Succeeding at Emotional Marketing by Learning From History

Emotional marketing evolved from the days of the wild west. Emotional marketing is just the latest phase in the ever-changing world of product branding. That particular bit of marketing nomenclature can be directly traced back to the actual physical manifestation of ranchers burning an identifying brand into the hide of their cattle. Should ownership of that cattle ever be contested, the logo of the ranch supplied by the branding iron could quickly settle the case.

From that tangible application of ownership represented by a heated piece iron twisted into a recognizable symbol has emerged today’s concept of emotional branding. The key to successfully achieving the dream of emotional branding at a corporate level is emotional marketing on product-by-product level. Successful emotional marketing is further constructed upon a far greater dependence of psychological reactions and attachments than traditional marketing.

Emotional marketing is solidly associated with the Chicago school of advertising which revolutionized the advertising world through an innovative insistence that an emotional attachment could be created between the consumer and any product imaginable through identification with a fictional mascot/spokesperson.

Among the literal illustrations of this theory are some of the most iconic figures in American marketing history, ranging from Tony the Tiger to the Marlboro Man. It is the Jolly Green Giant, however, that may be the single most revealing emotional marketing success story to come out of the Chicago revolution, if not the entire history of advertising. Creating an emotional bond between children and sweetened cereal or between smokers and a tobacco company is one thing, but between an entire society and a green pea? Selling peas was never easy, not even when the Jolly Green Giant was first conceived as a rather threatening figure of dominating malevolence. Once the Giant was reworked so that consumers only saw part of his tall body and were forced to reinterpret the psychological connection that he was benevolently standing guard over their health, however, he entered into the Valhalla of advertising figures.

The ultimate exhibition of just how limitless the potential of emotional marketing may be is probably Ronald McDonald. While the Jolly Green Giant helped to sell peas, his vitality has experienced various ups and down as marketing challenges have come and gone. Ronald McDonald is so ingrained into the consciousness of American society at every leve that he represents a unique case of transcendence. Consider this interesting paradox: Ronald McDonald only rarely appears in McDonald’s TV commercials anymore, yet he remains one of the most identifiable brand mascots of all time, introducing new generations to Kids’ Meals every year. As far as emotional marketing goes, you cannot hope to do better than create an emotional bond that doesn’t even require the use of the fictional character within your emotional marketing of products to sustain the emotional branding of the corporation.

The manner in which emotional marketing can actually save a product from certain doom can be demonstrated by the story of how the Pepsi company rescued Mountain Dew from indifference in the 1980s to transform it into a soft drink powerhouse. When Mountain Dew was originally introduced, its advertising featured shotgun-toting barefoot hillbillies drinking from a moonshine jar. By the late 1970s, it was charitable to suggest that this marketing concept had even limited appeal. Almost overnight, Pepsi rebranded Mountain Dew as a high-octane energy source that sought to make an emotional attachment with young urban kids looking for speed on BMX bikes, skateboards and anything else considered extreme. 

That Mountain Dew has managed to hold onto that demographic while expanding well beyond its boundaries is proof enough of the success possible with emotional marketing. When you consider that Mountain Dew’s marketing turnaround is also directly responsible for the rise and dominance of a brand new entry in the beverage industry--the energy drink--and yet still remains a leader in that niche market, their story is truly remarkable.


Image Sourcing: Old McDonald had a Farm




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