Does your Brand have the Right Emotional Profile?

Mar 27 2014

Has the marketing world finally caught on to the importance of emotion in advertising and branding? I’ve read a flurry of articles recently, and finally in the mainstream marketing press, discussing the importance of leveraging emotions.

This is a topic that TapestryWorks have been discussing for a long time, although we can’t claim to be the first. Many have seen their importance, since the beginning of the advertising and market research industries, although the argument was buried for decades by models of ‘persuasion’ that permeated the rational minds of big business.

Dan Hill and Marc Gobé brought them back into focus in the last decade, followed by reseach companies like BrainJuicer. More recently, books like Seducing the Subconscious, Unconscious Branding and (hopefully) Brand esSense have brought the emotions back to the fore, along with the well publicized analysis published by the IPA in London showing that emotional advertising gives higher ROI than rational advertising or the combination of the two (read more here).

As John Kearon from BrainJuicer has said, the worst emotion is to have none at all, and anything that provokes an emotional response (positive or negative) is better than something that provokes no reaction at all. BrainJuicer focus on the seven emotions that Paul Ekman researched to form the basis of the facial coding approaches used by many today (happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, disgust and contempt, along with neutral responses).

However, only one of these emotions is positive, and we all know that there are many more positive emotions than that. For example: amusement, interest, delight, hope, excitement and affection.

I don’t want to argue that brands should only use positive emotions, as positive emotions often come in response to the removal of negative ones and great stories always contain a roller coaster of emotions between the two extremes. However, I believe that intelligent brand marketers will carefully consider the right emotions to associate with their brand and the story that underlies the emotional journey associated with them.

So how do you know the right emotions to portray? Much of the work done on human motivations (e.g., emotional goals) in the past century points to around a dozen core motivations that are seen consistently across cultures, categories, ages and situations. Of course, some of these are more important than others in some contexts – for example, some manifest in different ways and to different degrees in one culture versus another.

All twelve are relevant to marketing (they can all be expressed in a number of different ways):

  1. To understand the world
  2. To have a good time
  3. To believe in something
  4. To feel useful
  5. To find and give love
  6. To feel free
  7. To be taken seriously
  8. To belong
  9. To exert control
  10. To feel excitement
  11. To feel secure
  12. To make something happen

How do you measure which emotional goals are most relevant to a category? TapestryWorks have developed an emotional profiling tool to explore and measure which emotions are most relevant for a category and specific brands and segments. The tool is very simple to administer and can be used qualitatively and for quantitative validation, using a standard set of words and phrases that have been carefully translated into different Asian languages in order to properly capture the nuances of meanings that characterise emotions.

For example, how would the emotional goals of Hong Kong consumers differ between hotels and airlines? In August 2013, TapestryWorks partnered with ABN Impact and GMI in Hong Kong to measure the emotional profiles of a number of different categories across a representative sample of Hong Kong residents. The results can be seen below. The top emotional goals from hotels were to feel different, responsible, caring, passionate and unique. For shopping malls, the top goal was also to feel different, but there was also a need to feel original, funny, individual and playful.

For hotel brands, the results show that different customer segments seek the joys of travel and discovery (authenticity), the feelings of appreciation and intimacy (passion) and those of care and protection (nurturing).

How do you then take this to the next level? Working with one brand, TapestryWorks helped them to define a “target” emotional profile, built and agreed with key stakeholders in a StoryWorks® brand building workshop. This profile is now used as a benchmark for testing all executions including TV and print advertising, interior design and loyalty programs.

For example, one recently tested TV execution was perceived as more playful and “wacky” than was intended and these elements had to be dialed down (see below).

However, the customer experience of a recently renovated outlet was perceived to be very close to the brand’s desired profile, with the elements of interior design, sound, lighting and a discrete scent pumped into the lobby, all working to create an almost perfectly tuned ambience.

Such approaches to measuring different brand touch points, help you ensure that all your marketing communicates a consistent emotional story, building the long-term salience of your brand.

So, what is the right emotional profile for your business? Do you know what profile you currently have? If you would like to know more, please contact us for an initial discussion of how emotional profiling can help you to better connect with customers.


Emotionomics by Dan Hill

Emotional Branding by Marc Gobé

Seducing the Subconscious by Robert Heath

Unconscious Branding by Douglas van Praet

Brand esSense by Neil Gains

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