What is emotional branding?
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Awareness and relevance can make brands big and strong, but it’s the emotional seduction that makes brands great – Digital Marketing Institute, 2019.


If you have not yet engaged in the world of emotional branding, it may be because you think it’s a term that lacks relevance in your field. You may perceive ‘emotional branding’ to start, and end, with a tear-jerking advert at the Superbowl. Like many others, you may believe that emotional branding becomes irrelevant in the face of rational, scientific decision making, like the type oncologists have to do when deciding on a cancer treatment. As it turns out, an overwhelming body of academic research indicates this common belief is misplaced. 


According to Magdis, Zorfas and Leemon in the Harvard Business Review, emotional branding is achieved “when brands align themselves with the emotions that drive their customers’ most profitable behaviors”.1 Emotions are our most primal response as humans, and each group of emotions can be linked to differing behaviors. When we incorporate the appropriate emotions into our branding, it promotes a feeling of “unique trust that goes beyond material satisfaction”. Whatever your brand is trying to achieve, whether prompting high trial rates at launch or building on prescriber loyalty across indications, it is repeatedly proven that this deep trust drives loyalty, frequency of purchase and word of mouth recommendation: 


  • B2B buyers e.g. prescribers are 50% more likely to purchase based on emotional value in a product or service, even when claiming to decide purely on rational factors. (HBR 2015)
  • 95% of all purchasing decisions are made subconsciously and only rationalized after the fact. (HBR 2015)
  • Customers found to have an emotional bond with a brand have a 306% higher lifetime value versus those who don’t have that relationship. (Motista 2022)
  • 94% of customers said they would recommend a brand with which they are emotionally engaged. (Gensler 2019)


But as we all know, deep rooted trust and loyalty does not appear overnight. Equally, one heart-string tugging commercial does not an emotional brand make. True success is found when this emotional consideration hits several touchpoints in harmony, from customer service, to marketing reps, to packaging and beyond. Once a subtle emotional direction has been decided on within a brand, every form of communication can be pivoted to gently nudge your users into the desired emotional state. When done right, emotional branding hacks the human brain to bypass logical reasoning and speak straight to the limbic system, with powerful consequences. 


If you have a life-saving drug on the market or about to launch, the worst thing that could happen is for patients not to get it because prescribers got the wrong impression on it, or simply didn’t feel the need to invest time in understanding it better. A well-executed brand strategy eliminates this risks and helps you cut through the ever-increasing noise in your therapeutic area. 

In our next few articles, we will be digging deeper into this subject, starting with the neuroscience behind emotional branding, some success stories in “rational” B2B branding and how they achieved it, as well as practical applications for oncology brands. 


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