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What’s more important in brand, being rational or being emotional?


Appeal to the whole person that’s your target customer. It’s not either/or, it’s both/and. 

A person is not all reason and a person is not all emotion. We’re a messy, beautiful combination of all of that. So, serve this person on all levels. From rational, to emotional. From functional to transcendent.

Let’s look at a brand that I consider excellent: Nike.

Nike makes fast shoes. When Phil Knight and his Oregon track coach started designing shoes in the late 60s, the holy grail was super-lightweight fast shoes. That was very rational. And the sole of their shoes was only 4 ounces.

But it was also emotional, because those lightweight soles enabled a fast race. And the fast race, propelled somebody to win. That’s very emotional.

So, Nike embraced all of that and provided this rational benefit of fast shoes that was in support of a larger, more emotional benefit of victory.

I use a framework called the benefit ladder, which ensures that your brand is serving the whole person. That you’re providing a functional benefit and that that functional benefit is upholding a larger, more emotional benefit.

Let’s take Nike again. At the bottom of Nike’s benefit ladder would be the feature that the soles are very lightweight. In the middle of the ladder is the functional benefit of speed, that the lightweight soles enable. And at the top of the ladder, is that euphoric feeling of victory that your fast shoes enable.

Nike serves the whole person. It serves the person’s physical body with the rational benefits and it also serves this person on the emotional level, by enabling this person to perform at their best and win.

A brand that has a creative idea and is bringing an emotional benefit to a person that is not rooted in a rational benefit, ultimately is not serving the whole person. And therefore, is not going to create outsized value for the customer or for the business.

A brand that is logical and rational, but doesn’t connect the dots to a more emotional benefit is also not serving the whole person and is missing out on an opportunity to bring value to that customer and also to their business.

How does your business serve the whole customer? And, what are the weak links that you can fortify to bring that target customer a whole experience?

Build a brand that brings a benefit both rational and emotional. Build a brand that serves a whole person.

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