How Visual Semiotics Reveals Your Customers’ Hidden Emotions — Maru/Matchbox

The challenge

Rational brand and product attributes are easily copied and hard to defend, while emotional connections are unique and ownable — making them difficult to displace and replicate. Brands quickly become interchangeable commodities when they compete on rational benefits alone. However, it’s not easy for consumers to explain their emotions, making it difficult to measure how and why they connect with brands.

What is a brand?

David Ogilvy once said, “A brand is the intangible sum of a product’s attributes.” but I would go further and suggest that the intangible sum also includes emotions.

A picture is worth a thousand words

In today’s ever-changing world, we have become more visual in how we communicate. I cannot eat dinner out without my wife posting a picture of what we are eating. How dare I touch the food until the perfect picture is taken! My sons and I communicate through memes, and if I have something pressing, I send it through a Snapchat story. Even my texting is a mix of emojis and broken sentences. We share how we feel much more easily without words. I can say more with an image than I can write, and I can do so without the fear of misinterpreted tonality of the written word delivered in the absence of facial and social cues that we all rely on.

Understanding brand emotions

Asking consumers to express their emotional connection to a brand is a bit like an awkward dating game. We can ask them to go through a list of emotions we hope that they feel. But do we have the right list of words? Can we determine the degree or spectrum of the emotion?

Why this matters for brands

Consumers are more open to messaging when the message is delivered in the same emotional wrapper as they perceive the brand. By understanding how different audiences feel about a brand, we can tailor communications with those consumers utilizing the same emotional elements.

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