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Content, Creativity, Image and Imagination

Free Hugs Here – Emotional Branding and How to Draw In Your Audience

There has never been a better time for brands – whether corporate or personal – to have a meaningful conversation with an audience but too many companies have yet to engage – or yet to inspire – with this increasingly essential marketing strategy. Like our cuddly cat and dog pair, emotional branding has the potential to create unexpected connections and lasting bonds. 

 According to Marc Gobe, the brand marketing guru who has lead the campaign to give social media marketing a heartbeat:

an Emotional Branding approach is quite simply the crucial defining element that separates success from indifference in the marketplace….[It] brings a new layer of credibility and personality to a brand by connecting powerfully with people on a personal and holistic level.”

The concept that people can form emotional attachments to a brand is hardly new. But that advantage was mostly gained by big corporations who had the cash and staying power to infuse their products with an emotional brand personality. No doubt it takes a big budget to buy enough 30 second ads and print media to convince people that they “love” McDonald’s; that sugary water resonates homespun Americana; or, in Canada’s case, that a donut amounts to the worth of a nation. Influence can be bought for the right price.

Social media allows for a purposeful connection

The rise and diversity of social media upends the means for making a purposeful connection with an audience. All the websites, digital hangouts and social media town squares are accessible meeting places where people are literally looking for a message, some packaged bit of content to engage, inform and inspire them – or all three at once if the content is relatable and emotional. Companies of all sizes – including small businesses –  have an opportunity to connect with this attentive and emotionally-sensitive audience if they can just figure out what to say. Silence is not an option. Share the source of your inspiration, why you get out of bed everyday, the meaning and merit and fun of your job. Poke through into your audience’s awareness by being purposeful. I’ve met so many service workers (as we all are) who totally love what they do and all that good energy is a love drug. It hooks you.

The story is the key

The key to social media marketing and emotional branding is not the product you‘re selling but the story you‘re sharing. Less hype, more hope. Storytelling gets to heart of why a brand is elevated in the mind to a place of resonance. Storytelling is sticky and satisfying. And when our emotions are engaged, so is our memory. Once that well of inspired feelings is dug deep in the mind of your audience, they will come back again and again for fresh inspiration. Every business, every life is a journey which makes it a story from the start. Each post should be a substantive part of that story with emotion laced through the information.

No doubt emotions can be all over the map – so pick the right spot for your brand. Certainly a brand can appeal to a range of emotions – hope, love, community, a sense of self-worth – but the appeal must always be grounded in authenticity. With emotional branding and social media marketing, false feelings are as bad for a company now as false promises were in the days of the hard pitch. You are what you tweet.

Encourage empathy and engagement

 So what should you tweet or post or blog?  While each platform has its own particular scope and style, brands should approach all with a clear intent to serve their audience as much as they are trying to do themselves some good. What all brands are vying for in the social media sector is empathy and engagement. Neither will occur unless you consider the interests of your audience. It is their emotions you should want to inspire, not your company’s ego.

Attune your message to the associative emotional values that your brand is promoting. For example, in the small-business sector, if you own a spa, well-being could be your emotional touchpoint; a landscape designer might focus on the environmental or nurturing value of nature; an interior designer on the aspirational attachment to a well-designed space or the personal desire for comfort. And for realtors, there is always a heart in every hearth – light a fire of passion under your brand and watch as others gather round to feel the warmth.

Uplifting content is valuable and viral

But what about the ROI numbers? Research show that emotionally uplifting content is more valuable – and viral – in social media streams. The Corporate Executive Board (CEB), an independent advisory company for businesses worldwide, reports that: “Brands that can connect with their buyers on an emotional level will see 2 times more impact than B2B Marketers who are still trying to sell business or functional value.”  And according to Kristin Brewer of the International Advertising Bureau (IAB), social media is “an essential channel” for brands. Brewer says, “This isn’t surprising since social media is the only channel where it’s possible for brands and consumers to have meaningful two-way conversations, making the strength of connections that much stronger”.

Upworthy stirs passionate engagement

Inspiring stories merit attention and social engagement. Take note of the extraordinary success of the media site Upworthy – in less than 2 years, it has exploded to over 25 million page views per month and drives the viral advantage for many meaningful stories. Its founder, Eli Pariser, reminds businesses that “a huge part of sharing is being passionate about something, about shedding light on what really matters”. It’s also relevant that Upworthy revises its headlines typically 25 times before publication – attention to optimization can boost emotional engagement.

The power of emotional content is changing not only advertising strategies but the way businesses think about their brand. Everyone needs to care and share more to create distinction, trust and likeability. To be prosperous, your brand must be engaged, be inspiring, and be creative. Those aspirations certainly move me.

If all else is somehow impossible, try posting videos of cat and dogs playing together – those always attract an audience.

– b