emotions in business

Remember Tom Hanks’ famous soliloquy from the movie “A League of their Own”: “There’s no crying in baseball?”


Like baseball, business is not comfortable with emotions. Marketing and sales traditionally cite all the rational reasons to buy a product or service. Most economic models are based on rational actors maximizing their self-interest through a combination of best price or best product features. But recent research from Forrester indicates that business is all about emotions.

Building an emotional connection to a brand is the path to engage customers and partners beyond individual transactions. And building this connection requires more than advertising with ponies and dogs. Per Dipanjan Chatterjee of Forrester, it requires both “an understanding of emotions” and “a rigorous, analytical approach that connects emotion to brand, and brand to results.”

Hence, the importance of design. Design is first and foremost about putting yourself in the shoes of your audience and understanding the emotional drivers that make people behave and buy as they do. Design requires a rigorous process to connect the dots between emotions and brand attributes. Good design isn’t just a happy accident. It requires a process and a method to truly “know your audience.”

It’s becoming more and more accepted that emotions, much more than rational thinking, power our purchase decisions as consumers. Likewise, emotions power sellers and employees and their passion for their workplace. It’s tough to create emotions in end users without authentic emotions and passion from those who sell and support a product or service.

Per the Forrester Report, “emotion is the fuel that powers brand energy:”

“Brand Energy is a holistic measure of the power of a brand — the charge that marketers build, battery-like, every time they send the right message, deliver the right information, or reward a customer’s emotional expectations with the ideal experience. Brand energy translates into consumer action when customers buy products and services, advocate the brand, or share socially.”

How can companies build emotional connections with their brand, product and solution, not just with consumers but also with channel partners, sellers and customer-facing employees? Data alone won’t get you there. Discovering and tapping into the attributes that build emotional connections is the role of design.

Design to identify and harness brand connections is a multi-step process. It begins with empathy: designers step into the shoes of the audience and deploy scientific processes to observe the emotional factors that drive brand loyalty. Observation informs diagnostics that measure attitudes and identify the emotional levers that drive connection to the brand. Design needs to be based in data: sales and performance analysis to understand trends, segments, current performance and the behaviors that lead to positive outcomes. Finally, Design requires discovery to understand the tools, training and technology that are needed to enable success.

The insights that emerge from design are compelling, but ROI comes from putting insight into action. A good design partner will provide not only an engagement plan, but the people to assist you with implementation and ongoing monitoring. Good design doesn’t end with the plan, but includes active support to continuously turn insights into action.

Building emotional connections to your brand requires a human perspective. It requires discipline and hard work. Design isn’t just putting lipstick on pigs. It’s about doing the heavy lifting to understand what your customers want, how they behave and how to engage them at a deeper level than just one transaction at a time. And unless marketers can engage the emotions with their customers and partners, the spark that translates to action is missing.