Mapping a Brand’s Emotional Landscape: How VML Helps Clients Develop EQ

by Beth Wade

posted on 11-20-2017

At VML, we believe a human truth is at the center of everything we do. One of those truths is this: although people and technology may advance rapidly, consumers crave and thrive on real human connections. As marketers, we know that today’s consumers are deeply invested in brands with whom they feel a true connection.

Emotional advertising enhances this connection and is a proven component in driving purchase intent and brand loyalty. In contrast, rational marketing easily can become a checklist of what you have versus your competitors — a game that is hard to play day in and day out. That’s why brands use EQ — emotional quotient or emotional intelligence — to move from rational marketing to emotional marketing. As they do, brands create more engaging and memorable experiences with customers, and ultimately drive short-term sales, a loyal following, and long-term growth.

How VML enables marketing transformation.

Our focus at VML is helping brands transform the connected consumer experience. We work with clients to develop EQ — increasing their understanding of their own consumers through quantitative and qualitative research for a deeper understanding of motivations. Some of the most effective data comes from social listening, as well as primary and secondary research — including ethnographic studies where we have the opportunity to truly observe and explore honest behaviors and actual needs.

We create a thorough understanding of the brand and its customers by asking:

Although some brands can make this transformation to increase their EQ independently, when they work with an agency like ours, they benefit from many different perspectives and greater depth in capabilities. Agencies can draw on experiences they’ve had with other clients, perhaps within the same vertical or with similar target markets. In addition, at VML we have access to a wide range of network partners we can leverage across key initiatives from strategy (e.g. research partners) to execution (e.g. production capabilities).

Invest in building emotional connections with consumers.

One of the challenges of using EQ is that the results are difficult to measure short-term. Building an emotional connection between a consumer and a brand takes time. Figuring out how to delight customers takes a lot of insight, and the results won’t be evident by the next quarter, so it’s necessary for brands to take a long-term view.

It can be difficult to take a step back, especially in the face of every new strategy idea that arises. But it’s also important to take the time to build your brand’s voice for the future — to transform a brand from a rational one, which loses impact over time, to an emotional one that people can love and feel is relevant in the marketplace and their lives.

The brands that succeed today not only are making connections, they are establishing new services, creating new products, and are engaging and entertaining their consumers. These companies accomplish this by thoughtfully listening, authentically involving the consumer,incorporating the consumer’s feedback to make improvements to their products or services, and continuing to evolve to become exactly what they want.

Consumer interests and preferences will continue to change. Regardless of how much we try, the truth is we as agencies and brands will never understand customers as much as we would like to. That’s why it’s crucial to keep asking, listening, and learning what’s important to our customers, and then keep working and evolving to meet, or exceed, their needs and expectations.

Simply put, to increase EQ, brands need to become more interesting — and more interested. In a swipe left / swipe right economy, marketers can’t just continue talking at consumers. Consumers are people with real concerns and real emotions. Get to know them. Tell an interesting story. Be entertaining. Create utility. And remember that ultimately, it’s not about acting on the latest marketing tactic, it’s about creating a long-lasting, connected experience.

Beth Wade is CMO at VML, which is based in Kansas City, MO. She was a participant in The Future of Experiences, an Adobe Think Tank discussion held in Cannes, France. You can learn more about #AdobeTT right here.

Topics: Leadership, Digital Transformation