The Happiness Equation: Balancing Rational and Emotional Needs in Branding

Insights | Restaurant and Food Service

Ever wonder what really makes you happy? Even more importantly, ever wonder what make your consumers happy? Consumers derive happiness in life by seeking solutions to their most important emotional needs. So, is your brand solving an important emotional need for its consumers?
What do consumers really need? It’s a multibillion-dollar question — literally and figuratively. The entire market research industry, and a lot of the consulting industry, offer their services to address this simple issue — what do consumers really need?
Consumer needs are a universal subject. Understanding consumer needs is a top priority for every marketer in the world. It helps them develop unique and differentiated products. However, the majority of marketers, sometimes including even the smartest ones, are often unsuccessful in converting new products into strong brands.
So, what could be wrong? Are marketers developing brands without really understanding consumer needs?
While the law of averages may support that argument, we know that intuitively it couldn’t be true. Actually, most marketers do a good job at understanding rational consumer needs. It’s the emotional counterpart where they fall short.
Consumers are both rational and emotional. Correspondingly, they look for rational and emotional benefits in every product/service they purchase.
Let’s take an example. Ask yourself from which of the following two gas stations would you prefer to buy gasoline:
Station A: Sells gasoline for $4.30 per gallon and gives a $0.10 discount if the buyer pays with cash.
Station B: Sells gasoline for $4.20 per gallon and charges a $0.10 surcharge if the buyer pays with a credit card.
Rationally, consumers should be indifferent between the two alternatives. However, when presented with the two options, the majority of consumers choose Station A over B. Why? Because they feel ‘smarter’ when they think they are getting a discount.
Rational consumer needs are category specific, and most marketers spend all their efforts on developing and communicating strong rational benefits for their products. Conversely, emotional needs are not necessarily category specific, and marketers often spend very little time on them. Furthermore, emotional needs are fairly constant over time and even transcend geographies and cultures.
Unfortunately, strong rational benefits are necessary, but not sufficient for creating strong brands. Competitive advantages based on rational product benefits are often unsustainable in the long-term because other brands eventually catch up.
Brands developed on equally strong rational and emotional benefits are most defensible. Unsuccessful brands either offer weak, irrelevant or no emotional benefits to consumers. Of course, every brand has to offer a rational benefit to justify its existence in the marketplace.
Emotional benefits are hard to uncover and even harder to communicate. Following is a brief description of top emotional benefits consumers look for:

  • Happiness — The need to feel holistically content in every aspect of life.
  • Accomplishment — The need to be smarter and constantly achieve more.
  • Confidence — The need to have self-assurance in decision making.
  • Freedom — The need to feel unrestricted — more so psychologically than physically.
  • Trust — The need for dependability.
  • Passion — The need to feel love and passion for family, friends and others.
  • Fun — The need for entertainment to break the monotony of life.
  • Respect — The need to earn admiration of others.
  • Security — The need to feel personally safe and secure in every day-to-day activity.
  • Efficiency — The need to use time most efficiently.
  • Simplicity — The need to keep things simple.
  • Convenience — The need to make chores and low priority activities in life easier.
  • Peace-of-Mind — The need to de-stress.
  • Control — The need to have the ability to control variables that directly/indirectly impact life.
  • Flexibility — The need for choosing between options when making decisions.

Positioning products by creatively establishing a strong relationship between rational and emotional needs helps build powerful brands. In fact, it is not uncommon for brands who develop such a bond to be market leaders by a wide margin. So, do you have the right positioning strategy to make your brand the market leader, and make you happy, happy?