It’s that time of year again. The time of year when our clients, and thus, our teams embark on the odyssey that is Brand Planning. That’s right, it’s an odyssey, but often not the kind that evokes a thrill or feelings of joy. If we’re going to talk about emotions and Brand Planning, it may be fair to say that, at its best, Brand Planning may evoke a feeling of “meh” (yes, that is an emotion) or, at worst, angst and worry.
Our clients even acknowledge the fact that they too feel the weight of Brand Planning. Even though it is a process that is repeated year after year, it is time-consuming, and it is often assigned to a single lead within the Brand Team. Someone who feels the pressure to prove themselves to senior level management within their organization. Thus, even clients will describe Brand Planning as “a necessary step to get to our budgets for the year.” It’s frequently perceived as a necessary box to check – not an emotional undertaking.
As a process that’s meant to connect brands to business goals, Brand Planning is also supposed to focus on the brand’s target audience. Understanding consumers and customers, putting their needs front and center, are key to successful planning. But even though most Brand Planning processes tout a customer-centric approach, so many teams don’t consider infusing emotion into Brand Planning.
Wouldn’t infusing an emotional tilt enhance the end-product? After all, neuroscience and behavioral science tell us that our decisions are based on a combination of the functional or rational and the emotions we feel toward a brand. The most successful brands don’t just play to our rational selves—they play to our emotional selves. (We’ve built an entire framework, the Motivational Edge, around determining which parts of your audience’s emotional selves need to be accessed and motivated.)
As strategists, it is our job to bring deep customer understanding and insights to bear in our work. Why would Brand Planning be any different? It shouldn’t be. That’s why we start our strategic work from a behavioral science grounding because we know as humans we are driven by our emotions. Here are a couple of simple ways we’ve infused emotion into our Brand Planning work.
- Bring real voices into the process. Augment your personas with a real person. In other words, the most powerful way to deeply get to know your audience is to hear them. Build upon a static representation of your target patient or physician to powerfully bring their experiences to life. Hear firsthand how a disease has impacted them and what their needs are in a non-research setting, to create a dialog between our team, the clients, and their customers. This doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult; a fairly simple Zoom moment at Brand Planning kickoff has worked well for us in a socially distanced world.
- Introduce the notion of emotional motivators into the process. Brand Planning often starts with a SWOT or some identification of the brand barriers and drivers. However, rarely do we take the time to push ourselves further to identify the emotional motivators that will spark our audience at their core to behave and act differently. How will those emotional motivators ultimately help us drive brand intimacy? What actions can the brand take to help fulfill the emotional motivators of physicians, patients, and payers?
A few simple enhancements can prove invaluable to making the Brand Planning process less emotionally draining and more emotionally relevant.