How to Hook Customers with Emotion? — Emotional Branding

“It is easier to do complex things, but complicated to do simpler routine tasks” — One of the hardcore Apple fans agreed upon about one of Apple’s products. Nobody can deny the innovations from Apple. It is not a perfect product. Yes, there are alternate products, which can do more or less the same. It is not that you have a strong edge in your career or business because of Apple products. Even then, Apple has a cult following, A Halo Effect — Every apple user is considered as a cool, stylish, easy-going, technocratic person.

How Apple built such a loyal fan base, the community who are ready to ignore the shortcomings, who serve as brand promoters? How did Apple emotionally hook the users?


Emotional branding is a highly influential technique to hook the users. It is a consumer-centric approach(Or User Centric Approach), driven by stories to build intense, heartfelt, eternal relationship between consumers and the 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.

How Brands Hook consumers emotionally?

Many factors need to be considered to create a holistic emotional bond to the consumer. I shall focus on main elements.

Emotional Branding is of two types — Extrinsic and Intrinsic.

Intrinsic Branding — What needs to be done inside the product or service to create an emotional bond and hook a user. In other words — It is called “Consumption Experience” — Delivery of feelings when consumers use our product/service. If this part is not taken care, the whole process will fail.

Extrinsic Branding — Contextual Branding — Branding around the product or service — Websites, Tagline, Name, Marketing Communication, Advertisements. Let’s focus on essential requirements for “Extrinsic Branding” in this blog.


Every brand’s starting point is cultivating a strong internal corporate culture that resonates with the brand. Employees of a company act as brand ambassadors, they are the interface between internal and external environments. They influence the powerful perception of the brand in consumer’s mind. Their behaviour can reinforce the brand value, and if it is inconsistent, it will undermine the credibility of the brand.

The Employees need to know the values of brand, feel inspired by them in their hearts, and then put them into action — Denise Lee

If your brand cannot inspire your employees, then you cannot inspire your consumers emotionally. The founder’s vision, passion has to be imbibed throughout the company and a constant effort to be incorporated to maintain the culture, which could evolve based on the cultural shifts.


Lara Lee, Harley-Davidson’s former head of services “We don’t spend a lot of time talking about ‘what customers want’. We are them and they are us”

“You are Them, and They are You” — Unless you become your users, it is difficult to understand their feelings, inspirations, aspirations, unarticulated needs, behaviour, attitudes in different circumstances. Each and every person in your company, be it a stakeholder, vendor partner, employee — Need to have an empathetic understanding of the user. This is a foremost important step in creating an Emotional connection with your user.

If you care for people to whom you are designing the product, people will care for your product

To practice Empathy- You need to have beginner’s mind — No Cognitive Bias. It is like carrying an empty baggage and collect whatever possible — the collection can be compartmentalised later.


Empathy or spending time with users would change your perception. Empathy would help you to talk in your consumer’s language than in your brand language.

Earlier Pantene categorised their products for normal, dry or oily hair, but sales were not happening as expected. The reason — customers were misdiagnosing their own hair. They then rethought from user’s perspective and new collections were designed — Volume, Curly Hair, or Straight Hair. User-focussed thinking will make you communicate in your consumer’s language(prospect’s language)

If we become users, it is easier to talk in consumer’s language. Marc Gobe’s Ten Commandments of “Emotional Branding” will guide further in changing our perception.

  • From Consumers to People/Humans (Consumers buy, but people live. Call your customers as people)
  • From Products/Services to Experience (Products/services fulfil needs, Experiences fulfil desires)
  • From honesty to trust (Honesty is expected — talks about the brand. Shift this to user’s benefit — Trust -to be earned — by engaging and intimate to the users)
  • From Quality to Preference (Quality for right price is default requirement, Preference creates Sale)
  • From Notoriety to Aspiration (Notoriety — Being Known, Aspiration — Being Loved)
  • From Identity to Personality (Recognition Vs Character, Charisma)
  • From Functionality to Feelings (Practical Utility to Sensorial Experiences)
  • From Ubiquity to Presence (Ubiquity is seen, Presence if felt)
  • From Service to Relationship (Service is selling, Relationship is acknowledgement)

Change in perception helps us to reframe the problems, solve the right problem and help in creating innovations.


A lighting product — Just provides a light — doesn’t create a new meaning in consumer’s life. If you understand the user well, you may create a lighting product which can alter the room temperature, provide ambience to enhance the mood, reduce stress, inspire him to think creatively, soothe him with pleasant memories.

It’s not the new meanings of a product, but the new meanings for a user’s life — how we are supporting him to create a new sense of life, feel new experiences, find new expressions and move towards new values.

Nike’s “Just Do It” tagline inspired many to start a fitness routine, leave boring jobs, break irrelevant relations. It created new meanings in others life. Nike’s product is not about shoes, but to awaken an athlete in a consumer.


In Nike’s “Just Do It” TV ad, every athlete spoke with EMOTION about what they do, what EMOTIONAL rewards they gain and why they do in their own EMOTIONAL words. It was all about stories.

Emotional Brands focus on telling stories that inspire and captivate consumers. Stories demonstrate that you had got a genuine understanding of your consumer’s aspirations, goals, lifestyles, dreams. Stories help to communicate how the brand is going to enrich the consumer’s life.

Brand stories should not be about the brand, but about your consumers, Example — Nike “Just Do It” and “Find your Greatness” ads. It has to celebrate the user. How a user transformed himself? Challenges faced? How he overcame? The end — should be an interesting and an emotional one. It should clearly say how the user is happy, how there’s a new meaning in his life.


Co-Creation is an active, creative and social process, based on collaboration between producers and users, that is initiated by the firm to generate value for customers-Prof. Thorsten

Co-creation does not mean involvement of users — They become enthusiastic partners — owners of a solution. The user’s participation improves Empathy, make stakeholders understand the realities of Consumer emotions and the motivations behind those emotions. Co-Creation helps a brand to create mutually beneficial, identity enhancing sustainable meanings.

Co-Creation creates sustainable shared communities (Apple group, Harley Davidson Riders group), who act as brand missionaries, promoting the brand through their personalised brand stories.


Triggers refer to environmental cues or events that can initiate or elevate brand associations. Any association with users happen with the initiation of triggers which is of two types — Internal Triggers and External Triggers.

Many brands have started telling User stories in their advertisements — Emotional stories. But are they helping the brand? If the stories are focussed on emotions of rarely happening scenarios — How will it help in recalling your brand? If the chosen scenarios or stories doesn’t happen in a large section of your target segment, you will loose the value of your emotional branding.

Emotional Branding should be designed with triggers connected to frequent scenarios in life and their associated emotions. When the scenario happens in their life — the Emotional memory of the ad associated with the scenario gets activated resulting in the brand recall over a period of time.

Triggers can be about People, place, situations, socialisation(family, social group), Customer Values, Sensory pleasure, Socially oriented goals, self-oriented goals.

The frequent the triggers, quicker the brand recall, swifter the emotional attachment, energetic the brand loyalty.


This article touches only certain primary parameters for Emotional Branding. Emotional Branding provides a competitive advantage in a saturated market by enabling distinctive associations that will increase your consumer’s satisfaction, increase their commitment to your brand, increase repurchase behaviour and create them as brand missionaries.

Emotional Branding is nothing but caring for our consumers — It has to start from within us — spread to our team -feel empathetic relationship with our consumers — change our perception — think as ‘we are them’ — create new life meanings for our consumers — create their success stories — design those emotional stories with triggers which happen frequently with a large section of target segment -Build associations — Build community — Build a long lasting relationship — Be a life partner.

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, How Brands become icons by Douglas B Holt, Hooked by Nir Eyal, Well Designed by John Kolko

Secular Humanist, Business Growth Consultant, Design Thinker, India. Reach me at or