Emotional Branding: How to Appeal to the Customer's Emotional State?


Do you want to stand out from your competitors? In this case, you should appeal to emotions to be halfway to actively selling your products.

It sounds simple, so keep reading our new piece to learn:

  • What Emotional Marketing is and why big brands use it; 
  • Examples of emotional marketing in action from the best specialists. 
  • How J&J almost went bankrupt but implementing principles of emotional marketing helped to avoid it.
  • How to incorporate all practices into a successful emotional marketing strategy. 

What is Emotional Branding? 

In simple words, emotional branding is a way to hijack customer expectations by exploiting Maslov’s needs pyramid. Ego, emotional safety, self-esteem — by appealing to them and fulfilling the needs of people, brands can increase customer lifetime value and establish a good reputation. 

Emotional connection drives sales forward. A good example is Apple promos. Moreover, emotional connection helps to create a loyal audience. 

Here’s your main competitor Maslov’s hierarchy of needs. Ideally, the brand wants to find a balance between safety and work in accordance with the needs of self-realization. If the brand goes against this hierarchy, it will compete with the customer. 

Maslov’s hierarchy of needs

Large brands practice emotional marketing to: 

  • Have more loyal customers and, thus, make sales regular and predictable. 
  • Boost sales on a larger scale for saving marketing budget. 
  • Be different from other cold-blooded brands. 
  • Increase ROI by warming the audience up for the ads.

But emotional branding isn’t an easy task. It combines visual narratives, user experience, and, most importantly, communication.

Brands may invest countless amounts of money into marketing, but it turns out to be useless when they encounter rude people. In the digital world, it all comes down to emails, support articles, chats, and purchase impressions.

Why is it important? Because people don’t care — they just want to receive your product or use your service as soon as possible without extra actions.

First, as a brand, you work as an intermediary between customers and their needs. Emotional marketing allows you to take the upper hand in this cat-and-mouse game — you help the customers solve their troubles and take care of them. After that, they decide if they want to come back to you. 

Modes of Persuasion: Ethos, Pathos & Logos 

Let's take a time trip to Ancient Greece — a place where philosophers feed donkeys with plums to laugh out loud and lay the social foundations for future generations. 

Here are the three truths of Aristotle, which were called The Three Pillars of Persuasion. They can help you establish an emotional connection with your customers. 

Ethos — appeal to authority and ethics 

People like watching the reactions of influencers to a particular product, and no one wants to feel ordinary. Ethos is about authority and morality.

The general rule of thumb is that people want to know what their bloggers, friends, or other customers think about your brand. Thus, advertising through influencers can bring tangible results. This can take many forms: quotes from experts in the field, case studies, or just what the Twitter feed tells about your offers.

Here is how Ethos looks like: 


Another less irritating Ethos example: 


Ethos is used to build trust and gain authority. 

Pathos — Show Empathy and Work with Emotions 

You work with three things here, from important to basic:

  1. Sense of belonging to something bigger. 
  2. Fear of missing out, sense of urgency. 
  3. Hate, love, anger, lust — call it what you want.

Here’s an example that combines all three listed items:


Pathos is used to cement relationships. 

Logos — smart words for smart people

Logos largely depends on the first two pillars: Pathos and Ethos. Boring facts and statistics are ignored. The best way to use Logos is to show how your product or service improves the customer's life (preferably in the first 10 seconds and with strong arguments). Of course, first of all you need to create an effective logo.

Here’s an example where Logos used with Ethos in a single place:

computer advertisement

Logos are used to make profitable deals with customers. Remember that if a product isn’t helpful to the customer, it won't work.

The Three Pillars of Persuasion is used to build the foundation for ads and the brand. Ideally, you want to combine Ethos, Pathos, and Logos into a holistic piece, but having 2 out of 3 is good too.

  • You can prevent the worst consequences and save money. For example, using a $10 toothpaste helps to avoid a $2,000 visit to the dentist. You save a decent amount just by cleaning your teeth daily.
  • You can work with fears. For example, VPN ads refer to the fear of being watched by Big Brother, the FBI, and international spies.
  • You can use visual appeal and aesthetics. For example, the way your website works and feels plays a significant role in perception. 

The Power of Emotional Branding 

Look at Apple. Much of its marketing revolves around Aristotle’s three pillars, communication, and care. 

Here is an example of how Apple is appealing to the desire for self-realization: 

Apple advertisement

And here are Apple’s sales statistics: 

Apple sales

In addition, Apple provides its customers with top-notch products that allow them to solve a variety of tasks, ranging from simple accounting to graphical design. The company has high-quality products. Also, it established good communication with its audience. As a result, today  Apple well enjoys being on the top.

Want more examples?

TikTok is one of the most recent. It promises to deliver fun and does everything to achieve that. It allows people to rapidly cover needs related to self-esteem and self-actualization: people make short videos to express their creativity and get instant gratification. As a result, in 2021 alone, consumer spending will amount to $2.2 billion. 

Worldwide quarterly consumer spending in TikTok

Do you remember the previous ad "Lucky people are less annoying"?

Look at what such advertising did to cigarette consumption in the US.  

Sales of cigaretts per adult per day 1900 to 2014

Cigarette companies have been doing this for over a century with simple things like these:


How to Develop an Emotional Branding Strategy?

Now that the main methods of persuasion have been considered, let's move on to the practical part. How to apply the information to a brand? 

Starting points of Emotional Branding Strategy

  • Determine emotional expectations from the product. Think how you can cover basic Maslov’s needs with your solution, even not physically. It can be a guarantee, a certificate of the absence of toxins, a reliable customer support service, or easy-to-read instructions. 
  • Allow people to test your product before buying it. Demonstrate the product before mass release. It will help to add up to the Ethos pile. 
  • Center your brand around emotions that people get from product testing. As you create a logo for your brand, pick colors based on what people should feel or felt in the past while interacting with you.
  • Research customer journey. Even if it means spending 12 hours browsing every page of your site, or hiring a team of UX designers using talent acquisition software, make each stage special, but keep calm. 

Personalize campaigns and analyze their performance with detailed analytics.

Challenging but rewarding Emotional Branding takeaways

Take care of the customers, and not just in words. Fewer actions when ordering means less hassle. People really desire that. Do you offer something by email? Add a button to purchase it right now. Does filling out the purchase form take too many steps? Make it simpler.

Help them feel special by using personalized interactions. It’s the key to communication in emotional marketing. Help customers feel better, show respect, and be consistent.

Simple example: address the person by name. Compose a letter from the CEO to welcome new customers. Such an approach will add zest to your brand.

Another example is Grammarly. They transfer part of their income to help Ukraine. It’s a difficult long-term choice that makes customers feel part of something bigger.

A more complex example is Netflix. It uses view history to recommend what’s best for its audience. The same goes for TikTok and Youtube: both research what their users want and react to it, even if not always perfectly.

Listen to your customers — what they think of your services and communications. Gather feedback and show that you care. But do that on a regular basis if you want to get a positive result.

Respond to public issues related to the product. Ideally, you always want to show that you care, even if it's a tough decision.

In 1982 Johnson & Johnson had a cyanide issue with Tylenol: someone put it there to damage their reputation. To avoid losing face and protect customers, they have recalled a whole batch of goods. They offered $100M to witnesses who could provide additional information to the police. Moreover, J&J CEO — James Berk — personally attended every television show to tell how the company would prevent this in the future. 

Simple but efficient Emotional Branding techniques   

Check the color scheme so as not to confuse people. Science shows we all react differently to colors. Green is perceived as the most pleasant, while red is associated with strength, joy, and ambition. While building your emotional marketing brand, research what people associate with a particular color and stick to it in every interaction.

color emotion scheme

A simple choice of color enhances the emotions that people experience from the brand

Use visual effects to convey emotions. People want to be happy, regardless of whether it means isolating themselves or buying an air purifier to finally get rid of certain odors. Stick to the emotions you want to evoke in others through your own product.

Don’t forget that you talk to people. The tone of voice is a part of the emotional marketing toolset, which helps to be consistent about style and the way you communicate. Change your tone of voice depending on the social network but always respect your audience. 

Optional but interesting Emotional Marketing tricks  

Add reactions to user actions. Opera GX uses typewriting sound to make typing feel better. Duolingo uses different sounds to indicate the successful completion of each learning session. Having action responses allows you to make interactions more personalized.

Use emotional storytelling. As a brand, you are going through hard times and good times. Incorporate the details of these experiences into your emotional marketing strategy. It can be visual effects, videos, or simple text like this — there's always something to tell.

How to Measure or Track Emotional Branding

Simple level. 

  • Track likes, dislikes, views, and amount of new subscribers when you are launching something new.  
  • Check how often people open emails and links in them. 
  • Open website analytics to see how long people stay on the page and what they click.

Harder level. 

  • Track how many responses you get when you ask customers to do something for you, for example, take a survey.
  • Measure how many people participate in your crowdfunding, interact with social media posts, and provide their emails.

Use trackable links and other tools for collecting data. However, don't ask too much without user's permission and an explanation of why you need this information.

Thus, emotional branding is a set of tools, not a stand-alone practice. It combines Pillars of Persuasion, Maslov’s hierarchy of needs, visual design, and the art of tracking.

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