6 min read

The Art of Emotional Branding and Content

What do the modern-day consumer and the primal human have in common? They are both driven by emotion. Today, technology is embedded into our lives, but that does not mean we are limited by our digital devices. We are, and always have been, inspired by information, but influenced by our emotions. We process and digest branded content, not by our heads, but by our hearts.

Dan Bowen

Dan Bowen

Founder + CEO
Published: October 19, 2017
Last Updated: April 22, 2024
(Brand Identity)

Humanization — now, more than ever — is sought throughout branded content. To humanize content is to breathe life into marketing material. Every day, we are waist-deep in digital advances, and while that can be a bit disconcerting, disrupting the digital day-to-day with emotional content throws us the reassuring life jacket that we’re still all in this together. In more cases than not, we are emotional beings following our hearts. That cannot be overlooked or underestimated. Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor once wrote, “We live in a world where are taught from the start that we are thinking creatures that feel. The truth is, we are feeling creatures that think.”

We know that humans are innate . And conversely, story listeners. Still, what is it about stories that open our hearts? The answer is twofold. It is delving into and reiterating what it means to be human through a range of emotions. And it relates to the universal human experience. The part of the story that we love most, is the part we most relate to. Otherwise, a story or marketing campaign reads like a joke with no punch line – it holds no resonance.

Storytelling is a fundamental component of brand communication. If the brand does not effectively communicate their story to an intended audience, why should someone buy the product or use the service? We view our decisions as an extension of ourselves, and we want that reflected in our brand choices.

It is for this reason that we come to understand the role that emotions play in humanizing marketing content. The days of the cynical advertising trope are behind us. Whereas snarky, sarcastic marketing swayed users in previous decades, emotional content now rules. In the past— when digital distractions were not so pervasive —human connection showed itself in a multitude of different ways. People didn’t seek out emotional connection to their brands, because their emotional fulfillment was always right in front of them. The digital age has presented a shift. Now, people want real. They want to feel connected and they want to know that they are not alone. When humanization is injected into a brand campaign or content, it is unequivocally great. It is feelings of inclusion, of community of happiness and sadness that lead to purchases far beyond what the brain can comprehend.

The beauty of emotional branding is that there is no bad emotion. We’ve all seen the heart-wrenching commercial where Sarah McLachlan sings Angel over a montage of devastating photographs and video clips of abused animals. The commercial was so effective that it went on to become the ASPCA’s most successful fundraising tool, raising well over 30 million dollars and counting. Sadness is a universal emotion with a tremendous pull on our heartstrings. And with great emotional outreach, comes tremendous marketing success. Empathy brings out a desire for connection, and when we connect with a brand or message, we stick with it. We share the things we love, and this is how customer loyalty is built.

Effective emotional content is universal. It is not the language we speak, but rather our feelings that transcend barriers. Across the globe, no one is immune to the raw power of emotion. People want to see people. People want to know that other people are thinking of them. Everyone knows that a digitally-driven world can open the doors to isolation. For this reason, emotional content is reigning supreme across so many industries.

During the 2024 Super Bowl, in the midst of celebrity-driven and perplexing commercials, Kia's advertisement stood out with a coherent and heartwarming narrative. Highlighted by Forbes, the ad was notable for its clear, touching narrative. It featured a moment where Kia's new all-electric vehicle facilitated an intimate backyard ice-skating performance for a granddaughter and her home-bound grandfather, brilliantly illustrating the theme of innovative electric power. The ad showcased the EV9's ability to power a poignant moment between a granddaughter and her wheelchair-bound grandfather, providing electricity for an enchanting backyard ice-skating performance. This was not just a display of the vehicle's power but a demonstration of its versatility and emotional impact. This is emotional content branding embodied.

Perfect 10: The Kia big game commercial featuring the 2024 Kia EV9

In digital marketing, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a crucial tool for understanding how to communicate the ways in which a brand can fulfill the needs of its target audience. At the base of the pyramid are physiological needs: air, food, sleep, and sex. As one moves up the pyramid, the focus shifts from survival to more emotional and psychological needs. At the peak of the pyramid is self-realization, a highly individual and dynamic need that involves a person's desire for personal growth and achieving their potential. This level represents the ongoing journey toward becoming the best version of oneself, shaped by individual perceptions and aspirations.

BOWEN partnered with FREE whose mission is to assist individuals of all abilities in reaching their full potential. Together, we crafted a website that goes beyond functionality—it’s a vibrant celebration of inclusion, friendship, happiness, and connection, truly embodying the principles of emotional content branding. This approach uses compelling visuals and heartfelt stories to create deep, meaningful connections with the audience. From their 37th to their 47th Anniversary Celebrations of Life Gala, we’ve been proud to support FREE’s journey. Continuously innovating, FREE addresses critical community needs with transformative programs and services that enable individuals facing unique challenges to participate fully in community life.

People long for connection; and technological advances do not have to build up barriers, but rather open doors for further entry points towards unity. We are drawn to emotional, humanizing content and through a network of likes, reblogs, comments and shares – we are creating and strengthening our digital tribe every day. Special human-centered moments have always existed, we are now given a multitude of ways to document and distribute them. We are as emotionally complex as we were before the smartphone was invented. And we have emotional content to thank for acknowledging that at the very heart of it, we are emotional beings who think.

Reach out and let us guide you in connecting with the emotions of your audience, and improving upon your brand’s story.

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