Finding Balance: Emotion-Driven vs. Data-Driven Branding

by | Last Updated: Apr 17, 2022 | Business Strategies, Marketing | 0 comments

Brand identity is the foundation of modern-day marketing campaigns.

No matter the size of their business, marketers can’t even begin to develop a strategy without the defining elements of their brand – and this goes far beyond logo design.

From the underlying values your business upholds, to the promise it delivers to customers, to the “tone of voice” you exhibit in your marketing efforts, you craft your brand identity carefully in order to form a specific perception in your audience’s mind. Your name, logo, and the visual motifs you use in your marketing materials are all a part of forming this image as you seek to influence how your potential customers will perceive your business.

Now, there’s one little fact we can instantly gather from this: the concept of a brand inherently entails emotion. Presenting largely intangible attributes, a strong brand identity seeks to establish a relationship with the audience base, emanate trust, and promote loyalty (“brand loyalty” – a term you’ll run into often).

On the other hand, marketing is being revolutionized and largely shaped by data science. As numbers uphold businesses and define strategies, branding presents an interesting phenomenon of 21st-century marketing because of its innate reliance on emotions. The question is, to what extent should branding focus on emotions? How do marketers strike the balance between emotion-driven and data-driven branding to create a successful image?

Influencing consumer desires

Here’s a simple truth: our decisions are driven by emotions much more than we think.

Various studies conducted by neuroscientists have proven that emotions are integral to decision-making. Essentially, we base our decisions on self-interest, and our natural instinct to protect and nourish ourselves guides us in this process more profoundly than reasoning. Emotions are the filters of perception, influencing our decisions and habits even at the times when we believe we’re entirely driven by rationality.

That’s why it comes as no surprise that savvy marketers are using emotions to influence consumer desire. In today’s evolved and incredibly competitive marketplace, the functionality and quality of a product or service go without saying. You’re not trying to convince consumers through sound logic that your offer is right for them and that they should listen to you because there are at least a dozen offers like yours.

You want to influence their vision to present yourself as the solution to their problem. That’s the foundation of creating consumer desire. This is why branding is so important – it lets you work that emotional angle to establish a relationship with your target market.

And the first step to successful branding starts with one question:

Which emotions do you want to elicit?

There’s no brand identity without emotion, but you surely won’t rely on your gut instincts or emotional intelligence to answer this question. You’ll rely on data and psychological facts to give you insight into which types of emotions drive people to act (that is, convert into customers) and connect with a brand. This will take some research and analysis in order to find a way to connect the facts with the defining attributes of your business.

Today, marketers leverage emotions such as nostalgia, surprise, coziness, excitement, happiness, etc. to craft an authentic and powerful brand identity that positively influences consumers’ perception.

Just look at how Coca-Cola aims for happy, bubbly feelings in every interaction with consumers – from their “Taste the feeling” and “Choose Happiness” slogans to their nostalgia-driven campaigns to the choice of music in their ads. Coca-Cola has built their brand identity with a focus on eliciting one core emotion – happiness – to create a powerful connection with consumers. Without this, they would have been just another company that sells fizzy drinks of standard quality.

Their tactic has clearly worked incredibly well, but they didn’t choose to target happiness out of the blue – it was a deliberate choice driven by facts because happiness converts.

First impressions and lasting images

When you know the values your brand will represent, the tone of voice you’ll use, and the emotions that will be associated with it, all of your branding efforts will somehow reflect these decisions. First and foremost, the visual motifs and design choices which you use to present your brand should be a reflection of these goals and the personality your company seeks to exude.

And once again, the artistry and the visuality are backed by facts – mostly facts about how the psychology of color and certain design elements influence consumer behavior, but also data about your target market. You can get a good idea of this when you sift through the work of today’s most reputable logo design companies and observe their approach to branding. The pros leave no artistic decision to chance. They help strategically craft brand identities by creating images which they know will resonate with the target audience, elicit positive feelings, and leave lasting impressions.

Creating a coherent brand identity

A strong brand identity ensures you maintain consistency across different touch-points and marketing efforts. Consistency is important in establishing credibility and it ultimately serves to strengthen your brand identity even further.

That being said, your brand identity and the emotions you seek to elicit through it will seep into every interaction with consumers, from your website to your content marketing strategy to your social media presence and beyond. This is where stories come into play, leveraging the power of emotions.

Essentially, you’re crafting a story about your brand and its values, and even your web design will help tell that story to draw visitors in. Websites which exude professionalism through their design and functionality help emanate the feeling of trust – a profound emotion which guides visitors to “rationally” choose to do business with you.

The data behind stories

The modern story-centric approach to marketing is a result of an oversaturated marketplace, which consequently resulted in rising consumer expectations. With so many choices just a click away, consumers need a story – and emotions – to draw them to a brand. Thus we’ve come to an era where it’s normative for ads to feel like a story too. It has become the only way to gain any traction in the first place.

But all these enticing and engaging stories you see from companies at every step, from traditional ads to social media, were crafted carefully to reflect consumer data. Marketers require data in order to understand consumer behavior, trends, and expectations, all of which will help them figure out which kind of story will strike a chord with the audience.

Make no mistake: today’s “humanized” brand identities and emotionally charged marketing campaigns are the results of plentiful research and data analysis. Well, it’s really why marketing and branding turned to a storytelling approach in the first place – because it’s the one that showed results with modern-day consumers, especially among the Millennial audiences.

Final thoughts

Emotion-driven and data-driven branding are not that far apart, after all. It seems that one encourages the other: branding seeks to leverage emotions to influence purchase intent, but data and facts give valuable insight which helps direct branding efforts in the right way.

In the end, we do need data in order to understand better what influences our audience – but data won’t craft a story for us. Branding today really seeks to reflect the best of both worlds. Do you think you’re on the right path to striking a balance between the two?

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