Published in Mar-Apr 2022
It is an age-old axiom: emotions make brands. Think of the top five brands that pop into your head right now, and the likelihood of your emotional affinity to any one of them will need no further explanation.
After all, great brands pull great emotions out of us. Needless to say, we have clung to this fundamental principle and its primacy in Ad Land for decades. But what if there is another way to think about the proverbial emotional connection we want with prospects? What if we think about emotions less as a desired feeling and more as the desired momentum brands need to turn emotion into consumer action?
Boston-based Forrester Research & Consulting figured out a way to bridge the gap between brand and results that has often eluded the best among us. Their extensive research covered three important dimensions to
i) determine whether the primacy of emotion actually matters,
ii) represent the power of the brand by blending emotion with other traditional factors, and iii) pick the right brand metric – one that moves in lock-step with financial results so that improvements to the metric would manifest in real value for the company. After conducting a survey and running the respondents’ data through iterative data mining techniques and structural equation modelling, they mapped millions of relationships between consumer perceptions, outcomes and emotional motivation. And then, from the belly of this beast, they crystallised a concept that powerfully captured the essence of their hard work.
They called this, “Brand Energy.” Brand Energy is “a holistic measure of the power of a brand.” It is that rare spark that flares up each time the right message, packaged in the right way, is delivered with the right emotional experience. And Brand Energy translates into consumer action when customers buy, advocate, or socially share your product or service to positively affect the bottom line.
Forrester located three key contributors to Brand Energy: i) They discovered that almost 50% is derived from ‘Emotion’ (no surprises here) and validated that the ‘gut feel’ we all leverage as communicators is both natural and desirable and is a function of emotional markers and automatic processes in our subconscious. ii) About 30% of the contribution is ‘Salience’ – a fancy way of saying that a higher share of heart and mind leads to a higher share of wallet. Salience is not only a result of building traditional brand awareness, it is about the aggregate of positive emotional experiences over time. iii) Lastly, 30% is the ‘Fit’ – or the relevance of the brand (price, range, availability, suitability, etc.) aligned with the consumer’s worldview. Is it a member of his ‘tribe,’ so to speak? Will it feed enduring preference by way of engaging with its ideal consumer in meaningful ways? It is worth noting, of course, that these dimensions are highly interconnected.
In practical terms, all this is good news. Marketers now have data-driven proof and hard evidence that emotion is the fuel that powers Brand Energy. It also sheds light on where brands have to work harder should they lack in any one of the three contributing factors. In other words, some brands with a high score in Emotion (50%) may still outwit their competition should their Salience (30%) and Fit (20%) metrics not be up to mark. Alternatively, brands that Fit really well may still underperform because they could not generate enough emotional resonance. All in all, marketers can now confidently substantiate why emotional branding moves the needle on value and why Brand Energy encourages correlation with outcomes like preference, purchase, premiums, and advocacy – all of which matter when it comes to driving sales, revenue and profit.
Best of all, their findings also apply to how brands should approach the customer experience (CX). For consumers, brand and CX (both treated as separate disciplines in an organisation) are inseparably interconnected through the interrelatedness of experience, perception and outcome. Great brands will understand why creating synergy here translates to even more Brand Energy.
Faraz Maqsood Hamidi is CE & CD, The D’Hamidi Partnership.