Great Brands Sell Emotions, Not Products — Emotional Branding

Nike is one of the most lauded brands. It’s “Just Do It” tagline and its accompanying advertisement challenged people to achieve their goals and aspirations.

In 1987, NIKE’s ad agency made a new TV spot celebrating Nike’s early role in founding the jogging craze. The videos had the visual image of tracks where NIKE started, clips of famous runners, with a voice over “It all started here” followed by “Fitness revolution that changed America”.

People from Nike and the Ad Agency felt that the ad is striking and provocative. But when they previewed it to a group of consumers, the Ad met with silence. Nike’s founder Phil Knight was upset.

He felt that the ad celebrated Nike Products, not the customers.

Ad agency came out with revised ads showing all kind of athletes doing what athletes do. Every athlete spoke with EMOTION about what they do, what EMOTIONAL rewards they gain and why they do in their own EMOTIONAL words, followed by “Just Do It”.

The ad was not about sneakers, superior performance or breakthrough innovation of Nike products. It was about Emotional rewards about “Just doing it” motivating many to take it up.

If the tagline was, “Get down and go jogging” would have resonated with users like “Just Do It”? This tagline inspired many to take up fitness, quit bad jobs, leave bad relationships.

Nike’s competitor ADIDAS was one of the prime sponsors for 2012 Olympics. The Adidas’s ads during Olympics had fun quotient but highlighted it’s products and benefits. Their marketing communications were linked with style and innovation.

On the other hand, Nike’s Olympic commercials were quiet, moving and roused hearts. The voiceover says

Greatness does not reside in any special person or special place. Greatness is wherever somebody is trying to do find it.

A simple ad emotionally connected the brand to users. This ad got 10 times more hits than Adidas’s ad.

Nike doesn’t consider it as shoe manufacturing brand, but a brand to inspire people to become an athlete. Nike’s focus is more on fulfilling user’s aspirations, helping them to achieve their goals and celebrate their success(Yes, it is their success, not Nike’s).

In 1997, Pampers, though it is a superior baby diaper with an ultimate benefit of “dryness”, was losing their market share to Huggies. Since sales were sluggish, Pampers did a user research. They realised that Parent’s concern was Baby’s Health and Development than “dryness”.

Pampers changed their communication from ‘dryness’ to ‘Sound sleep for babies, Help baby sleep better, Good health’. They targeted emotional concerns of the mother and showed how they could help the well-being of baby and support in development. They came out with product categories — Swaddlers for infants, Cruisers for toddlers, pull-ups for toilet training.

Rather than having a narrow focus on product benefits, Pampers focussed on delighting the mothers, assuring them of a child’s development.

Walt Disney Company’s mission is to bring joy to many people. To take everyone to a different world for few hours, so that they can be momentarily happy without any worries. They like people to create own pleasant memories and help you to live a successful life.

Volkswagen is called “People’s car”. When they launched Beetle in America, they came out with a tagline “Everyone needs a Better Car” — Note the difference with “Everyone needs a Car”. Former quote is aspirational — Brand is saying that every user deserves a better engineered good quality german car. The tagline shows an emotional concern for the users. People are emotionally attached to the brand and they remain loyal. No one remembers or knows the negative points of original cars — how the lights did not work properly, how the seats were stiff, and the frequent breakdowns.

Great brands don’t sell products, they sell emotions.

We think we are rational decision makers, but our decisions are controlled by the intuitive mind(Emotional mind) rather than the rational mind. They are more influenced by heart than logic.

Our decisions are based on how products make us feel, what identity the brand makes me experience and express, and to whom we are dealing with — all are of emotional feelings.

The brands have learnt to tap those emotional feelings to make a consumer loyal to their brand.

Emotional Branding is to be like a life partner — provide a self-identity in front of society, treat them as people rather than buyers, provide them with an experience, inspire them to have dreams, help them to accomplish those dreams, create a shared community(Harley-Davidson community, Apple users), help them to create stories with your product/service, become part of their memories and grow to be an important part of their Social Life.

Once the user is emotionally hooked by a brand, he or she will not look for a replacement product, does not like adapting to anything new(Higher switching costs). If given a chance, people will try to avoid unknown. It’s not easier for the competitors to break into their minds.

To conclude, to get longer lifetime value from your consumer(Sorry, people), you need to treat as your life partner, care for them, nurture them.


21 KEYS to SUCCESS in BUSINESS -A Guide for Every ASPIRING ENTREPRENEUR by Shah Mohammed M.

References: Wired to care by Dev Patnaik, Designing for Growth — Time Ogilvie, Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, Habit by Neale Martin, Unconscious Branding by Douglas Van Praet, Emotional Branding by Marc Gobe, Emotional Branding -Article by Craig J. Thompson, Emotional Branding-article by Ali Ekber Kocoglu, What Great Brands Do by Denise Lee

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