Emotional Marketing Lessons Straight From the Big Brands

Emotional marketing is the video that makes your toes curl with feeling and anticipation.

It's the ad that delivers on its promise, and the copy that fills you with hope for mankind. It’s the stuff that you just have to share. You want those you care about to catch the feeling that you just experienced. 

Emotional marketing taps into basic human needs such as love, ego-gratification, pleasure, power, and security. When brands address our basic needs, we feel emotionally invested in their story. All the big guys are doing it, so why not startups too? Startups are in the perfect position to tell real, human, and emotional marketing stories.

Here are some of the best examples of big brands using emotional marketing, coupled with actionable advice for entrepreneurs building their brand:

Superhero Storytelling Appeals to the "Everyman."

Nike creates loyalty and brand advocacy by using universal archetypes in storytelling. The "hero" archetype, for instance, penetrates across borders and personality types. The story typically involves a humble beginning, a difficult challenge or terrifying enemy, and prevailing against all odds. Everyone can relate to the inner battle between laziness (villain) and productivity (hero) -- the inner voice that whispers, “Just do it.”

Tip: Think about your startup. If it were a superhero, who would it be? What are its particular superpowers? What challenges has it overcome, and how can your customers relate?

Create a brand persona with as much detail as your customer profiles. Always speak to your customers from that perspective of "me to you" and make it personal. Find your brand’s voice and be consistent when crafting your messages.

What Lifestyle and Values are you Selling?

Timberland makes emotional connections by tying its brand to a specific lifestyle: an archetypal warrior battles against the elements in rugged, natural settings. The emotions evoked are perseverance, strength, and individual power.

Tip: What kind of lifestyle does your startup support? Identifying a lifestyle, and infusing your communications with its particular philosophy and values, will help you attract people with the same beliefs.

Oftentimes, the lifestyle itself is enough to put your brand on top, precisely because of the values associated with it.   

Shopify Sells by Motivating, Not Pushing.

Shopify motivates people directly on its website. Knowing that site’s visitors are likely people interested in setting up an online business, or people who have already done so but are looking for support, the company has dedicated a page to motivational and inspirational quotes.

In this way, the product itself is seen as a source of support and motivation.

Tip: Find ways to motivate your customers on and off-site. Your website or app provides the perfect opportunity to rally customers around shared interests. Let them know you’re going above and beyond to offer them something extra, something beyond your basic services.

The more motivated your customers or site visitors become, the more likely they are to stick around and even become brand advocates.

Get Customers to Emotionally Commit

The Lego Club invites members to participate in product innovation and offers an all-access pass for insider information.

Tip: Clubs build loyalty and long-term commitment. Studies show that the more exclusive the club, the more people will want to be a part of it. Find ways to offer club members something exclusive. Will they be the first to try a new product? Will they benefit from special promotions and offers?

Involve People in Your Processes

Threadless crowdsources its new t-shirt designs, which makes customers feel like they have a stake in the company. The online experience also emphasizes community over commerce.

Tip: How can your customers help crowdsource ideas? If you’re a coffee roaster, for example, can your customers crowdsource a new blend? Reaching out to your community base for ideas and inspiration makes people feel invested in your brand on an emotional level.

Make Something New and Give Back

Toms Shoes and founder Blake Mycoskie, set out to create a company that would turn entrepreneurialism on its head and provide shoes for the needy, shoeless children he saw while visiting Argentina. He funded the venture with the "buy one give one" model.

Tip: People feel good about making a purchase when they know their money is going to make a difference in people’s lives. What does your startup believe in?

Everyone supports helping the unfortunate, but if your founders truly believe in creating change in a particular area, don’t be afraid to take a stand, even if it’s a politically charged issue. Toms Shoes, to this day, sends a pair of shoes to less fortunate children every time a pair is purchased.

Use Symbols to Evoke Emotion

CHANEL uses symbols, colors and imagery to create an emotional connection. What do you think about when you think of CHANEL? Most likely a black dress, pearls, and the colors black and white.

Tip: What colors, symbols or images can you associate with your startup? Be sure to use them everywhere in your branding: your website, packaging, and images. The more you tie your brand to these elements, the more you will differentiate your brand and enter people’s minds in other areas of their lives.

Go For Brand Advocates, Not Users

Brand advocates are walking advertisements because they feel connected to your brand on an emotional level. An advocate talks favorably about your product or service and passes on positive word-of-mouth messages to other people.

Peer recommendations are stronger than traditional advertising messages.

The best way to increase advocacy is to build valuable, personal bonds with your customers by offering intrinsic rewards and differentiating your company with a strong brand persona.

Promoting a lifestyle, creating symbols, offering exclusivity with a loyalty club, supporting a cause, storytelling, crowdsourcing, motivating: these are all ways to make emotional connections and create fiercely loyal troops of dedicated fans who are naturally motivated to advocate for your brand.

What are your thoughts on emotional branding? How do you use it to form strong bonds with your customers? Let us know in the comments.