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Keeping your brand story out of the rational trap

The most powerful brand stories evoke an emotional response from us. We are drawn to these brands because they make us feel something.

Even though we all intuitively understand this, we still see a huge number of brands opt for a rational approach the majority of the time. Maybe it’s because it’s easier to feel like you are quantifying your offer. You can check off a list of features that you covered. You can conduct research on those features. Then you can put it all in a report. Never mind that it all gives your prospects very little reason to care.

This isn’t an either/or situation. You need to have a clear rational offering. At a specific point in the customer journey, your prospect will want to know that you have titanium sprockets on your widgets. Or that you guarantee on-time delivery. Or whatever other functional attributes are important to prospects. I’m not advocating for you to abandon the rational side of your offering. When customers have moved to the ‘evaluating’ stage of the customer journey, they are ready to examine the functional attributes.

The challenge is that we get solely focused on the rational attributes. Most likely because they are so tangible. They become the drivers of our story. Since these attributes only speak to specific prospects who are at a specific point of the journey, they never seem to generate the kind of interest that we had hoped they would. So we push the functional attributes harder. Or we just give up and say that branding doesn’t work.

What we often overlook is that these rational factors don’t drive decisions. The decision-making function resides in the emotional part of our brains. It is the emotional appeal that wins hearts, and in turn, minds.

Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman explains it this way, “We think, each of us, that we’re much more rational than we are. And we think that we make our decisions because we have good reasons to make them. Even when it’s the other way around. We believe in the reasons, because we’ve already made the decision.”

We are funny creatures. We want to know the functional attributes. But only so we can rationalize the emotional decision that we have already made.

When a brand understands this dynamic, it can be a game changer.

Your brand has an emotional core. It needs to be drawn out and characterized. And then put to use in your brand story — on your website, in your sales presentations, in your advertising, and more. The rational side of your brand has a place. But it can too easily dominate your brand. Because it’s easy to push the functions and features rather than find the more powerful emotional drivers that really inspire those you hope to serve. Don’t get caught in that trap.

Dan is an expert brand strategist and author of the book Big Audacious Meaning — Unleashing Your Purpose-Driven Story. He is a founder at Will & Grail — a brand innovation company, helping organizations find their unique, undeniable and unshakable sense of purpose and create innovative experiences that bring it to life.

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Dan is an expert brand strategist and author of the book Big Audacious Meaning — Unleashing Your Purpose-Driven Story. He is a founder at Will & Grail.

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