The power of brand association

A great marketer doesn’t sell a product or a service, but an emotion. We feel, therefore we buy. Our behavior is nearly always driven by our emotions. Thus it is incredibly important that you consider your customer’s emotions when developing brands and campaigns. You could even say that a marketer doesn’t sell a product or a service, but an emotion. Emotions guide what we do, including what we buy. If you purchase a product that doesn’t make you feel good, then that bad feeling will linger, telling you to alter your behavior and choose something next time that will reverse that bad feeling – in short, something that will make you feel good. Marketers can take advantage of this by pushing a message that says a customer will feel good when he buys a certain product.

Nike, for example, is more than the product it sells. When you buy a pair of Nike shoes, just the act of purchasing makes you feel more fit, given the strong connection between your sporting dreams and the company’s brand message of successful, self-confident and athletic individuals.

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Stand as one. Play as one. Win as one. #justdoit

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What many successful brands have in common is that they address people’s emotions. Bulk retailer Costco turns shopping into a treasure hunt by placing popular items in curious locations and forcing shoppers to discover them on their own. Low prices aren’t the only incentive to shop; the positive emotion of discovery keeps customers engaged.

Apple has a very powerful brand. When you buy a Mac, for example, you’re not just buying a computer but joining a club of like-minded people and a larger mission. Purchasing and owning a Mac affects you as a person and influences how others see you, too.

This connection isn’t simply about the product, but about what you, and the people around you, feel. Positive emotions and connections are one way into a consumer’s heart, yet a good marketer shouldn’t ignore a customer’s critical faculties.

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when your lyrics are on the bottle ? #ad

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Best Instagram ad ever, Selena Gomez and CocaCola, perfect example.


In the 1990s, chewing gum was frowned upon as an ugly habit, believed to contribute to unhealthy teeth and gums. Yet Trident Gum brought in statistics to turn consumers’ attitudes around. In its ads, the company claimed that “four out of five dentists surveyed recommend sugarless gum to their patients who chew gum.” Not only was the company’s message easy to understand, but also the message was backed by a trusted authority – dentists.

Yet even if you can satisfy a consumer’s critical mind, you’ll still need to ensure that she associates your brand with desirable attributes. So how do you build positivity in your brand?


Positive associations strengthen a brand. If you think of a popular brand, chances are the association brings up a host of positive attributes as well. A great brand makes us feel good, and feeling good is a positive emotion. 


Remember that a brand lives in the minds of your customers, not on a supermarket shelf! Brands and their associations, however, depend on the subjective viewpoint of the observer. The power of brand association is especially important to consider if you’re attempting to attract a new demographic. More often than not, you’ll need to change your brand image accordingly.

For example, when tobacco company Philip Morris introduced the Marlboro cigarette in 1924, it was marketed mainly to women. In the 1950s, however, the company wanted to expand Marlboro’s reach to men. Marketing creatives brainstormed masculine symbols, and decided on the cowboy – and so in 1954, the “Marlboro Man” was born. This image change is considered one of the more brilliant marketing coups in history. A consumer didn’t buy Marlboro because he wanted to be a cowboy, but because he desired a cowboy’s traits: independence, defiance, adventure and romance. Additionally, such traits also spoke to women, the brand’s original audience. By 1972, Marlboro became the leading brand of cigarettes in the United States.


Lead your customers to an action, and they’ll convince themselves they’re in control. But you are!


Below Chinese proverb is incredibly relevant when it comes to consumers.

Companies can use marketing to help consumers take an active role in their relationship with a brand. But how exactly is this relationship built?

Energy drink company Red Bull used an innovative approach to relationship building. The company offered college students cases of the drink and allowed them to organize their own events where it would be consumed. In doing so, the students associated Red Bull with amazing parties and wild fun! But marketing doesn’t need to be this direct, either. Some companies can encourage customers to make an active decision without the customer even realizing it. It all comes back to human behavior. Whenever we act in a new fashion, our minds try to justify the different behavior. We generally like to think we make all decisions voluntarily, and that our choices align with our personality and identity.

Let’s say you’re at your usual coffee shop, yet instead of ordering a latte, you’re offered a free green tea instead. By agreeing to the tea, you interrupt your usual pattern. While you’re enjoying the tea, you might think about ordering a tea in the future, as drinking green tea fits your health goals. You might even convince yourself that you chose the green tea because you’ve been thinking lately about being healthier.



“Numerous cognitive neuroscientists have conducted studies that have revealed that only 5% of our cognitive activities (decisions, emotions, actions, behaviour) is conscious whereas the remaining 95% is generated in a non-conscious manner.”

“A major part of our brain is busy with automatic processes, not conscious thinking. A lot of emotions and less cognitive activities happen”. Our brains usually run on autopilot, despite making us believe we know what we are doing. Thus, our subconscious explains our consumer behavior better than our conscious. Brands and products that evoke our emotions, like Apple, Coca-Cola or Nivea, always win.


What really happened, however, is that the presentation of the free tea was appealing, and you couldn’t say no. The marketing pitch made you believe that you had made the choice yourself, but actually, the environment and the marketer chose for you! Yet they let you take action, changing your behavior to their advantage – the ultimate example of unconscious marketing!


Apple Music, know how it works!

Centering a marketing strategy around human behavior is the most effective way to create a relevant brand. By understanding the different ways people think and branding your product in a way that responds to those patterns, you’ll be on your way to creating an intuitive, sophisticated marketing campaign.

Good luck, Love Marietta!

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