5 Ways to Get to the Heart of Emotional Marketing

Emotional marketing tells a story that connects with an audience in a human or personal way. With consumers increasingly making buying decisions driven by feelings rather than logic, emotional marketing creates meaningful relationships that result in brand fans, replacing the loyalty marketing approach of years past.

The proliferation of new media channels, platforms and devices means consumers have greater access to brand stories, and marketers have more ways to convey their brand's identity and vision. Done right, emotional marketing helps marketers differentiate and compete in this changing environment, and conveys a brand's values, interests and passion.

While emotional marketing is a strategy, it must feel authentic and honest in order to work. Marketers need to truly understand both the audience and the brand's identity to choose the right approach.

Here are five approaches to emotional marketing that can turn casual consumers into brand fans: Inspirational, Aspirational, Love, Milestones and Local.

1. Inspirational

What motivates or encourages your target customers? When people are inspired, they often think or act differently. They may feel a sense of pride when someone they relate to accomplishes an unexpected feat or overcomes an obstacle. Or, they may be swayed by seeing a good deed in action.

The right human interest story or a spokesperson who embodies the brand make the inspirational approach work. Effectively associating your brand with a role model that people can believe in may lead people to believe in your product as well. Gatorade and Nike have mastered the inspirational approach, using athletes like Serena Williams and Michael Jordan as brand ambassadors who inspire audiences not simply with their looks or fame but with their accomplishments, talents and perseverance.

Building an emotional connection with your customers can be magical and create a halo effect for your brand. Dawn dish soap was hailed as a wildlife rescue hero for cleaning hundreds of birds after the Gulf Coast oil spill in 2010. Consumers viewed the brand with pride for being part of the overall humanitarian response to this ecological disaster. Honda's Power of Dreams campaign celebrates "people who chase their dreams with reckless abandon, and the amazing things that happen when their dreams come true." While featuring celebrities such as Amy Adams and Steve Carell, the campaign actually conveys an even richer brand story by paying tribute to Honda's founder Soichiro Honda, whose pursuit of dreams made Honda a success.

2. Aspirational

Aspirational campaigns create a brand presence that taps into an audience's dreams, their desire to reach a lofty goal or enjoy a lifestyle or experience they long for. They may aspire to be financially secure, send a child to college or hit the open road in a status vehicle. Marketers considering an aspirational approach must understand the need, hope or desire their brand fills for their target customer and how their brand reflects people's self-image and identity. Then they must build a story that brings the dream to life.

GE hopes young women will aspire to enter the STEM fields by honoring female scientists with its Balance the Equation campaign, which includes the ad "What If Millie Dresselhaus, Female Scientist, Was Treated Like a Celebrity."

In the luxury category, Hermes conveys the image that its products are for those who are elegant, worldly and appreciate fine craftsmanship. Even if you've never traveled the world, owning an Hermes product shows you appreciate worldliness in a way others may not. Those who drive a Tesla do so because they believe in the company's aspirational mission: "to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy."

3. Expressing love

A marketing strategy focused on appealing to consumers' raw and most personal emotions can change a nameless, faceless, perhaps seemingly soulless business into a brand that audiences can relate to and care about. This can even work for businesses that aren't inherently compelling or deliver a product or service that has little to differentiate it from the competition. It is also impactful for businesses that specialize in products or services for special occasions.

The most effective way to humanize a company is by demonstrating that the brand makes someone's life better, easier or brings them joy. Brands such as Pandora (jewelry) and FTD help show someone you care on important occasions. The long-running "Love -- it's what makes a Subaru, a Subaru" campaign is classic, and ADT's "Always There" campaign promises to protect your home and help your family feel safe. Lysol's new "Protect Like a Mother" campaign likens mothers to wild animals who instinctively protect their young from anything -- even germs.

4. A milestone connection

Milestones can be an opportunity to strengthen your brand's relationship with your customers. The Big Mac turns 50 this year, Star Wars debuted 40 years ago and the jelly giant J.M. Smucker is 120 years old, and their companies are proudly celebrating these anniversaries. Additionally, a brand can focus on life milestones that are important to its audience and develop a strategy that resonates with them. Oscar Meyer's recent back to school campaign shows real moms talking about the bittersweet moment of watching their kids go to school for the first time and in a twist, having the kids make lunch for their parents to ease the transition.

Even just creating a story about your brand's presence in the lives of those experiencing a milestone can be very effective. New York Life features a child's first steps and assures you that it will be there for "all of life's ups and downs." And Huggies goes into the delivery room in its "Baby's First Hug" campaign to remind new moms that hugs strengthen babies' immune systems.

5. The local angle

A brand can gain fans by connecting to people's pride and passion for where they live. Brands with a trendy "buy local" strategy tailor their stories and platforms to the cities in which they do business.

National auto brands, retailers and banks tie into their local markets through campaigns featuring famous local attractions, local schools and colleges, and hometown sports teams. Brands like Bank of America and Target play active roles in local programs and partnerships that make communities better places to live and work. Clif Bar sponsors numerous running and cultural events in cities throughout the U.S. and is a highly visible participant with events like its mid-marathon dance parties.

Location-specific marketing is also a particularly valuable approach for young, smaller businesses or franchises that may have smaller budgets, but can trade on their local presence and connection to the community.

Be real in real-time

While theoretically any of these emotional marketing approaches can apply to all kinds of businesses, one thing remains the same: You must be consistent in your storytelling across all platforms to bring it to life. Ensuring that your story and delivery evoke the same tone and message across multiple platforms builds a credible, meaningful and recognizable brand that will resonate with customers.

While creating this type of marketing strategy may seem like an insurmountable -- and cost prohibitive -- task, small businesses should not be discouraged. You don't have to have a giant budget to create brand fans. Understand your audience, tell a believable story, be prepared to work harder and use the platforms your audience uses to give you the most visibility and "bang for your buck."

Regardless of the strategy you choose, remember that the key to creating a successful emotional marketing campaign is authenticity. If you truly understand the promise your brand is making to its audience and speak from the heart, your brand will connect at a whole new level and transform customers into friends.

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