Updated: Sep 1, 2022
The Age of Branding is over.
These days people actively seek change, no one wants to remain stagnant, want to be seen as stagnant. We frequently change jobs, cell phones, cars and even spouses. No one has any motivation to stay loyal to...uhm, anything or anyone.
Or so some pundits say today.
But those are superficial observations somewhat ignorant of the emotional and practical roles that a successful brand plays in people’s lives. No-one really ‘loves’ a brand (no matter what the same pundits said yesterday). What matters to people is how a brand helps alleviate or solve an Emotional Tension, and thereby meets inner needs and aspirations. That’s the real task and success benchmark of a brand.
What are Emotional Tensions?
Emotional Tensions form emotional needs, and they don’t suddenly drop from the skies or appear on your cell phone screen. They form over time, they are the result of repeated clashes between aspirations and real-life obstacles, between pursuit and push back, between imagination and awakening.
Emotional Tensions have immense power because they literally ‘re-wire’ the individual’s brain during their formation, they taint perception and experience. They directly impact brand and product choices (among other life choices, of course).
How do we identify Emotional Tensions?
Usually, people are not really aware of those inner tensions and conflicts – they represent needs, not wants. A most effective technique to identify those dimensions comes from Narrative Psychology which started to gain prominence in psychotherapy in the 1990s when Dan P. McAdams published his seminal book ‘The Stories we Live by’.
Narrative Psychology deals with the 'life story' that all of us actively construct (and continuously re-construct) about ourselves, our emotionally perceived life chapters, milestones, challenges, and so on. Hidden in those stories are the tensions, the experiences and aspirations that define our Sense of Self right now, as well as our mental visualizations of our (personal) future.
Our narrative represents our sense of identity. Which means that a powerful brand narrative must address its audience's sense of personal identity to be seen and experienced as "relevant to me and my life", and not just provide entertaining videos or eye-catching displays of practical functionality.
Narrative Psychology for Brand Building
With a professionally dissected understanding of consumers’ narratives about themselves we are able to make the Brand Narrative blend much more seamlessly, almost organically, with their own narrative's themes and thus address their key shared tensions and needs – because only then will people feel true emotional relevance when being exposed to the brand narrative and all its communication elements, activating a motivation to make the brand part of their lives.
The brand will even be able to finesse its role into consumers' routines or rituals that matter to a key Emotional Tension – let’s remember that rituals and religious belief are psychological neighbors.
It’s that simple, and it’s that difficult. Narrative Psychology has become one of the sharpest weapons to craft and strengthen Emotional Brand Equity.
Narrative Psychology for Innovation
Apart from Brand Narrative and Communication Development, Innovation also benefits significantly from Narrative Psychology Research.
When product innovation ignores the emotional paths people took to form their current sense of self and corresponding behavior, then innovation attempts can only focus on existing product experience as a starting point and, perhaps, produce a higher level of convenience.
Without a true understanding of people’s Emotional Conflicts, innovation efforts will not, however, be able to solve a real conflict or help realize a different sort of emotional experience of the consumer's journey into future, because bottom-up innovation – let alone the creation of a new category or market.