Emotional Branding


Emotional Branding – The New Paradigm for Connecting Brands to People by Marc Gobé isn’t a new book – it dates back to 2001. Nevertheless, those interested in neuromarketing or in gearing marketing efforts to work at the subconscious level will find much of the information useful. Gobe believes that brands have personality and emotional impact, and that marketers can craft that personality using all of the elements of their customer interaction, from product package design to retail selling environments.

The first section of the book is a bit “Marketing 101” – who are your customers, what do they want to hear, etc. Some of the demographics and examples are slightly dated, but most of this content is evergreen and is designed to get the reader to think beyond the nuts and bolts of touting product benefits. Gobé begins with a review of the changing demographics of the marketplace and how they may differ in emotional terms from past generations of consumers. Marketing to a sixty year old baby boomer with a pitch that worked for the senior citizens of yesteryear won’t cut it. He also covers the unique characteristics of multicultural, female, and gay/lesbian consumers, in each case trying to identify the emotional characteristics of a brand that are needed to reach that group.

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Emotional branding for women, Gobé says, needs to address five key needs: respect, individuality, stress relief, connection, and relationship. Gobé illustrates many of his points with real world marketing examples that either miss the mark or are effective. For example, he thinks an American Express ad that shows a nearly hysterical and helpless woman who lost her wallet in a foreigh country completely misses the “respect” emotional appeal as few women want to identify with the hapless victim. To better appeal to the need for respect, the ad could have portrayed a confident woman celebrating with an expensive dinner despite losing her wallet due to her wisdom in buying American Express travelers checks. He considers an ad from Salomon Smith Barney which acknowledges the major role of women in financial planning as well as their other important responsibilities as providing the respect component far more effectively.

We found the second section, all about “sensorial experiences,” to be far more interesting. Gobé gets into the mechanics of appealing to all senses in crafting a branding strategy. Too often, the major focus is on what customers see. Touch, sound, taste, and smell can all be important components in developing an emotional brand identity. He mentions Barnes & Noble, for example, as building a coffee shop into each of its stores to appeal to its customers’ sense of taste, not normally a characteristic one would associate with books. It’s a good example – when I think of Barnes & Noble, my mental image includes the smell of coffee and, to a lesser degree, a hint of mocha latte.

The third section of the book is dubbed “Imagination” and deals with how creative design can affect a brand identity. Gobé starts with product design, illustrating his points with images ranging from high-concept razors to the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum. He gets into visual design of advertising and logos, showing how Lancome, the cosmetic firm, shifted its emotional brand image by changing its ads; wholesome, smiling models were replaced by edgier, more seductive women with very different makeup. The section concludes with well-illustrated chapters on “emotional packaging” and “emotional advertising.”

A chapter on using the Web for branding is the only section of the book that’s seriously dated. There are some useful points, but, unlike most media, the Web has changed a lot in the last six years, both in the technology available to marketers and in the way people use the Web.

If there’s a shortcoming in this book, it’s that there’s not much “how to” information for marketers. There are no detailed instructions on how to assess a brand’s emotional characteristics, or any five step program to create an emotional brand identity. Presumably, one step – hiring Gobé’s firm, Desgrippes Gobe – will suffice. (Apparently the previous company name cited in the book, the cryptic d/g*, didn’t hit the right emotional notes.) Near the end of the book, Gobé does briefly describe a few of the techniques employed in analyzing a brand. Still, there’s lots of content in this book that will help marketers view their brands, and their customers, in a new way. The copious illustrations of designs and ads that are emotional hits or misses should help readers visualize how their brand might employ better emotional branding strategies and avoid emotional miscues.

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