As featured in Transform Magazine

Marketers are no strangers to the value of tapping into their target audiences’ emotions. It’s a well known industry fact that Coca Cola sells happiness and Apple, in their own words, focus on delight, surprise, love and connection. What is much less talked about is the value of a brand taking its own emotional ‘temperature’.

Trying to define which emotions are most likely to accelerate brand growth is an exercise in futility if we don’t first identify which emotions our brand is already eliciting from our consumers.

And by this I don’t mean checking on how liked our brand is. The kind of soul searching exercise I am referring to involves honestly reviewing the good with the bad. Ultimately identifying and eradicating negative associations is where we are most likely going to unblock what is holding a potentially thriving brand back.

Some brands don't elicit any emotion. This requires going back to basics to uncover the buried heart of a brand. It is a powerful exercise that reaps rewards.

Fruit juice brand Frobisher’s took this drastic measure when they found they were simply selling a product in the crowded fruit juice sector.

It took some serious soul searching to move beyond the confines of their product to reveal their heritage in juice based on an unwavering focus on premium produce. This realisation became the platform from which to affirm their deep knowledge of juice.

Consumer research pointed at a gap in the market for an alternative fruit juice that was premium, without being preachy. Consumers were tired of being told how good something might be for them, they just wanted a brand they could intrinsically trust. By communicating their superior knowledge and a heritage of premium produce, Frobishers now tap into their consumers’ emotional need for trust, without the fuss.

Jensen’s Gin, on the other hand, was not sufficiently evolved to be considering emotional cues. They certainly understood their customers yet after a period of rapid growth, they found their sales levelling out. They realised that the way to continue on an upward curve was to take their own brand ‘temperature’, to find out what narrative they were unintentionally telling.

This highlighted the fact that there was greater emphasis on their product rather than the brand. Recalibrating their brand communication made them realise they were much more than great gin. They were at the forefront of the craft alcohol movement in London and they had a heritage that other brands could only aspire to. This mixed with a loyal, local following pointed at a strong emotional cue; pride.

London became the focus of the brand. Their consumers’ feeling of belonging and attachment is much stronger than their desire to drink a ‘new generation of gin’, and this is reflected by a brand that loves London as much as they do.

Jensens effectively tapped into their consumer’s subconscious pride at being part of London’s very DNA.

As marketers we need to remember that the abundance of information that consumers can now tap into shapes their views of the world and themselves. As a consequence today’s consumers are regularly re-constructing their identities, personas and emotions, and have become chameleon-like and quite elusive. Little wonder brands have to regularly adjust their emotional tone.

New brands of course have no past brand temperature to take. They start with a clean slate, yet unless the product is completely innovative, their struggle will be one of breaking through the noise and making a differentiated statement that resonates and aligns with their target audiences emotional status. Deciding what this should be requires defining the emotion they want to trigger based on a clear understanding of its values, and this is not always immediately obvious.

Start-up beer company Hiver had to dig deep to uncover the emotional cues they might evoke in their consumer. Their independence separated them from mass-produced honey beers and pointed at a more bohemian personality, while their passion and attention to detail could also be leveraged emotionally.

The idea of 'Passionate independence' has spawned a brand built on those principles, from using 100% British ingredients and suppliers to supporting pollinator charities with 10% of profits, Hiver do things their own way and appeal to consumers that follow the same mantra.

An emotion-led approach to branding is nothing new, yet many organisations still fail to explore an avenue that could lead to an increased market share. It is emotions that drive purchase behaviour, loyalty, and advocacy, not a post code or a gender, and most brands are eliciting some sort of emotion whether they mean to or not - being in control of that is an important step toward positively connecting with your consumers.

Ticking all the logical boxes from a marketing perspective does not guarantee success, it’s time to get emotional.