach that brings brands to life – face-to-face with your customer. Until then, your brand is not seen as real or tangible. Inter-linked with this is their emotional experience in making the decision to buy. Another plus on the side of experiential marketing is that there are no boundaries and very few rules.
Experience also builds emotional connections. These connections are crucial to delivering your brand’s intentions and are a well-practised concept. However, when you apply emotional marketing strategies to your brand efforts, you need to know how your product or service makes your customers feel?
Smart marketers define their marketing strategy in psychological and emotional terms. This is more evident in companies that are using direct, interactive and customer database marketing techniques and principles. These successful companies have built relationships with their customers by creating personal interactive dialogue – at every point of contact (touch-points) – that responds to their lifestyle needs, wants and aspirations. This method of connecting with their customers has created strong emotional bonds with their brands.
How do you create emotional branding strategies?
In today’s increasingly complex and diverse marketplace, emotional branding is a means of creating a personal dialogue with your customers on issues, which are most meaningful to them. Customers expect your brands to know them – intimately and individually – with a deep understanding of their needs and cultural orientation.
Direct Marketing experts have been preaching the gospel on ‘emotional’ marketing and branding for years. This has been done through the integration of emotional marketing efforts into overall marketing vision and strategy, translating these into a concept of Integrated Marketing Communications programs.
They have over many years develop and perfected, customer communication and value management programs (in various formats), providing ‘lifestyle’ experiences – taking customers into an interactive dialogue through technology-driven systems, such as value-enhanced and value-driven customer databases and segmentation models.
Where traditional marketers focus on the four P’s: product, price, place and promotion, direct and interactive marketers use personal factors to create an integrated, meaningful and measurable connection.
• People: present, past and prospective customers, including employees – segmented into their respective value contributions to your bottom line;
• Personal buying experience (including payment behaviour) – using the RFMP Model;
• Physical evidence – that what makes your business offering tangible and reputable;
• Personal relationships – building of customer value programs and on-going integrated communication packages;
• Partnering and collaboration – with your customers, suppliers and employees;
• Processes, policies and procedures for your customer database systems and value programs;
• Point of Contact strategies. Taking the long-term approach and attitude that looks at any opportunity to creative a positive synergy and happy and profitable customers.
There are many tried and tested ways of direct engagement. Here are a few quoted examples:
• Haagen-Dazs (haagen-dazs.com) first built its brand by handing-out samples on street corners and by opening ice cream counters in restaurants and upmarket hotels. It also introduced the ‘two-person’ cups of ice cream.
• Guinness (guinness.ie) turned a part of a brewery into a fashionable shop/hangout for young shoppers to counteract it’s ageing image.
• Progressive Insurance (progressive.com) adjusters provide refreshments, arrange alternative travel and write cheques for repairs on the spot.
• Disney’s (disney.com) legendary ability to connect to the heart extends across generations.
• Cadbury Chocolates’ (cadbury.co.uk) Cadbury Park interactively draws customers into the process of designing, producing and packaging chocolate.
• Howard Shultz, CEO of Starbucks, speaks about romancing the customer: “If we greet customers, exchange a few extra words with them and then custom-make a drink exactly to their taste, they will be eager to come back.”
In SA, Smirnoff Vodka Marketing Manager, Nyimpini Mabunda, has this to say about the essence of the Smirnoff brand: “Liberation – this means accessibility, emotionally and physically. Emotional accessibility means freedom to enjoy the brand the way you choose, no format or taste restriction. You can mix it whichever way you want or have it straight – the product is taste – and smell neutral. There’s a bigger emotional link to brands, partly because communication has evolved from intrinsic, functional benefits, to emotional connection.”
Samsung SA is another company that believes wholeheartedly in the customer experience and emotional branding. According to Sarit Reouveni, group marketing manager, “Experiential marketing captivates, encourages brand loyalty and increases positive perception.”
What we need to make the change?
Know your customer. The more that you know about the real world and real people, the more you can predict your customer’s desires and expectations.
Many companies are planning their futures without any – or very little knowledge about their customers. Technology has facilitated changes at an inconceivable speed, and companies see technology as the magical wand that will recruit new customers and retain existing ones, instead of realising that it is merely an ‘enabler,’ a tool, to be used to gather information, build and manage customer relationships. Which, is the only competitive difference that cannot be duplicated.
The information age has shifted control to customers. They demand information, performance and results on their terms. In simple terms: companies no longer define brands, customers define the brand, based on the company’s ability to consistently meet their requirements. Customers today care about product or service delivery, quality, consistency, reliability and exceptional service.
Technology has changed the way our customers view things. They want it faster and tailored to their interests and needs. The latest – much talked about – trend is adding personalised information to each piece you print and mail.
Personalisation through Variable Data Printing
Customers want products, packaging and communications that are visually appealing. Especially personalised communication. They want to buy products or do business with companies that recognise them, make them feel good, challenge them by fitting into their lifestyles and provide them with an identity. In other words, they want to be emotionally connected and want a branded experience.
Variable Data Printing is the answer. VDP is used to customise and personalise each and every communication element – from brochures, invitations, adverts in magazines, publications, and many more. It enables the ‘mass-customisation’ of elements as opposed to the ‘mass-production’ of a single element. In 1:1 marketing, VDP is used to customise direct marketing material. The text, images, graphics and offers can be ‘varied’ within each separate element to best meet a customer’s wants and needs. It has shown that it can increase response rates by as much as 500% and reduce cost per response by 80%.
Preparing for the Now Economy and what it expects from us
Many experts predicts that the now economy will start around 2005. Direct and interactive marketers are already in the now economy. The fundamentals will change again because the now economy is not without it’s uncertainties, issues and limitations. However, companies unable to respond to the new dynamics of the now economy will lose market share, their customers and their brand.
Here are some considerations, some of which you may already have implemented on your road to change and some that you need to consider to make the transition. Add your own to the list and see how you fare.
• From mass production to doing business on customer terms
• From homogenous markets to segmented and niche markets
• From broadcast marketing (one-way) to relationship marketing (interactive)
• From customer acquisition to customer retention
• From once-off transactions to Lifetime Value Relationships
• From market share to share of customer (share of wallet)
• Measurability and Accountability
• Time-pressured marketplace – time will become a bigger driver of value than price
• Using interactive marketing vehicles, e.g. Internet, Mobile Communications, Interactive TV, etc.
• Permission (Opt-in) Marketing – Privacy, limited time and attention span
• Collaborative agility across various relationships – customers, suppliers, distribution networks and employees
• No more fixed pricing – dynamic pricing vs. supply and demand
• Change management amid constant change – company processes, supply chain orchestration, technological adoption and customer relationships
• Real-time management (database access) and automation of systems = managing exceptions
• Outsourcing – interconnectivity between suppliers and customers, employees and out-sourced part-timers, consultants, etc.
• Instead of functional offerings, making an emotional connection that creates preferences.
Considerations for the measurement and accountability of your brand
Much has been written about the accountability and measurement of brands. The only true measure is a company’s effectiveness at building and maintaining long-term relationships with their customers. This leads to greater retention, profitability and a sustainable platform for growth.
The new metrics in marketing were developed by Joseph Pine and James Gilmore. According to them there have been four phases of economic procession.
1. Commodity phase – Measured by characteristics.
2. Goods phase – Measured by features.
3. Service phase – Measured by benefits.
4. Experience and attention phase – this is just beginning and is measured by experience.
n the Experience economy (or now economy), companies that create a positive experience are rewarded with loyalty and premium pricing. In addition to the Cost Per Customer (CPC) metric, you now also have to measure the Cost Per Experience (CPE) and the most value metric = People’s Attention.
Attention is one of the world’s scarcest resources and decision-maker attention is something companies are willing to spend millions to buy. According to Seth Godin (Permission Marketing), the average person is ‘attacked’ by about 3000 marketing messages every day. Attention is money. In addition to measuring our ROI, we should now think about ROA – Return on Attention.
In recent years, many companies have been focused on measuring their ROI for branding based on numbers alone. In 2003, according to Rick Jacobs, principal of Monigle Associates, smart companies will calculate the success of their brands by taking into account the emotional effect it has on their stakeholders. He believes that qualitative information gives depth and perspective that can’t be measured numerically: “By measuring your brand’s emotional intelligence, companies can achieve an unmatched level of depth, strength and richness in their brand positioning.”
The Future – Our Future and the Now Economy
Marc Gobè says, “Today, I feel, an emotional branding approach is quite simply the crucial defining element that separates success from indifference in the marketplace. But only a few companies understand the art of accessing, with intelligence and sensitivity, the true power behind human emotions. Emotional branding brings a new layer of credibility and personality to a brand by connecting powerfully with people on a personal and holistic level.”
And the dialogue that will flow from this ‘connection’ is only possible through database marketing and management of customer information. Make emotional marketing part of your overall marketing vision. It is not a stand-alone strategy or a quick fix concept. Prepare for a long-term commitment to customer relationships and get company-wide buy-in. Emotional marketing needs top-down support and a caring corporate culture. It may require internal changes because unhealthy relationship practices will undermine your emotional marketing efforts.
Your key branding goal and measurement is customer equity. Companies need to incorporate extensive personalised and customisation capabilities in the future to become customer-capable to meet the specific requirements of their customers.
In closing – let us remember – without sales, branding accomplishes nothing. The success of your brand is measured by the profit it makes and long-term profitability is about relationships – not transactions.
Winnifred Knight is Director of: www.theMarketingSite.com