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Relationships are built on trust, communication and consistency

We're talking about your consumers, not your spouse. Decades ago Walt Disney said, “People spend when they feel good.” This was true then and is still true today. Emotional branding has progressed from fad to requirement in creating longevity for brands.
Relationships are built on trust, communication and consistencyWhy are emotional bonds between your consumers and brands important?
You may think that consumers are either the sentimental type, or the complete opposite. The truth is, all consumers are emotional about brands to some degree. Their emotions fall somewhere on a continuum from the extremely positive, to the neutral, to the extremely negative.

Of course, you want to nurture as many positive emotions as you can and avoid engaging your target market's negative emotions (even the use of shock tactics do not always get the desired results, but that's another debate). Research proves that by engaging emotional connections with your target market, you form relationships that are a lot more enduring and therefore financially beneficial.

Levels of emotional bonds with brands
To understand how you can engage emotionally with your target market first requires an understanding of what the various emotional relationships are and how to quantify them. An international company called Gallup developed a set of rating scales that will help measure four emotional states consumers have with brands. These states represent the strength of the emotional connection:
Emotional state #1 Trust
The basic, entry level emotion you want to evoke in consumers is trust. Consumers will favour your brand over your competitors if it meets - or exceeds - their expectations. For this reason it is important that your brand messages do not over promise and your brand delivery under deliver.

Emotional state #2 Faith
Your consumers will develop faith in your brand if it provides excellent post purchase follow-up and back-up service. Not only will their expectations be met and their trust affirmed, but faith in your brand will develop if your brand is consistently good.

Emotional state #3 Commitment
The third emotional state is commitment. Your customers will feel committed to your brand when they have a personal connection with your brand. This is achieved when your brand has delivered on its promises, has earned their faith and they believe in your brand. Commitment will also follow if your brand makes your customer feel good about their purchase. This emotional bond creates brand ambassadors that are proud to announce this relationship.

Emotional state #4 Enthusiasm
When consumers feel that your brand has met and exceeds their expectations and that your brand delivers a level of quality and service that cannot be matched by any competitor they will become enthusiastic about your brand. At this level of emotional bond, your consumers will form a long-term relationship with your brand and are more likely to promote it via word-of-mouth.

Emotional state #5 Disappointment
If during any stage your customers are let down by your brand they can lapse into a state of disappointment. Depending on the depth of disappointment and how your organisation deals with their disappointment it can lead to the opposite of enthusiasm and include discouraging others and go as far as making public complaints.
Nurturing enduring psychological bonds between your brand and your consumers is not easy. It takes a commitment to a considered brand-centric?approach. Being brand-centric? involves firstly an understanding of your brand values. Secondly, developing a clear set of brand objectives. Thirdly, consistent and sincere brand communications. Following this, excellent delivery on your promises that preferably exceed your customer's expectations. Lastly and most importantly, follow-up and build the relationship after purchase.

Here's how to do it
Emotional branding is not just about including sentimental images in your communications and hoping for the best. You can create emotional bonds by taking the following brand-centric™ steps:
Step 1 - Pre-purchase
_Ensure your brand has a consistent presence amongst your target market
_Communicate your brand values and promise in a sincere manner
_Nurture trust in your target market with consistent and believable promises

Step 2 - Time of purchase
_Deliver on all promises at the time of purchase
_Ensure quality delivery and personal service
_Ensure your customers feel special and good about parting with their hard-earned money for your brand
_Exceed expectations

Step 3 - Post-purchase
_Continue communication to build a relationship
_Encourage feedback from your customers
_Encourage referrals
_Encourage return purchases and cross-sell additional products
The pocket pal
Fully engaged consumers spend more and return more frequently. An emotional bond results in a long-term relationship with your brand. The results are much more financially beneficial than a temporary sales boost.

Not just for the warm and fuzzy
Don't be fooled into believing that emotions are reserved for perfumes, fashion brands and motor vehicles. Consumers are equally as emotional about products, such as washing powder and toothpaste. It is the brand-centric? attention to detail in all aspects of branding that forms relationships, not just once-off warm and fuzzy advertising campaigns.

An integral part of brand longevity
Flashy campaigns and special offers may be successful in getting spontaneous sales results, but longevity is achieved through a long-term commitment to nurturing a bond with your customers, and that means emotions are involved as you have to get to know their needs and expectations and exceed those, all while making sure your customers feel good about your brand.

26 May 2009 14:37


About the author

Desirée Gullan is the Creative Director of Gullan&Gullan Advertising (Pty) Ltd. Gullan&Gullan's propriety brand-centric™ methodology forms the basis of every communication service, ensuring that the brand's core values are expressed in a congruent, consistent manner at every touch point with the end result of enhancing brand value. www.gullanandgullan.com, , +27 11 887 6591.