Getting emotional about branding

Getting emotional about branding
Our Creative MD, Andrew Glidden, was asked the following question by the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce: ‘How can branding and design help in communicating your business values and culture to customers?’ Here’s what he had to say…

Virgin, Apple, Google, Ikea, Innocent, Mercedes, McDonalds; all well-acknowledged examples of ‘superbrands’ that provoke an immediate emotional response as soon as we hear their name or see their logo. We instinctively know what to expect from these companies,  all having invested a considerable amount of time, money and expertise refining the way they present themselves, using design to align audience touchpoints with their strategic objectives and purpose.

We may not have their huge budgets, however, we can all learn from these ‘superbrands’ and make significant improvements to the way our businesses are regarded. But where do we begin, and what does ‘branding’, a somewhat over-used and often misunderstood phrase, actually mean?

For me, branding means ‘provoking a predetermined positive emotional response’. Humans, by their very nature, are emotional beings. What we see, hear, taste, touch and smell affects us in surprising ways, manipulating our feelings and triggering deep-rooted responses. In the same way that we have an emotional reaction to certain people, places, food, music, film, books etc, we also respond, using the same senses, to products, goods, services and experiences.

Understanding this, we can begin by asking ourselves key questions, such as ‘What are we here for?’, ‘Where do we want to get to?’, ‘How should we behave?’, ‘Why should people care?’ Then clarify what messages we want to send, and to whom, and we are well on the way to defining our strategy. This is an essential part of any successful branding exercise, and provides the foundation for the development of the creative design principles of your ‘visual identity’, encompassing the emotional triggers appropriate for the defined key audiences.


It is vital not to shortcut the strategic phase and leap straight to design, which is a mistake often made. The temptation can be to commission separate designers or agencies for individual marketing needs, such as website, brochure, stationery, logo, packaging, signing, exhibition or interior without any clear underlying strategy or pre-defined ‘visual identity’ in place. This leads to arbitrary, conflicting and chaotic emotions being communicated, which ultimately creates confusion in the eyes of our audience.


So how do we manipulate appropriately the emotions of our target audience and in turn build our brand? Fundamentally, we need to have an engaging story to tell (our strategy) and when we tell it, it needs to have a consistent, compelling and clear personality (our visual identity). As designers, we have a ‘toolkit’ to employ consisting of colour, typography, imagery, shape, touch, sound, language and layout which we use to tell your unique ‘story’.

By manipulating all the touchpoints your business has with your target audiences we create appropriate and targeted emotional brand experiences, built on the predetermined strategic aims and objectives. This encompasses your visual identity, logo, website, stationery, brochures, digital communications, physical environments, exhibitions, vehicles, workwear, packaging, marketing materials, advertising, tone of voice and more.

So when it comes to communicating your business values and culture to customers, harnessing all the senses to provoke the pre- determined emotional response is what the superbrands do, and you can work towards within your own individual budget parameters. Engaging with a professional design and branding agency will help to build your brand and trigger positive emotions beyond your wildest dreams!

You can view the Oct/Nov 2017 issue of Business Comment, the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce magazine, here.

You can find out more about the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce here.


Share content