Here’s a startling fact: Most of the purchase decisions we make are emotional ones.
Yes, the rationale of cost, price and convenience plays a role. But our minds are really rather bad at making cold calculations when looking to purchase.
Instead, we tend to make buying decisions based on how we feel about brands, or how they make us feel. Studies show that positive emotions toward a brand have far greater influence on consumer loyalty than trust and other judgments, which are based on a brand’s attributes.
What does that mean for entrepreneurs? Or for marketers, and brand storytellers? It means that every time you communicate as a brand, or on behalf of a brand, you should try to build an emotional connection as well as a factual one.
And this emotional connection can be split into two distinct elements:
- a) How do customers feel about a brand?
Do they associate the brand with luxury and attainment, e.g. Mercedes-Benz, or with social responsibility, e.g. the Red Crescent, or with convenience, e.g. Uber?
- b) How do brands make a customer feel about themselves?
This is a bit different from the view above. Yes, Mercedes is a luxury brand. But does buying a Mercedes make a customer feel good about themselves – make them feel that they’ve achieved something? Uber might be all about convenience, but as recent #deleteUber hashtag shows, consumers are willing to give up convenience if they don’t feel good about using a service.
Now, admittedly, simplicity and highlighting brand benefits is key to getting your messages across. But increasingly, emotional connections are important too.
So here are the two things you must do to build the right emotional brand connections:
1. Actually stand for something
It’s a lot easier to get people emotionally involved if the brand actually stands for something.
Here’s something you should pay attention to – from Forbes:
“Millennials prefer to do business with corporations and brands with pro-social messages, sustainable manufacturing methods and ethical business standards.”
There have been quite a few reports suggesting that younger generations aren’t as keen on the pursuit of material goods as those preceding them. And when they do purchase, they want it to mean something.
Small wonder then that brands like Starbucks have worked hard to align themselves with conscientiousness and good works.
Of course, you can overdo this. Not every brand needs to strike a blow for marriage equality, or for transgender rights. In fact, every single brand trying to attach themselves to a nebulous higher purpose can have an adverse effect – where brands are seen as opportunistic. As Kate Richardson writes:
“All the hoo-ha about authenticity, the hype around social media, as well as the fashionable discourse around purpose…have created a false sense of the importance that (most) brands play in our lives. This misguided belief has given rise to the idea that even the most innocuous of products need to create important meaning in our lives…”
So do it – but don’t overdo it. If you’re a purveyor of coffee, you can start by creating a sustainable supply chain. If you’re a sports apparel manufacturer, you can rid your supply chain of child labor. Do what’s relevant, and people will notice.
2. Walk the talk
Emotional connections require trust. And that is built when you practice what you preach. You say you’re honest and trustworthy? Back that up by customer service that is responsive and looks after customers. If you’re an e-commerce platform that promises convenience, make sure that customers aren’t angrily calling in about misplaced orders.
Look, big lifestyle brands can get away by triggering emotions and aspirations. Coca Cola has long told stories about happiness. Emirates Airlines, meanwhile, is saying “Hello Tomorrow” – giving people less to worry about, and asking them to be optimistic about the future.
But most SMEs and startups can’t get by just by jazzing up their content. Their words and slogans can’t be empty. They need to be backed up to hilt by action and customer service – at every single touchpoint.
I’ve been creating words for brands for over a decade. And I can tell you that while words matter, it’s brand actions that translate into emotional connections. So here’s the bottom line: Make your actions match your words. And stand for something. It’ll make your copywriter’s job easier too.
Apart from being an award-winning copywriter and content consultant, Hisham Wyne is an internationally recognised MC, presenter, speaker and broadcaster who helps the world’s best-known brands create memorable occasions. During his time in the Middle East, Hisham has collaborated extensively with blue-chip companies including Twitter, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Harley-Davidson and Aston Martin, and helped government concerns such as the Dubai Internet City, in5 and the Dubai Design District. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.