Understanding The Role Of Emotional Engagement In Brand Activation

min read
January 25, 2024
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Executive Summary

  • Emotional engagement increases consumers’ willingness to interact with a brand in the moment and into the future.
  • Brand activations that focus on emotion have more impact on consumers' motivations and increase their chances of conversion.
  • Emotional connections create brand advocates and loyal consumers that are more likely to purchase from a brand long term. 
  • When building emotional engagement for brand activation, brands should craft a compelling story, create a memorable experience, and remain authentic to their brand identity.

Brand activations offer an opportunity to engage with your target audience, getting them to act in a meaningful way so they feel more connected to your brand and its mission. These activations may include virtual or in-person events, social media campaigns, and purchases, among other interactions. 

Because emotions play a pivotal role in consumer behaviors, activations that emotionally connect with their target audience have a sharper impact and foster more meaningful and memorable interactions. As a result, this emotional engagement builds loyal customers who are more likely to act in support of your brand. 

For this reason, emotional engagement is a valuable component in brand activation, and brands should tailor their activations in a manner that puts emotion at the forefront.


The power of emotional engagement

Emotional engagement serves several functions for a brand working to develop more meaningful connections with its audience. 

For starters, emotional engagement humanizes a brand. Many people think of brands as faceless corporate entities—rather than a group of real people with emotions themselves. Incorporating emotions into brand activations is a way to soften your brand image and make customers more interested in engaging with you.

Emotions are also deeply tied to our memories. For example, commercials that make us laugh or tear up are more likely to stick in our memory banks—just take a look at the hype surrounding Super Bowl commercials.

Finally, emotional connections build brand trust and create loyal customers, encouraging them to see your brand as one they can rely on to meet their needs. It’s these mechanisms that make emotional engagement so powerful for brands looking to get their audiences to take action.

Some emotions that a brand can leverage to engage consumers include:

  • Empathy – Relating to consumers and their struggles strengthens your brand image and makes your brand more meaningful to customers with similar values or experiences, encouraging them to join in on your vision.
  • Trust – Engage audiences by positioning your brand as one that they can rely on to support them when they’re in need of a product or service. 
  • Hope – Highlight how your brand is working to solve a problem and how audiences can take action to join you in spreading hope.
  • Excitement – Excitement about a cause, product, or experience will get audiences to act based on the enjoyment of getting involved in the process.
  • Compassion – Make your audiences understand a cause that you’re supporting through your brand and why it’s important so that they also want to take action and help.  
  • Enrichment – Self-improvement is a goal for many of us. Brands can encourage consumers to act by highlighting how these actions will promote positive growth or support.   

There are countless ways to engage audiences through emotion. Ultimately, it’s up to each brand to determine which approach makes the most sense for them and their identity.


Creating brand advocates

Word-of-mouth marketing is a powerful tool for brand recognition and raising awareness about what a brand offers. Brand advocates are those who are willing to speak on behalf of your brand and its value and encourage others to interact with it.

Brand advocacy is an invaluable tool to leverage in today’s market, especially when so many people share their opinions on social media, and a majority of people rely on these opinions to guide theirs. A shocking 88% of people say they trust recommendations from people they know to influence their purchasing decisions the most.

Of course, many people are not quick to stand by something and speak its praises—they must genuinely believe in it and see its benefits. Customer loyalty is the integral component here. Creating this loyalty is on your brand to deliver a consistent, authentic, and trustworthy experience so that consumers feel comfortable enough to stand by you.

Solid emotional connections are essential to building a strong pool of brand advocates, as 71% of consumers say they are more likely to recommend a brand based on their emotional connection to it. When you build emotional campaigns, you have a better chance of customers speaking in support of your brand.


Understanding consumer emotions

Consumer emotions are an integral factor in encouraging them to interact and engage with a brand. After all, emotions are a driving force behind our daily decision-making.

Many people think of emotional decision-making as brash and misguided. However, it’s in our nature to make decisions based on emotions. For example, if a hobby brings you enjoyment or fulfillment, you’re going to choose to make time for it in your schedule or spend money to support it.

This nature carries over to our purchasing habits. Data from one study showed that 70% of ad viewers who experienced an intense emotional response to an ad were very likely to buy the product—more than double the number of people who experienced only a moderate emotional response.

We’re all more likely to act for causes that we care about. Emotionally guided brand activations speak to this motivation, so consumers are more compelled to engage.


How to implement emotional engagement for brand activation

With emotions playing such an important role in consumer behavior, brands have to be able to create messaging and initiatives that speak to them. To make emotional engagement a key factor in your brand activations, take the following steps.

Create a compelling brand story

Storytelling reels us in, makes us feel, and leaves us wanting to learn more. Crafting a brand story that resonates with your target audience provides a foundational opportunity for an emotional connection. 

This brand story should provide a memorable picture of what your brand is and what it has to offer consumers. A strong story should highlight your brand values, brand purpose, and unique selling proposition. This story may also discuss your brand origins and the rationale behind your selling practices today.

Ultimately, consumers who engage with your brand story can gain a picture of your brand. The complete story serves as the foundation for your activation and why consumers should want to act. The more that they can relate to and empathize with your story, the better.


Master the art of storytelling

Almost as important as your brand story is your ability to deliver it in a captivating and engaging way. The art of storytelling allows you to maximize the impact of your brand story and each activation. Plus, it forms the connection between a brand activation and its why, highlighting the emotion behind your brand actions.

Brands can elevate their storytelling by employing these strategies:

  • Utilizing multiple creative elements, including video and photos
  • Telling your story across multiple channels
  • Invoking emotion using elements like music and personal stories
  • Incorporating personalized aspects of your brand that are completely unique to you
  • Adding humor or lighthearted elements to make it more engaging


Create a memorable experience

When building a brand activation, it’s essential that you create an experience people will not easily forget. Experiential marketing brings consumers into the activation by getting them to participate in a hands-on way, making them more likely to remember the event. 

You can keep your activation at the top of the memory by doing the following:

  • Make sure your brand is clear and visible throughout the event
  • Create an interactive, hands-on experience where attendees are actively engaged
  • Have a spokesperson or notable representative unique to your brand present
  • Invite influencers or celebrities to elevate the experience
  • Encourage attendees to take photos
  • Provide memorabilia for attendees to take home with them.

Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to building a brand activation that emotionally resonates. What’s most important is that you develop a strategy that’s authentic to your brand and makes sense within your brand goals and identity.


Emotional Engagement Strategy Considerations

Although there is no cookie-cutter formula to building a resonant brand activation, there are some key factors you can consider. Every initiative may look different from the last one, so always think about your strategy in the context of what you’re trying to accomplish.

That said, some considerations for an effective emotional engagement strategy include:

  • Leave your audience with a positive feeling. All emotions can be powerful, so don’t shy away from getting your audience to feel strong and memorable emotions, but don’t leave it on a low note. For example, if you must talk about a sad or uncomfortable cause, tie it back to a message of hope at the end.
  • Remember to guide emotion with authenticity. Your strategy should remain true to your brand and what you’re trying to accomplish—don’t create a campaign focused on emotion that isn’t meaningful or genuine in its intent. 
  • Balance emotional content and rational content. Rational content focuses on facts and logic more than emotion. Use both types of content so that your audience can develop a full rationale for supporting your brand.
  • Make sure that your activation considers cultural sensitivity. Ensure that your activation is respectful of different cultures, identities, and backgrounds. An emotional engagement that engages someone the wrong way can do more harm than good for your image.


Case Studies

Many brands utilize emotional engagement to increase the impact of their brand activations, but these brands have exemplified the process of weaving emotion into their initiatives.


Burger King: Day Without Whopper

In 2019, Burger King Argentina made a bold move by telling customers they would not be able to order a Whopper, asking them to go support their biggest competitor, McDonald’s, in conjunction with McHappy Day. Each year, McDonald’s carries out the McHappy Day tradition, donating $2 from each Big Mac and burger sale to the Children with Cancer Foundation.

Thanks to Burger King’s Day Without Whopper support, McHappy Day 2019 outsold the previous year by over 73,000 Big Macs. Despite taking place only in Argentina, this move made news worldwide, giving Burger King tons of positive press. Although they sacrificed a day of Whopper sales, many consumers were inspired by Burger King’s kind-hearted move and returned to get that Whopper later.


Spotify: Wrapped

Spotify Wrapped is an annual brand activation that its users have looked forward to every year since it began in 2016. This initiative provides users with an end-of-the-year breakdown of their favorite artists, songs, and podcasts from the year and engaging data about their listening habits.

This breakdown hits several emotions, sparking user excitement surrounding their end-of-the-year listening habits and invoking curiosity about their friends’ tastes. Spotify makes it even more meaningful by using these habits to define your “Audio Aura,” “Sound Town,” or listening mood, highlighting the emotions that define your personality.

Probably the most valuable factor—listeners get to engage in community, comparing their Wrapped against their friends and learning how their listening habits stack up to fans of the same artists.

This initiative spreads awareness about the brand as users share their breakdown on social media while getting users excited about using the service. Plus, if you aren’t a Spotify user, the hype sure makes you wish you were.


Drive Brand Activation with Powerful Emotional Engagement

Emotions are a driving force when it comes to consumer decision-making. Using emotion as the foundation of your brand activation is a powerful opportunity to engage your consumers, foster brand trust, and build lasting relationships.

At PETERMAYER, we can help you create emotion-driven campaigns that increase engagement and develop loyal customers. From creating valuable content to tailoring campaigns through relevant data and analytics, we can help you build brand activation opportunities that truly speak to your customers’ emotions.

Schedule a discovery call with us to learn more about how we can help you expand your audience of loyal consumers.

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