Future Brands

Can someone please just make me feel something?

Tess Robinson

If you’re a brand builder of any kind, it is your job to redefine the laws of attraction to trigger an emotional response in your audience. And not just any emotional response — Ideally, one that elicits a sense of connection that takes the relationship beyond merely a transactional one. If you can, one that fuels the flames of positive obsession would be ace.

Easy? No. Worth it? Yes.

The power of eliciting a positive emotional response from your audience cannot be overstated.
Research conducted by Harvard Business Review reveals that emotionally connected customers have a staggering 306% higher lifetime value and are more likely to recommend the brand to others.

Impressive? We thought so, too.

At Smack Bang, when we’re building brands, we’re essentially helping our clients solve the challenge of how to get people to care. Why? Because simply put, a brand is only as successful as its ability to trigger a ‘feeling’ in its customer’s heart.

Time and time again, we see that emotion drives action. If a customer relationship is your vehicle to conversion, then emotion is the fuel.

Say hello to the transformative world of emotional branding, where the connection between brands and their audience goes beyond transactions and enters the realm of deep emotional resonance. A world where brand strategists like myself, find great satisfaction in orchestrating the symphony of levers that work to pull on the heartstrings of customers and provide the magnetism required to keep loyal fans engaged in the orbit of a brand.

In every way, brands are living, breathing entities. They evolve, adapt and change almost of their own accord. A brand has the ability to transmute, influence, converse and connect. And though they don’t have feelings of their own (yet!), their greatest M.O. is to perpetually work to evoke feelings.

Emotion is what compels someone to choose one brand over another, to stick around, to engage, and ultimately to advocate. Because the thing is, it’s not just about how you want your brand to be seen. It’s about connecting your brand to how people see themselves. Like I always say, branding is not about the product you buy, it’s about who you become when you buy it.

We know that the brands that are able to effortlessly combine the emotional with the functional are those that come out on the top. (Studies conducted by Motista show that emotionally connected customers have a remarkable 52% higher share of wallet compared to their less emotionally connected counterparts.) But the emotional resonance of a brand is not something that can be invented from thin air. Yes, I know. It’s unfortunate.

A brand’s emotional resonance has to first, be orchestrated with intention and second, backed up by how a company actually behaves and the products and ideals it pedals.

In order to establish a brand in people’s minds, brand builders need to build a dense ‘mental network’ that helps the audience form the ‘right’ associations and feelings in their minds.

At Smack Bang, we are experienced conductors of this orchestra of feelings, memories, expectations and associations. Day in, day out, we create the frameworks that influence brand perceptions for the better. Interestingly, what we are seeing today, in a post-covid world living on the edge of an economic downturn, is a consumer desire to feel ‘alive’, and a requirement for brands to make this possible.

Trend analysts are referring to it as the Age of Enchantment. (Sounds like a rather nice deviation from our current dystopian vibe, right?)

“It’s time to remake the world through the lens of re-enchantment, where the new brand metrics are jaw drops, heart swells, and goosebumps. Brands can help people transcend tough times and jolt them from long-standing malaise by celebrating the thrilling, the uplifting, the awe-inspiring, and the magical.” (Wunderman + Thompson)
As we go about our days living on the knife’s edge of an economic downturn, with interest rates soaring and the smorgasbord of other crises looming, there exists an opportunity for brands to play the part of a rainbow on the set of a stormy scene.

Many people, myself included, are feeling a certain numbness brought on by the pandemic, a degree of burnout from the relentlessness of modern-day living, and exhaustion from the doom and gloom of our newsfeeds. It’s not a pretty trifecta. In fact, “More than three-quarters of people now say they “just want to feel something, to feel alive” and 74% say they feel like they are waiting for something good to happen.” (Wunderman + Thompson)

As we go about our days living on the knife’s edge of an economic downturn, with interest rates soaring and the smorgasbord of other crises looming, there exists an opportunity for brands to play the part of a rainbow on the set of a stormy scene.

Whilst uncertain times might imply a shift to a more practical attitude, and of course, more calculated spending, studies show that people are yearning for experiences that deliver joy, wonder, inspiration and magic.

Enter stage left: Your brand in its Enchanting Era.

As the latest Wunderman + Thompson trend report (a must-read for all brand builders) states;

The emotions of re-enchantment are powerful; they can help us make sense of a complex world, they make us feel part of something meaningful that is bigger than ourselves; and they can instil optimism, opening our eyes to future possibilities.

The thing is, from a brand builder’s point of view, numbers don’t propel recessions. They may ignite them. They may justify them. But they don’t actually drive them. What propels recession in a consumer economy is very much the same thing that propels a boom: emotion. When enough people believe in it, our belief creates our reality – the reason is there will be enough people behaving in recessive ways for the mindset to crystallise and for such behaviours to seem warranted. It’s just as my mate Buddha stated, ‘What we think, we become.’

So, in a world that borders on dystopian, depending on where you look, (and my personal advice is to look beyond The Elephant Graveyard and cast your eyes out toward possibility), let’s remember that the less our consumers are enjoying something, the less they feel ‘alive’, the more opportunity exists for us to be the light amongst the dark. Because the truth is, as consumers, you and I both know, the less we enjoy something, the less it delights us, inspires us, or ignites us, the less we are happy to pay in exchange for it.

So, my parting (and I realise unsolicited) advice, is if your bottom line is taking a hit right now, slashing the brand experience to temporarily alleviate the economic strain is perhaps not the most strategic way to go. Let’s face it, the only thing more worrying than a pandemic followed by a recession is a business that thinks it can survive just by simply cutting corners.

Instead, double down on creating a brand experience that’s built for a positive emotional connection. Find a way to inject joy. Find a way to engage with enchantment. Be the rainbow, and I guarantee you’ll find that pot of gold you need.

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