Emotive branding: the path to meaning


Earlier in our October Brand Series, Jill interviewed Elle Moss from Drew Creative to get her scope on what a brand actually is. Something she said really got us thinking; that what it is, is emotion. Not a logo and colour scheme, and just not customer experience or perceptions, but emotion.

On that interesting and thought provoking note, we’ve got something very exciting for you this week. We are exploring this idea of emotive branding in depth. And we could think of no better way to start off by asking Emotive Strategist at Emotive Brand, Jerry Holtaway to share about brand emotion and some of his extensive experience in branding strategy for consumer, business and service brands with us.

Here’s what he had to say:

Emotive BrandEmotive branding is based on the premise that great things happen when B2B and B2C brands connect meaningfully to the people vital to their success. At Emotive Brand, a San Francisco based brand consultancy, we have developed a discipline and methodology that quickly sets brands on the path to true meaning.

We came to focus on meaning when we noticed the remarkable performance of a handful of notable brands: Virgin, Apple, Zappo’s, Ikea and Lego. They are remarkable because the way they do business truly changes the way people regard them and how they behave as a result.

These are brands that get people to queue up to buy their next product. They manage to attract and keep the best employees. Partners and suppliers compete for their business and brag about their association with these brands. Strong brand advocates tell compelling stories about their brand experience and satisfaction to their friends and families. Positive stories about the brand pervade the press and social media channels.

The keys of meaning

Clearly there was some “magic” that these brands held – over and above the good products and services they sold. We deconstructed these notable brands and  found the keys to meaning.

The first key of meaning opens the door of personal relevance. Open that door and you connect to the beliefs, values, and aspirations of people. You do this by making people aware of your reason for being – your “why”. You make clear to people what you do in this world to make their life better. When people sync with you on that level they find their relationship with you highly relevant.

The second key of meaning opens a door called emotional importance. Open that door and you connect with people on a very personal and upbeat level. You do this by consistently evoking a set of feelings you want to have associated with your brand. Through these feelings, you reach out and touch people in a new way that makes them feel special. They are drawn closer to you and attach greater importance to their relationship with you.

With the doors of relevance and emotional importance open, meaning flows from you to the people vital to your success – and then back again. That’s because as your brand becomes more and more meaningful to these people, they change the way they behave. Because you’ve reached out to them in a meaningful way, they respond back to you in a meaningful way.

How we put this thinking to work

We start by helping our clients formulate a “Driving Idea” that articulates their reason for being in a human and motivating way. It serves to inspire all the people behind their brand, from those developing new products to those answering calls from customers. We also help our clients identify a concise set of feelings which we call their “Emotional Space”. Together these keys of meaning form what we call the brand’s “Emotive Core”.

We then figure out how to bring your Emotive Core to life as our clients interact with the people vital to their brand’s success. We analyze how these “brand moments” can be made more meaningful when seen through the lens of the brand’s Emotive Core. We look for opportunities to conveying greater personal relevance and evoke feelings that promote emotional importance.

Over time, as more and more of our client’s brand moments generate meaning, their brands seriously distance themselves from their competitors. Indeed, meaning translates into success across a range of business measures.

Will it work for a B2B brand?

The examples we cite are consumer brands because everyone tends to know of these notable brands and can readily see how they use meaning to be different and how being meaningful builds their business. But we believe every brand can benefit from this thinking – especially B2B brands.

Why? Many B2B brands struggle to differentiate themselves and bring people closer to their brand based on business as usual. Having said that, B2B brands have many significant “brand moments” which can be made more meaningful through emotive branding. Its simply a matter of shifting the way you reach out to people.

For example, we recently did an emotive branding project for VMworld 2010, the world’s largest virtualization event, through which our client VMware reached out to the virtualization community in a meaningful way. You can read about this meaningful brand moment here: http://tiny.cc/vmworld2010

For more information about emotive branding, contact Tracy Lloyd, Partner, Emotive Brand, tracyl@emotivebrand.com

Massive thanks to Jerry Holtaway. You can follow Emotive Brand here, check them out here, learn from them here and connect with them here.


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