When E-commerce giants shape buying behavior with a non-stop parade of deals, discounts and promos… how can you grow your audience by doing the opposite? In Part 2 of this series, we discuss how to identify the emotional value your brand can offer.

Words by Yoon

©Somewhere Else
In Part 1 of What If You Didn’t Try To Sell Anything? we talked about companies who built loyal followings not through sales and promotions (transactional value), but with a strong and clear brand purpose (emotional value).

Emotional value can come in many forms. It could be a set of beliefs that your brand represents. Previously, we looked at Patagonia, a leading outdoor lifestyle brand. They let their earth-first philosophy drive all their brand decisions: from encouraging reuse and trade of their old products, to funding research into sustainable materials, and even suing the government over unfair land use. By not being sales-focussed, their integrity as a brand attracted a massive following of environmentally-conscious people.

Emotional value isn’t easily defined. By nature, it’s subjective — not everyone will “get it” at first. Take Apple’s breakout iPod ad, for example. Crafted by advertising agency Chiat/Day, it featured an anonymous black silhouette, dancing to Jet’s “Are You Gonna Be My Girl”, against a pulsing swatch of colour. No tech highlights, no price point, no glossy closeups.

©Apple, 2003 iPod silhouette AD
Steve Jobs hated it. “It doesn’t show the product,” he said. But soon, he was taking credit for the concept. Because that 2003 iPod ad was the moment that Apple transformed from a tech company for contrarian geeks, into a lifestyle brand for cool creatives.

The dancing black silhouettes didn’t tell you about the product, but they showed you how the product made you feel. They let you glimpse what was possible, with “1000 songs in your pocket.” The iPod became Apple’s bestseller, but people weren’t buying a portable music player. They were buying an emotion.

©Unsplash, @Matthewlejune
How can you identify the emotional
value that your brand offers?

1. Define your purpose
It’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day operations of running a business or managing a brand. But to know what you can offer your audience, you have to know why you’re doing this in the first place.

What was the trigger that prompted you to go on this journey?
What problems did you want to solve?
What needs did you want to fulfil?
What would it feel like, to achieve this goal?

Start with what your brand means to you.

2. Know your audience
We all think that we have a clear picture of our audience. After all, we deal with them every day. Sales figures and casual observations make a good starting point, but true insight comes from deeper research and empathy.

What other brands do they like?
What are their goals and frustrations in life?
What do they do for fun?
What kinds of social media or services do they use?

Get to know them. Put yourself in their shoes. With a fleshed-out image of the person you’re talking to, go a step further.

3. What are you offering, beyond a product?
How else are you making their life better, easier, more joyful? In the example of Patagonia, their purpose is to save the earth. Their products are high quality outdoor goods, for people who are concerned about the environment. A strong sense of purpose and empathy for their audience’s concerns drives all their actions — like their product repair program designed to reduce consumption. By acting consistently, with integrity, their emotional value can see as:

Trust — in the quality of goods and ethics of the company
Personal satisfaction — from participating in a worthy purpose
Belonging — all Patagonia lovers likely subscribe to a similar set of beliefs, leading to a strong collective identity.

But how can you communicate this to your audience?

4. Identify your touchpoints
Touchpoints are opportunities for a brand to deliver emotional value. After you’ve gotten to know your audience, the details of how you might make that connection becomes clearer.

When might they come across your brand — for the first time, as a repeat user, or just in their everyday lives?
What forms might the interaction come in — an online ad, word-of-mouth, a brand representative, or your product packaging?
How do you want them to feel about the interaction?
Why might they choose to pursue a relationship with your brand?

A touchpoint is a “Moment of Truth” — meet (or exceed) their expectations, and your connection is reinforced. Fall short, and your connection is eroded.   

With each meaningful interaction, you have an opportunity to communicate not only your brand’s purpose and promise, but also the emotional value that separates you from the pack.

Audiences have heard it all before. They’re comfortable in the knowledge that someone, somewhere, will always offer them 50% off. So what would make them choose you? Transactional value gets people to buy, but emotional value gets them to buy in. For good.