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Branding is All About the Spark

Sparkler on defocused Blue Background

Every decision you make is driven by emotion.

In the book, “Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It,” former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss explains this concept and how it applies to the psychology of persuasion. Early on, he references a study of people who have damaged the part of the brain that allows them to experience emotion. The research shows that people who aren’t able to feel emotion…aren’t able to make decisions. They can tell you the decision they should logically make, but they can’t actually take the action.

What This Means in Business

A purchase is a decision, and we’ve established that a decision requires emotion. Therefore, a purchase requires emotion. It’s impossible to buy something without emotion, because it’s impossible to make a decision without emotion. Yes, logic and reason play a part, too. But emotion is the deciding factor (literally and figuratively).


Think of It Like This

It’s kind of like when you turn on a gas grill and the spark isn’t there. You can hear it. You can smell it. You can see that you’re starting the grill. But without the spark, nothing happens.

Branding is similar. You can have all the pieces in place—the products and services, the visual identity, the sales copy—and still, people won’t feel anything unless there’s a spark. And remember, if they don’t feel anything, they physically can’t make the decision to purchase from you. All decision making happens from emotion. Even if you don’t classify yourself as an emotional person, you are. We all are, because we’re hardwired with the need for the spark.

Branding Isn’t Magic

The great thing about drawing the connection between emotions and decisions is that it validates branding. Any honest marketer will admit it: Branding can feel a little like voodoo. If you’re predominantly sales-minded, you might not want to believe that the intangible, often immeasurable aspect of your business is what truly compels people to buy. Again, we’re no longer talking in warm-fuzzies. We’re talking about tapping into the power of human emotion.

Reverse Engineering Your Brand

If you have ever felt uninspired or unimpressed by the idea branding, there’s a good chance it’s because you stopped before you had even gotten started. The branding that focuses on who you are—your mission, values, etc.—is prerequisite. It’s the propane. It’s not the spark. The way we find the spark is by defining how your brand makes (and wants to make) people feel. From there, we craft your messaging accordingly.

Finding Those Brand Feels

Emotion and expression go hand in hand. When we discover how your brand makes people feel, we also realize the self-expressive benefits at play. That’s a fancy way of saying that brands don’t just make people feel, they make them feel a certain way about themselves.

Cars are a great example. The basic model of a car will get you from point A to point B, and yet there are hundreds if not thousands of different makes and models of cars on the market. If buying a car was based purely on efficiency, every car would look, function and cost the same. Look around you the next time you’re stuck in traffic on the freeway and you’ll see that the world is one giant ball of self-expressive benefits. The car someone chooses to buy means something to them.

The same goes for clothes. We buy a shirt with a tiny logo on it, but that logo says something about us. If it’s Ralph Lauren, maybe we consider ourselves sophisticated. If it’s Lacoste, perhaps sporty.

The most important thing you can do for your business is recognize what buying your product or service says about someone, and project those self-expressive benefits back onto them in your branding. Because it’s not about you, it’s about them.