Five Truths About Making an Emotional Connection With Your Brand


We respond differently to a VW camper than we do to a Ferrari because one hits us right in our heart, while the other is a more distant, cerebral connection. Emotion is a huge part of making a connection whether through marketing, writing, or sales.

The Ferrari is a dream; a precise machine that is serious in its intent for speed and clear in its status representation. The VW is reality; it makes an emotional connection that is universal and connects with our lives and desires.When I start a marketing campaign, I want to make a connection. To do this, I look for the universal truths that bring us together, finding that sweet spot to which everyone can relate. When you design an event, menu or floral arrangement, isn’t this the same thing you are looking for? When all of us approach our marketing efforts, this is what it’s all about — making a meaningful connection.

Here are five truths that I think are universal to the fabric of who we are, how we live our lives, and therefore, by natural extension, how we design our experiences and connection.

emotional design
Me in my father’s VW camper van, painted with a “go faster” racing stripe.

1. Iconic
This is something so timeless, so pure that no matter what country you are in, what city, or what group of people you with, they all “get it.”It’s that Volkswagen Bug or bus that places us firmly in the road that lead to simpler, happier times.Youth? College? Freedom? It’s up to us — me as a marketer, as a writer, you as a designer — to tap into that connection with your audience.

2. Taste
Chefs talk about food as having a flavor profile. Some food actually comes with a memory profile, Pop Tarts (or hand pies) being just one of many examples of comfort food.

Emotional design
Blueberry hand pies from Cake Monkey.

For the most part, it’s foods such as Twinkies, which went by the wayside this year for better or worse, that we experienced and enjoyed as children. When we want to refresh that memory as a writer, marketer or event professional, we tap into whimsy. For event professionals who produce fantasy every night, the right balance of whimsy and depth can transport your guests to that destination, if only for a few hours.

Five Ways to Make an Emotional Connection With Your Brand. #brandtherapy #eventprofs Click To Tweet

3. Fearlessness
From whimsy to reality. Some spiritual leaders would say there are only two realities in life — thoughts of fear and thoughts of love. Every single moment we choose between the two. When fear is gone, all that remains is love. So what are we so afraid of? When’s the last time you really just put it all out there for the world to see? In life? In your design? Taking it all the way, no matter what anyone thinks, is powerful. Emotion doesn’t always make sense when we first encounter it. But it sure does matter. Real, raw emotion isn’t something we see every day. But, when we do, we are in the presence of something powerful and universal.

4. Timelessness
What can a soy sauce bottle tell us about making an emotional connection? The answer is surprising. Consider the Kikkoman bottle and its designer, Kenji Ekuan, co founder of G.K. Design in 1952 located in Tokyo. After a 16-year-old Ekuan witnessed the devastation of Hiroshima, he made a choice. “Faced with that nothingness, I felt a great nostalgia for human culture. I needed something to touch, to look at. Right then I decided to be a maker of things.”

emotional design

Over the next 60 years of his career, Ekuan made many things from the Akita bullet train to Yamaha motorbikes. But the Kikkoman soy sauce bottle was one of the most enduring objects he designed. In fact, it took three years for Ekuan and his team to arrive at the dispenser’s teardrop shape. Three years to arrive at a shape that has now lasted for more than 50 years, and has sold more than 300 million in 70 different countries. Think about that the next time you are considering a new idea. Connections happen on their own time table, but there is no denying that quality and thoughtfulness will lead to a timeless, human connection we hope to make with the world.

5. Story Telling

We always hear experts say: “Make your brand crystal clear.” If that’s so true, then why are all the leading interior design paint companies trying as hard as possible to NOT call green green? Although the tools may change, marketing is about setting yourself apart and creating an emotional connection whether you are branding yourself or a can of paint.

emotional design
Sue Kim, color trend and forecast specialist at Valspar, says the company no longer has to “connect the color name with the general color reference.” Photo: Peter Hoffman for The New York Times

That’s why companies such as Valspar, Benjamin Moore, and Sherwin Williams want to create an emotional connection and summon a memory to tell a story. Names such as Weekend in the Country (brown), Synergy (green), Hey There (pale yellow) and Creamy Pesto (pictured above) evoke experiences, not just color.

The takeaway when it comes to making a connection? It’s a good idea to not take oneself to seriously and update your brand, story and marketing with a fresh, new coat of fun.


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