Why Emotional Storytelling Is The Future of Branding

Is your brand rein­forc­ing an emo­tion­al con­nec­tion with core brand val­ues in every aspect of your con­tent strat­e­gy?

Pat Hong By Pat Hong from Linkdex. Join the discussion » 1 comment

The rela­tion­ship between beloved brands and their con­sumers can be strong and inspi­ra­tional. We inter­act with some every day of our lives. It’s a rela­tion­ship that can be valu­able, touch­ing, and often emo­tion­al. To rein­force this, brands should look to cap­ture the sto­ry of those emo­tions and empow­er brand-con­sumer rela­tion­ships.

A few years can feel like a long time in dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing. Con­sid­er this Google Chrome adver­tise­ment from 2009:

Inge­nious­ly put togeth­er, and undoubt­ed­ly infor­ma­tive, but some­how, the ad already feels a lit­tle out­dat­ed. In the rich and huge­ly diverse world of dig­i­tal media con­sumers now have access to, it seems a lit­tle dry, even bor­ing.

The ques­tion we have to ask here is would users seek out a video like this? Would they click that thumb­nail on YouTube? Would they skip it?

What did you do?

Here’s anoth­er advert, also from Google Chrome, just a cou­ple of years lat­er.


You may have seen or heard about this one before. ‘Dear Sophie’ won a great deal of atten­tion in the media, and is often cit­ed as a case study in emo­tion­al sto­ry­telling even to this day.

The dif­fer­ence lies in the emo­tion­al con­text. In ‘Dear Sophie’, we’re not being pre­sent­ed with a prod­uct, but with an vision of what that brand means for con­sumers and how they feel.

The notion was repeat­ed with Google’s approach to adver­tis­ing at the 2010 Super­bowl. Pri­or to the event, the com­pa­ny test­ed a dozen videos on Youtube, choos­ing to air the one which attract­ed the most views.

The change in Google’s approach to adver­tis­ing is a fan­tas­tic exam­ple of how the brand has adopt­ed a much more cus­tomer-cen­tric approach – one which seeks to engen­der loy­al­ty by nur­tur­ing con­sumers’ emo­tion­al con­nec­tions with a brand.

Emotional Storytelling

In the last few years in par­tic­u­lar, a num­ber of brands have rec­og­nized the impor­tance of asso­ci­at­ing brand, with pos­i­tive emo­tions. Pro­vid­ing an emo­tion­al con­text in mar­ket­ing cam­paigns makes adverts more engag­ing, and more impact­ful.

Sto­ry­telling is key. Peo­ple relate to life sto­ries, much more so than con­tent that fea­tures or pro­motes a prod­uct. When it comes to a video adver­tise­ment, which peo­ple have a choice to view, or skip, they would rather be told a sto­ry they can relate to than have prod­ucts pushed at them.

Here are a cou­ple more exam­ples of videos designed to engage an emo­tion­al response.

Spotify — Her Song


Skype — Born Friends

Encouraging Positive Emotions

The best exam­ples of emo­tion­al sto­ry­telling depict a vision of how brands can pos­i­tive­ly enhance the lives of con­sumers. Brands do have a rela­tion­ship with their con­sumers, in many cas­es inter­ac­tions take place every day, and the emo­tion­al con­texts of their adver­tis­ing should reflect the most pos­i­tive aspects of those rela­tion­ships.

There is com­pelling evi­dence sug­gest­ing that emo­tions play a cru­cial role in con­sumer buy­ing jour­neys. Con­sid­er the fol­low­ing find­ings in a study by Anto­nio Dama­sio, Pro­fes­sor of Neu­ro­science at the Uni­ver­si­ty of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, pub­lished in Psy­chol­o­gy Today:

  • fMRI neu­ro-imagery shows that when eval­u­at­ing brands, con­sumers pri­mar­i­ly use emo­tions (per­son­al feel­ings and expe­ri­ences) rather than infor­ma­tion (brand attrib­ut­es, fea­tures, and facts).
  • Adver­tis­ing research reveals that emo­tion­al response to an ad has far greater influ­ence on a consumer’s report­ed intent to buy a prod­uct than does the ad’s con­tent – by a fac­tor of 3‑to‑1 for tele­vi­sion com­mer­cials and 2‑to‑1 for print ads.
  • Research con­duct­ed by the Adver­tis­ing Research Foun­da­tion con­clud­ed that the emo­tion of “like­abil­i­ty” is the mea­sure most pre­dic­tive of whether an adver­tise­ment will increase a brand’s sales.
  • Stud­ies show that pos­i­tive emo­tions toward a brand have far greater influ­ence on con­sumer loy­al­ty than trust and oth­er judg­ments which are based on a brand’s attrib­ut­es.

After all, con­sumers choose to pay more for brand name prod­ucts. It’s a loy­al­ty spawned from the emo­tion­al con­nec­tion they have with a brand.

In 2013, Face­book con­duct­ed a study of over 600,000 users that con­clud­ed that pos­i­tive mes­sages in a per­son­’s news feed did rein­force fur­ther pos­i­tive emo­tions. It found that users who were greet­ed with pos­i­tive mes­sages, shared and post­ed pos­i­tive mes­sages of their own, and those greet­ed with more neg­a­tive mes­sages shared and post­ed more neg­a­tive ones.

It shows that by con­stant­ly engag­ing pos­i­tive emo­tions, brands can nur­ture more pos­i­tive engage­ment around their brand.


Brand­ing is one area where emo­tion­al adver­tis­ing can pro­vide real val­ue. If a brand is an iden­ti­fi­able enti­ty which enables con­sumer trust and loy­al­ty, the emo­tions with which con­sumers asso­ciate that brand become an impor­tant aspect for brands to nur­ture.

Take Coca-Cola, the brand iden­ti­fy so strong­ly with the con­cept of ‘hap­pi­ness’ that it forms the basis of their glob­al adver­tis­ing and con­tent strat­e­gy.

After all, emo­tions are uni­ver­sal. Sto­ries are uni­ver­sal. For brands like Coca-Cola that are look­ing to thrill a glob­al audi­ence, win­ning those emo­tions isn’t just a strat­e­gy, it’s a are­na in which they com­pete for a stake in con­sumer affec­tions.

Con­sumer emo­tions, may become a com­pet­i­tive space. In tech­nol­o­gy for exam­ple, you can imag­ine how brands such as Google, Face­book, and Skype all com­pete for sim­i­lar emo­tions around friend­ship and con­nec­tiv­i­ty.


The Future Of Emotional Storytelling

It may be that in future years, that the capac­i­ty for emo­tion­al engage­ment from con­sumers becomes more crowd­ed. Crossover between var­i­ous ideals and val­ues which brands hold true may mean that con­sumers may com­pare cer­tain ads.

Take music sub­scrip­tion ser­vices as an exam­ple. If one ser­vice man­ages to iden­ti­fy with a stronger sense of musi­cal pas­sion or nos­tal­gia, that could con­vinc­ing­ly be the impe­tus dri­ving con­sumers to one ser­vice over anoth­er.

Big brands need to invest now in sto­ry­telling and emo­tion­al mar­ket­ing because in the human brain, and in its deci­sion-mak­ing capac­i­ty in par­tic­u­lar, emo­tion beats rea­son,” said Andy Maslen, author of “Per­sua­sive Copy­writ­ing: Using Psy­chol­o­gy to Engage, Influ­ence and Sell”. “The best ad cam­paigns have always led with sto­ries, but the rise of glob­al­iza­tion has led to increas­ing­ly abstract, con­cep­tu­al or image-dri­ven adver­tis­ing where the idea is para­mount, and the brand, let alone the sto­ry, is pushed firm­ly into the back­ground.”

Many brands are step­ping up their efforts, Maslen said.

Savvy brands like Coca-Cola are cre­at­ing strong emo­tion­al con­nec­tions with their cus­tomers through sim­ple sto­ries couched in every­day lan­guage,” he said. “The kind of lan­guage peo­ple can get hold of with­out a mar­ket­ing dic­tio­nary, and respond to emo­tion­al­ly. Why is emo­tion­al mar­ket­ing impor­tant? Because infor­ma­tion leads to analy­sis but emo­tion leads to action.”

If brands want to com­pete for con­sumers’ emo­tion­al engage­ment they need to invest in emo­tion­al sto­ry­telling now. Rein­forc­ing and nur­tur­ing an emo­tion­al con­text with­in con­sumers’ minds, in every aspect of their con­tent strat­e­gy.

What are your favorite exam­ples of emo­tion­al sto­ry­telling?

Pat Hong

Written by Pat Hong

Editor at Linkdex/Inked, Linkdex

Pat covers the SEO industry, digital marketing trends, and anything and everything around Linkdex. He also authors Linkdex's data analysis and reports, analysing the state of search in various industries.

Inked is published by Linkdex, the SEO platform of choice for professional marketers.

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