How emotionally intelligent brands can engage consumers more effectively
The world needs brands to be more emotionally intelligent and to show a more caring, compassionate and empathetic side.
Positive thinking goes a long way, particularly in the world of marketing, but in the contexts of the ongoing global pandemic, it is often not clear what tone to take in communications. Those brands that get the balance right and bring joy through an intelligent understanding of consumers’ emotional needs will engage with them more effectively, according to Nicolas Loufrani, CEO at The Smiley Company.
Smiley, which celebrates its 50th anniversary next year, is a brand that has grown out of a famous illustration of a happy face and now adapts and licenses it for other brands to use in a variety of contexts. Speaking at the Festival of Marketing, Loufrani told attendees that brands need to be more emotionally inclusive to create relevant and engaging messages. This means understanding that not everyone is going through the same things at the same time.
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He said one challenge is to make marketers more aware of the need to bring emotional intelligence into their digital communication. He pointed out that consumers have moved from interacting with brands on television and in print surrounded by celebrities and politicians, to having brands involved in their everyday interactions with friends and family on social media.
“We want brands to be more like our friends and entertain us and tell us smart things. We also care about their reputation and want to know they are doing good things and that they care about our health and wellbeing,” said Loufrani. “This is why brands have to behave in a very different way and become more emotionally intelligent.”
Carla Buzasi, president and CEO at trend forecaster WGSN, also participated in the session and said brands should think about the moments of joy that individual people need when the world is bleak and their happiness comes and goes. Marketers must, however, avoid ‘toxic positivity’ – trying to force a positive spin onto every situation – which can have a negative impact.
“Brands need to be there for us and to be kind and supportive,” she said. “This means meeting individuals on their own personal journey through happiness, sadness and other emotions they might be feeling right now.”
She said global brands must think carefully about their tone of voice, including images and graphics, as the world emerges from the pandemic and some countries are doing well economically while others are not.
So what can brands do to become more emotionally intelligent when dealing with consumers and also employees?
Buzasi said they need a two-pronged approach, which considers the human side around one-to-one conversations, and the advances in technology. Marketers will need the tech skills to get emotional feedback from their customers so brands can be more emotionally intelligent.
For example, Smiley sponsors the Smiley Movement, a non-profit ‘matchmaking’ venture that brings brands that want to do good together with charities, governments and communities.
Buzasi said consumers expect brands to take an emotional stance but this must be done carefully. “You must be mindful of greenwashing and your words not matching your actions because we live in a very polarised world now,” she said. “Consumers will call you out if you say one thing and behave in a different way.”
As part of its 50th anniversary celebrations, Smiley will team up with artists, brands and creators with a mission to get the world smiling again after a difficult couple of years. Matt Winton, VP of global marketing partnerships at Smiley, said this has been fundamental to the brand’s success over the last five decades.
“Next year we are going to fill the world with experiences and events to get consumers back into retailers,” he said. “We’re also launching more than 50 prestigious campaign ideas across multiple categories, all to put smiles back on consumers’ faces.”■
Click here to watch the session on demand at the Festival of Marketing
WGSN's Carla Buzasi explains how brands can be 'emotionally inclusive'