Marketing Advertising Branding

Emotional marketing: how to develop closer customer relationships

By Emma Mulcahy, Staff writer

May 20, 2019 | 8 min read

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Mobile and digital advertisers are increasingly raising expectations around efficiency, accessibility, and convenience for consumers but for brands seeking long-term loyalty, it isn't enough just to meet needs.

Nike: 'Dream Crazy'

Nike: 'Dream Crazy'

Marketers need an engaging long-term conversation to create meaningful, human connections with consumers. By humanizing their brand, marketers can establish deeper relationships to help set their business apart in a massively oversaturated market. Creating marketing which resonates with customers leaves a lasting impression, serving the brand well in the long-run.

Studies have shown that people want to invest their money in businesses that have emotional relevance to them, a statistic which has signaled the rise of cause marketing across the business sector. It can and should also be applied to brand marketing: in the definitive survey conducted by Braze and Forrester Consulting, findings showed that consumers heavily favor brands who successfully demonstrate their humanity. As much as 57% of consumers said they would be more loyal to a human brand.

These numbers highlight the very real benefits that exist for brands if they take the time and effort to create emotional relationships with their consumers. Brands should keep these relationships at the front and center of their campaigns and focus on building their business around their target demographics.

To help brands develop closer customer relationships, The Drum looks at the key factors used in emotional marketing strategy and highlights those that marketers should be paying closer attention to.

Audience insights

Brands need to conduct thorough market research in order to fully understand the position and requirements of their target audience. While this can be time-consuming, the work is invaluable. Making this effort at the start of the process increases the chances of the campaign inciting the right reaction and saves marketing teams plenty of redirected time, energy and resources further down the line. This research should inform the advertiser of the audience’s identifying features, as well as what platforms they are using and what content they are engaging with most. When these discoveries are made, it’s the role of the brand to align its strategy with that of its audience's interests. In this current advertising market, customers should not be expected to find brands, when there are far easier options.

The recent development of specialized social listening tools is an effective and time efficient way of understanding your audience and their behaviors. Moreover, marketing teams should not shy away from using more traditional forms of polling like focus groups or surveys. When marketers understand the platforms that their target audience is using most frequently, it allows strategists to fine-tune the content and decide how best the message should be showcased.

With this in mind, companies can create bespoke services for customers that are tailored to their specific needs and desires. If done successfully, brands can eliminate any reason for consumers to go elsewhere. If brands can ensure that customer needs are not only met but predicted in advance, then that is really going the extra mile.


Effective campaign design is incumbent on several factors including color, music, and the influencers featured as part of the campaign. Color psychology is intrinsic to generating consumer feeling towards a campaign or brand. Consider the consistent Pantone used by coffee giant, Starbucks; the green suggests vitality and health, and the other earthy muted tones present throughout their marketing denote nature and comfort. These colors have been carefully curated to appeal to their target audience and incite a particular emotion among that community.

Music is an equally effective tool used in ad campaigns to set the tone and invoke a particular feeling from your audience. A classic example is Leftfield’s ‘Phat Planet’ track in Guinness’ iconic 1999 ad, ‘Surfers’. The slow, intense build up of the music aptly reflects the experience of the surfer in the ad; the feelings of excitement and nerves before surfing the building wave. It ties in with the beer brand’s ‘Good things come to those who wait’ tagline. The consumer’s experience of the product is embodied by the music playing and this makes the ad more emotionally impactful for the viewer. The ad wouldn’t be the same without it.

Likewise, marketers have to be conscious of their ads’ protagonists and how they will be received by their audience. Proctor & Gamble, whose product offering is made up primarily of those that would appeal to mothers, ran an ad on the lead-up to the 2014 Winter Olympics called ‘Thank you mom’, featuring Olympians and their mothers. The ad focused on the relationship between the mothers and their athlete children, revealing the support and care they had provided throughout their training. The appearance of genuine Olympic mothers coupled with sentimental music and old home movie style videography combine to pull at the heartstrings of viewers. By the end of the spot, we see that the real stars of the ad are the mothers, signifying the brand’s move to put mothers at the heart of its campaign. Widespread praise of the campaign underlines the effectiveness of tapping into the emotional experiences of a brand’s target demographic.

Telling a story

A significant way to make a brand's marketing resonate with consumers is through creating a story that they can connect with. Humans love stories; they’ve formed the foundations of every society ever built, they form friendships and educate us. Storytelling is central to humanizing brands - it allows marketers to emotionally connect with their audience in meaningful ways, taking them on a journey with the brand.

When people hear or see a great story, it is natural that they want to share it with others. Thus, when brands put time and effort into creating these stories, they greatly increase the likelihood of consumers sharing their experience and ultimately, increasing brand awareness and presence.

Nike’s divisive 2018 ‘Dream Crazy’ campaign, which featured former NFL player Colin Kaepernick is a strong example of storytelling. The football star is a controversial figure in the US after he opted to kneel during the national anthem played at the beginning of football games, before opting out of his contract with the 49ers. It was this series of scandals that helped Nike to build out its campaign, with Kaepernick as its central star under the tagline ‘Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything’. The inspirational language combined with emotive photography and Kaepernick’s story creates a brand narrative that involves the consumer. While the use of influencers remains contested and often appears lazy, carefully selected individuals that embody your brand’s values can effectively humanize your brand.

Department store John Lewis has taken the concept of storytelling in its advertising even further by marrying it up with a particular time of year. Christmas is a highly nostalgic time of year that focuses on childhood and the magic that time represented for us all when we were young. The viral ads are characterized by their tendency to star children, adults and sentimental music during a time when people are encouraged to be at their most giving. Using the format of emotional storytelling during this time period to advertise its products, John Lewis effectively taps into the consumer’s Christmas spirit.

When it comes to brand marketing, when marketers take small steps to humanize the campaign it leads to huge gains for the brand. Mobile marketing agency Braze has worked closely with Forrester Consulting to collate an insightful survey which delves deeper into consumer perceptions of brands humanizing their marketing. The survey aptly named the Braze Brand Humanity Index, offers an in-depth understanding of the very real impact that human communication can have on a business as well as recommendations for marketers on how to begin or continue their organization's journey to brand humanity.

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