Emotional Marketing: a key win in a cluttered retail world

This article has been authored by Louis Cann, International Account Manager, iProspect



According to eMarketer, retail ecommerce sales will rise to almost $5 trillion by the end of 2021.[i] Although this surge represents a real growth opportunity for well established brands, it also comes with a new breed of agile and aggressive competitors striving to quickly capture share of wallet.


In this article, we look into one of the most powerful assets for organisations to thrive in this fast-moving landscape: the power of the brand. 



E-retail is coming for you


While the road to physical retail was full of hurdles, the highway to e-commerce is open to everyone. Today, new brands can effortlessly establish themselves as Direct to Consumer businesses, selling their products through world class platforms like Shopify and Amazon, and leveraging the media solutions of advertising giants such as Google and Facebook. 


Playing by easy-to-implement rules and not undermined by high entry costs or nontransparent negotiations, small brands do not hesitate to enter the arena and max out spend in order to disrupt the status quo and gain market share.


Therefore, it is no surprise that VC funds such as Thrasio specialize themselves in buying fast-growing Amazon FBA businesses to optimize their logistics and marketing efforts, and ultimately, turn them into retail powerhouses.



The power of the brand as silver bullet


Yet, as per Les Binet’s and Peter Field’s work,[ii] we know that settling as a durable brand with substantial market share is a marathon, not a 10 second sprint. Short-term success and market share win is easily measurable, especially in a digital environment in which advertisers can set a series of KPIs for their campaigns to obtain a clear view on direct effects of their marketing efforts. 


What makes a sales success story into a lasting position, then? What levers can an established advertiser pull to limit and counter the multiplicity of performance-driven actors nibbling on their market share?




That is, the power of their brands and the deep connection that can be linked over time by relating with customers via emotion and storytelling beyond pure transactional relations. 


While rational campaigns have a stronger immediate impact on sales than emotional marketing campaigns, their messages tend to wear out after six months. Conversely, emotional messages are durable due to their intangible and irrational ties to feelings. By building awareness, trust, and differentiation, emotional campaigns don’t only contribute to short-term behavioral responses, they are key to long-term preferences and profitability.


Emotional marketing campaigns represent a real opportunity for established and emerging advertisers alike. 

Although established brands typically benefit from their past aura and have higher brand awareness, consideration, recognition, or preference than emerging players, they should cultivate emotional connections with consumers and not only turn to performance-focused activations. Familiarity and stability are important factors influencing preference when purchase decision is made.[iii] Nurturing consumer connection is a key strength when brands are competing with newcoming players who tend to focus their media activities solely on sales. 


Some newcomers have grasped the importance of mixing rational and emotional campaigns, though. Digital Native Vertical Brands, for instance, often rely on a strong storytelling mixed with aggressive market share targets to emerge distinctively and durably in an ocean of players. The success story of Le Slip Français – a French underwear brand – epitomizes the right way to mix both by freeing themselves from classic ecommerce channels while strongly bringing forward the ‘new made in France’ promise of qualitative and durable products.


We even observe a shift from DNVB to ONVB[iv] (‘O’ standing for Omnichannel), such as Zalando whose campaigns now include strong TV or OOH levers. Some also take hold of the physical world, with pop-up or permanent stores, looking for an incremental audience and a new IRL touchpoint to evangelize their brand storytelling and product promises as clothing-brand Bonobos have been doing in the past years.


Brick-and-mortar and ecommerce lines are getting blurry, with physical retailers integrating digital technologies to give their stores a new frictionless experience thanks to contactless payment, click and collect or cashier less checkout, for instance. It’s an invitation to a shared experience, leaving room for additional storytelling and discussion with the consumer communities.



Brands should be true to themselves and their consumers


Storytelling is a two-way street, and it is eventually the consumer’s experience with the campaign that matters. “It’s not unusual to be loved by anyone,” sang Tom Jones. Emotional campaigns can elicit feelings as strong as love for a brand, but one faux pas and hate can be around the corner. Even more so when brands start to seize political or societal terrains, rather than pure inspirational messages.


Brands should think through their emotional marketing campaigns with a no-BS mindset and rely on what defines their core identity, pinpointing their distinctive truth to go beyond the category codes. This direction should be omnichannel when planning campaigns, with a clear storytelling that can be understood immediately. Marketers should not fear creative wear-out, specifically on TV where ads are only seen occasionally, and commit to their meaningful storytelling to build long-term equity, as past success stories have demonstrated with the likes of Lloyds Bank or Absolute Vodka.


When thinking storytelling, brands should also have in mind the conversational potential of their campaigns,[v] whether by raising questions, triggering strong emotional reaction or being bold in a cluttered advertising landscape. Once more, this is where incumbent players can make the difference, by inviting consumers to being part of their lasting and familiar stories.



Of the many challenges brands face, embodying emotion and storytelling in a performance-driven world is a quick win that can make the difference. Although emotional campaigns have clear impacts on sales, profit and brand items over short and long-term periods, they are too often neglected for performance-focused activities. It is critical that established players not rest on their laurels and actively cultivate the power of their brands to keep winning in the retail landscape.


At iProspect, we have extensive commerce experience and capabilities to support your brand. To get started or get further with your commerce strategy, contact us today.

Download Shopper DNA: The Future of Retail here.


[i] eMarketer, Retail Ecommerce Sales, Worldwide, 2021-2025, May 2021 - link

[ii] Les Binet and Peter Field - The Long and the short of it – Balancing short and long-term marketing strategies – IPA – 2013

[iii] Alistair Rennie, Jonny Protheroe, Claire Charron, Gerald Breatnach - Decoding Decisions, The Messy Middle of purchase behaviors – Google – 2021 - link

[iv] Xavier Faure, Alexandre Guillot – ONVB : naissance d’un nouveau modèle de commerce – LSA – August 2020 - link

[v] Richard Westendorf – Eight principles of storytelling – WARC – 2015 - link