We're more likely to buy a product if we feel a strong emotion towards it. Temkin Group research found that 87% of us make multiple purchases driven by our emotions. A positive emotional connection to a brand also means we're more likely to discuss the brand with others and be more forgiving of its mistakes.
Emotions have the power to create lasting connections. They help us forge attachments to things as well as each other. Emotions lead us to regarding our pets as part of the family. They create a fondness for products that goes beyond logic.
In the long-term, positive emotions can create loyalty, not just to people, but to products and brands as well. We feel compelled to buy something, not because it makes sense or is the cheapest item, but because we want that specific product (perhaps it was the perfume our mother always used, or the brand name cereal we always ate as a child rather than its cheaper alternative).
But why do we form these emotional connections to brands? What creates and sustains the connection?
What motivates us?
Research by consumer intelligence firm, Motista, shows that our personal goals and ideals play a key part in creating connections with brands. We want to:
• Express ourselves as individuals
• Be hopeful
• Focus on wellbeing
• Celebrate freedom
• Be adventurous
• Cultivate a sense of belonging
• Support sustainability
These aren't needs, they're wants. They're driven by our emotions. What this research shows is that we place more importance on our emotional connection to a brand, and on its delivery of these core wants, than we do on the quality of customer service provided.
When we feel connected to a brand, we don't mind showcasing it. Sometimes it even becomes part of our image. But if there's no emotional connection, we start to feel like walking billboards.
In previous years we would avoid this feeling by refusing to buy products with overt logos, but now younger generations are buying these products, but removing the logos. They enjoy the product for what it is, but feel no particular emotional connection to the brand. Without the emotional connection, brands become nothing more than labels.
When do we connect emotionally with a company?
When we have human contact with them. If we can put a human face to something, we can attach to it more easily. It's why companies talk directly to consumers on social media, to create connections with real people.
When the company tells us a story that we relate to. British Airways creates emotional connections in its ads by focusing on the emotions around the journeys we take, not the mundane practicalities. Its "Fuelled by Love" campaign brought people to tears by focusing on relationships, not price-points.
Some adverts, like the ad released by the Spanish Christmas Lottery in 2015, don't need words to touch us. We don't even know what the ad is for until the end, we only know that we're so invested in Justino's story that we want him to be happy.
When we're made to confront the uncomfortable
Uncomfortable topics get us in the gut. Organisations that need us to act urgently use this to great effect. Charities use upsetting images to make us confront the things we'd rather not see. Ads from the Department of Health warn us against the dangers of smoking in a way that is brutal.
When Metro Trains Melbourne created 'Dumb ways to die' in 2012 it became a global hit. Yes, it used cute characters to make us laugh, but it was also quite gruesome in the lesson it taught us about railway safety.
Emotion inspires action
We love to share positive emotions. In his book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On, Jonah Berger found that a newspaper article's potential for becoming a viral hit was linked to how positive it was. We love to share things that provoke comfortable, positive emotions.
We like to compare our emotional response to certain things. Emotion encourages us to share as we try to understand why it is that something which provokes one response in ourselves, has the opposite effect on others (we see this in many online fan communities of TV shows, books and games where people passionately disagree over characters and storylines yet still form a community around the brand).
Emotional response isn't predictable. While emotion does inspire us to act, it does so in ways that even we can't predict. A brand may post inspiring content on its page, but the response to that content depends not just on the emotions generated by the content itself, but by pre-existing emotions. For example, a payday loan company may produce an ad that delivers great emotional impact, but not receive the response it anticipated because people are very against the industry as a whole.
Emotion moves us to do things. Sometimes great things: to take political action, to donate, to help others in need. It also drives us to buy. It creates desire - for products of brands that we associate with bringing us joy. It provokes discussion and debate, that inspire us to share that joy with others. We talk about loving a product, or hating it. (Who ever says they 'quite like' Apple?) As Elie Wiesel said: "The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference."