While emotion has always been key to branding, it may be getting even more important: A study on the massive Millennial consumer generation (currently ages 18-34) shows that Millennials identify with brands more personally and emotionally than do older generations, with 50 percent agreeing that brands represent their values and where they fit in.

Great emotional branding doesn’t directly sell products--it sells feelings. The goal is to generate a feeling for potential customers or clients to associate with your brand and then make sure you’re representing it across all your marketing channels—including both online and offline ads, in your social media and in your website content.

Here are some of the most effective emotions you might use in branding your small business:

A feeling of community.

As a small business owner, one of the advantages you have over the big guys is your story as an entrepreneur. Consumers want to feel good about their purchases, and contributing to a local small business promotes a feeling of contributing to the community. To build community into your brand, make sure you include an “About Us” or “Our Story” page on your website, and share photos and tidbits about you and your employees. Get involved in your community by participating in local charity organizations and having a presence at local community events.

A feeling of family.

Tapping into the human desire for family or feelings of love and gratitude can attract customers to your brand. How does your business help families get closer, have more time to spend together or get more out of their relationships? Is it a place where people without families can create their own families of friends? Does your business make customers feel like family?

Feeling cared for.

Everyone wants to feel valued and important. As a small business owner, you built your business on your reputation for caring about each customer or client. Keep this feeling part of your brand as your business grows by instilling the same culture in your employees. Create customer service standards that show you and your employees care about the customer experience. Your brand can also evoke feelings that customers are caring for themselves—for example, a spa or fitness center attracts customers who want to take care of their bodies and spirits.

Feelings of status.

Like it or not, most of us have some desire to display our power, dominance or status, whether by buying the hottest designer handbag or displaying the latest electronic gadget. However, there are all types of status—from the label-conscious consumer who only wants the costliest of everything, to the hipster whose status hinges on finding products or places no one else knows about and being “in the know” before the crowd catches on. A brand that evokes emotions of pride and achievement can be very successful in attracting customers. 

Feelings of security.

Fear is another powerful motivator and can be anything from fear of social embarrassment to fear of identity theft or terrorism. Identifying your brand with security, thus implying that using your product or service can ease customers’ fears, can be a powerful tool. This emotion can work for all types of brands—from mouthwash and deodorant to home security systems or financial services.

What emotions does your business evoke, and how can you use them in developing your brand? 

two women shopping