The Zen of Emotional Branding

Jeff StolhandProduction, Storytelling, Writing

I had the pleasure of interviewing Roy Spence from GSD&M a few years ago for a video project I was writing for The University of Texas. During that interview he said something that really stuck with me. When talking about the historic “Don’t Mess with Texas” campaign Spence said,

“When we came up with Don’t Mess with Texas we suddenly realized … we were not in the do-not-litter business. We were in the pride business.”

Damn. That’s pretty brilliant.

I didn’t know it at the time, but that was my introduction to emotional branding. Emotional branding, at it’s core, is simply making a human connection. After all, it’s just emotion that’s taken you over tied up in sorrow, lost in your soul.
BeeGees 2

No wait. That’s a Bee-Gee’s song. I digress.

Spence and company weren’t telling you not to litter. Instead they instinctively and brilliantly tapped into Texan pride. To this day it’s one of the most successful campaigns ever.

Emotional branding is smart. Emotional branding connects. Emotional branding can distinguish you from your competitors. It’s about trust. Relevance. Stability. Fun. Family. And pride in not throwing your crap on the highway because you’re a Texan.

AND it’s about story.

Your story. And your customer’s story.

Success in emotional branding means putting the customer first. Who are they? What do they need? How is your company or product truly … I mean truly … helping them fill that need? What is it about you as a business that means your story and your customer’s story MUST intersect to the benefit of both?

Remember your customers are people too.

They have hopes and dreams and aspirations. Just like you. I’m typing this post on my MacBook Pro. The same MacBook Pro on which I wrote a TV pitch that is now at MGM. The same MacBook Pro on which I store the pictures of my family and friends. The same MacBook Pro that I edit films, commercials and corporate videos on at the local coffee shop. My computer is not a product. It’s a conduit to my dreams, my job and my family. You want to sell me a new laptop? Then make me believe that laptop is going to be a BETTER conduit to my dreams, my job and my family. That’s an emotional connection I, as a customer, would listen to.

computer copy

But here’s the big secret.

Emotional branding doesn’t have to be difficult. You don’t have to jump through hoops to find the right emotional hot button to push. You don’t have to analyze focus groups and endless data to figure out how to connect with your customer and their wants, needs and feelings.

Just stop.

Take a breath.

Get your Zen on. Or maybe your best pair of jeans. Oh, heck. Get on your best pair of jeans and THEN get your Zen on.

And think about one thing. What’s your company’s story?

Storytelling has been at the core of who we are as humans since the time the first caveman drew the first pictures on the first cave wall. Why did he do that? He wanted to connect. He wanted to tell a story. He wanted to illicit … say it with me … an emotion.

Cave Man

Boy, what a can of worms that guy opened up. We’ve gone from cave walls to movies, radio, TV, Vimeo, YouTube, Facebook, NetFlix, Twitter, Instagram and mind-melding telepathy. Okay, the telepathy thing hasn’t happened yet, but I hear it’s in the works.

When you find your company’s story … guess what? You’ve found your customer’s story.

Take Seventh Generation for example. I have had the pleasure of shooting and editing a number of projects for the Vermont-based company. What was their story? They wanted to make environmentally-friendly products. In fact, the company attributes the name “Seventh Generation” to the “Great Law of the Iroquois,” which states, “in our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.”

And guess what? That’s also the story of their customers. Seventh Generation appeals to customers who want the best for their families, their home and their environment. That’s part of their story. That’s part of who they are.

And you can do it too. Define your story. Define your customer’s story. Find the emotional link between those two stories and leave your customers with a powerful connection they won’t forget.

About the Author

Jeff Stolhand

Jeff is a storyteller, filmmaker and corporate video producer living in Austin Texas.