Some more (less shocking) revelations! A follow up on rational/emotional branding…

Muzeable Thinking No. 27 posted by Tim Brooks on 15th November  2017


A further insight from David Gray & Tim Brooks into rational & emotional marketing following our previous article on the matter – read it here:  or check out

Serendipitously, a week after publishing a post on rational/emotional approaches in healthcare marketing, we saw a really fabulous presentation by David Golding, founder of Adam & Eve[1] entitled ‘Engaging the heart – the role of emotion in building brands’.

There was a lot about the John Lewis Christmas ads – if we’d made them, we’d talk about them too – but, far from one-dimensional.

He highlighted 11 success factors for making emotional ads. Not our place to steal his thunder, so, if you have a brand and a budget, call him and ask him to share! We’ve been making ads/working with brands for a long time and we both enjoyed it and learnt stuff.

Two things he said that were particularly relevant to our previous piece:

  1. Not all brands can do emotion. David graciously added, that the success of the John Lewis ads in delivering high emotional engagement would not have been possible without the residual love of the JL brand. The point is that – chicken and egg like – lots of healthcare brands are not found in the ‘love box’. They work so hard at building their rational platform, or their raison d’être and relevance doesn’t live beyond their rational benefit that is might sometimes create an insurmountable barrier to doing the emotional thang? Or, in doing so, it might distract from what they are actually good at.
  2. Find a truth, a narrative or story, in the brand DNA or heritage or… Find something that you can use to build the emotional platform, because in most, especially OTC categories, whilst the suffering or problem can be emotional, this is not easily ownable or leverageable by the pills etc. that offer respite. It is a highly personal space and we are not needed or invited there. A bit like banks telling us they want a ‘relationship with us’ [current advertising for one of the big ones], it’s not the key source of relevance. It’s a reason not to buy!

We would add that unlocking visceral emotional connections with a runny nose, piles or acid reflux is also just plain hard. To repeat, we know that these issues can have an emotional impact on people’s lives, but that’s not always permission for a healthcare brand to leverage it. Even in categories like smoking or weight loss or sleep (all of which we’ve worked in) there is an established distance between the huge emotional relevance and deep personal relationship people have with these subjects and what they want from a brand/solution. In part, it’s about sharing and openness and we can only occasionally do it e.g. Nicorette[2] often does it really well in NRT, but we also see it try and fail!

So…our solution?

Find the meaningful difference that will make your brand win. Don’t artificially think in terms of rational or emotional. It will follow because the meaningful difference will almost always contain both elements.

This will start with a single-minded focus on relevance and the first box to tick is the benefit you deliver and how you explain that it is ‘better’ than the competition.

Then drive distinctiveness. Your fame and memorability. Here we recommend, despite all of the above, that you DO look for emotional connections. Firstly, through great insight around the person’s needs. Then, through trying to associate your brand with it. But, don’t do it just because it’s received wisdom. If you can do a better job on relevance through rational ownership of the job at hand… just do it. You can still use design and creativity to be distinctive. The Nurofen ‘target’ logo did as much for the brand as most of its historical communication. It was even the basis for some of it.

To conclude, I suppose what we are saying is to start somewhere different and arrive at your emotional tone of voice and connection discussions once you’ve determined how you’ll win. We do lots of really emotional stuff, but it never starts with a quest for emotional work. It starts with a quest to be meaningfully different. Maximise relevance and maximise distinctiveness – the rest will follow.

[1] Adam&EveDDB

[2] The NRT brand owned by Johnson & Johnson

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