The Science Behind Emotional Branding

Emotional branding can trigger your unconscious. These studies show that emotion stimulates the brain 3x faster than logic. Before you can even start to analyze the facts, your unconscious has already made up its mind.

The Science Behind Emotional Branding


Dr. Christine Born is a radiologist. It turns out she know a lot about marketing, too.  Dr. Born and her research team utilized functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the power of certain brands. What they determined what that the brain has an instant, visceral reaction to branding images even before the person has any awareness of the brand. The way something looks and feels evokes an emotional connection.

"The results showed that strong brands activated a network of cortical areas and areas involved in positive emotional processing and associated with self-identification and rewards." - Dr. Christine Born, M.D., Radiologist at University Hospital, Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, Germany

Strong brands fire up the brain with less effort while weaker brands elicited a negative emotional response and took more effort.

Emotional branding can trigger your unconscious. These studies show that emotion stimulates the brain 3x faster than logic. Before you can even start to analyze the facts, your unconscious has already made up its mind.

Another study by the Department of Neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine focused on soft drink choices. When presented with two options, in a blind test, participants did not show preference for one sample over another. That makes sense since the two samples were identical. Measured brain activity verified similar responses. However, after being told one of the samples was Pepsi and the other was Coke, the results changes. The majority of tasters picked Coke as the better sample only after being told it was Coca Cola.

Visual Connections Trigger Past Memories

Your brain makes these connections almost immediately. When it encounters something, it assesses what it sees, hears, and feels and tries to associate it with past experiences to assign value. A nostalgic memory of the first car you own may lead to you always thinking fondly about the brand. A negative experience with a particular insurance agent may trigger negative thoughts about the parent company. Without additional input, the stereotype - positive or negative - is reinforced.

Brand Affection and Brand Loyalty are strongly influenced by memory and emotion.

Have You Ever Cried During A TV Commercial?

If you have ever cried while watching a commercial - and we're betting you have - you know it is not because the advertisers listed facts to encourage you to buy. It is because they found some emotional trigger. The most shared brand messages on social media typically employ one of six triggers:

  • Happiness
  • Inspiration
  • Fear or Surprise
  • Anger or Disgust
  • Nostalgia
  • Generosity, Compassion, or Altruism

People say they make decisions by examining the facts. The truth is that humans make decisions based on emotions and then try to justify their decisions with facts.
While most people will tell you, they make decisions based on , studies show that most decisions are impacted in large part by emotion.

So Appealing…

Emotional branding appeals to needs and aspirations. It can play on a customer's ego. It can reinforce positive associations. It can trigger an emotional response that facts never will.

Quite simply, it makes you feel connected to others, a base physiological need to thrive as a human being.