“Buying is an activity understood by economists. Shopping is a phenomenon of interest to anthropologists and sociologists.” Marc Gobe

Much has been written about the effectiveness of “emotional branding” ever since the concept was first published by Marc Gobé over 15 years ago. The premise of the idea is how creating unique connections between brands and consumers make names and logos mean something different, special & desirable.

The success of many brands with emotional connections suggests that this theory is the holy grail of brand development. Think of brands like Apple, Nike, Starbucks or Disney, they all sell products in very competitive segments, yet are able to strive and command premium pricing for their products, because the “connection” is uniquely relevant and extremely strong.

I recently read a quote by Tom Ford, the fashion designer, that summarises “emotional branding” well. In it he says “My customer has her own sense of style and knows herself really well. My goal is to understand them in a way that allows my designs to help them become the best version of themselves”.

This consumer centric mindset is the fundamental shift required in brand strategy and planning to create connections. Brand centric strategies yield promises, consumer centric brands deliver engaging experiences that create preference.

Intrinsically undifferentiated, social and premium brands are three of the most relevant examples of how consumer emotions define preference. Coke -a brand I worked with for over 10 years- and Pepsi are essentially the same product, they are both refreshing, thirst quenching colas, yet Coke commands the lion share of the category across the world by owning, in market relevant terms, the emotional concept of “happiness in a can”.

Medalla Light is -and has always been- a quality light beer, with taste. Nevertheless, when we first started working for it, their market share was under 5% because a highly social brand had no emotional connection with its consumers. Once we corrected the extrinsic perceptions and connected, the brand gained momentum and became the market leader it is today.

For over 10 years SGA has worked for Garage Isla Verde, Mercedes Benz of Puerto Rico. In our multiple conversations with luxury automotive consumers, they consistently conveyed the notion that the “star” meant more than just outstanding German engineering, it meant accomplishment. Consumers who purchased the brand did so as a reward, as a luxury experience and as a symbol of how they wanted to be perceived, all emotional variables that helped make the brand the top selling luxury automobile in the island.

In today’s social media environment, the emotional connection between brands and consumers is even more relevant. Malcolm Gladwell’s book “The Tipping Point” conveys this notion by stating “the success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts”, the marketing interpretation of the Parapeto Principle.

As your brand “connects” and creates raving fans, social media peer-to-peer platforms allows them to become brand ambassadors and promote your brand with a higher degree of influence and credibility that any other form of brand communication.

In essence, emotional brands are stronger than rational brands. If your brand preference is anchored in the rational, it will only be effective until a competitor improves or discounts the offering. Owning the emotional connection -and renewing it to remain relevant as generations change- will secure a highly successful brand for years to come.

This blog post was written by Fernando Alcázar, Partner and Strategist for SGA. It is intended to present a point of view that can help you improve your brand’s performance. If you want to start a dialogue, please share, comment or email me at falcazar@sajogarcia.com.