The importance of emotional brand measures

Here’s a quote: “If you don’t have a handle on the emotional side of engagement with your brand, you might as well spend your marketing budget on coupons.” Don't believe that? This year, in a study of nearly 600 products and services, Brand Keys found that many of those products and services, which consumers once though of as ‘brands’ are now regarded as comparable in all key attributes that drive purchase.

This commodification of brands showed up in a lot of categories, mostly CPG, where the importance of emotional brand value has decreased significantly or disappeared entirely. Product evaluations by the brands’ own customers were found to be statistically identical, meaning the products were essentially seen to be interchangeable.

Advertising and promotion can help drive consumer behavior, of course, but no matter how entertaining the ad, it’s extraordinarily less powerful than being able to leverage emotional aspects of the products themselves. If all your brand stands for is ‘shampoo,’ it’s a ‘placeholder,’ a name people know but don’t know for anything outside the category and so it has absolutely no (brand) advantage in the marketplace.

Along those lines, it was reported yesterday that P&G indicated that profits would fall more than anticipated, and share price was down as much as 6%, as analysts asked why the company hasn't posted better sales growth after more than a year into its promised turnaround.

That, of course was Wall Street talking. But if you had talked to Main Street (the way we did – via emotionally-based engagement metrics) we could have told them you don’t build your brand or your market share on constant low-lower-lowest pricing strategies, on-going promotions, and an empty promise of innovation, and expect your offering to be seen as different or better than the competition – who’s doing precisely the same thing.

There was a time mid-last century when the brand engagement ratio that drove sales was more rational than emotional. But as brands are now finding out – some to their advantage, many to their detriment – it just doesn’t work that way anymore.