The Difference Between Emotional & Rational Branding

by Hazel Baker; Updated September 26, 2017
Advertising concept: Head With Gears on computer keyboard background

A brand is designed both to appeal to and inform consumers about the company, products or services that it represents. When it comes to effective appeal, both emotional and rational advertising and branding techniques are often employed. By appealing to potential customers on both levels, companies hope to increase their chances of making a sale. Although emotional and rational brand appeals are often used simultaneously, they are very different approaches to advertising.

Approach

Emotional branding strategies appeal to the consumer's emotions; consumers process rational branding strategies on a cognitive level. An emotional strategy may make a consumer want to buy something simply because they like the look of it, while a rational strategy uses features and benefits as evidence that the product is worth buying. As such, the approach in each method is very different. Common emotional approaches include emphasizing a personal story that relates to the product, such as user testimony. Common rational approaches include showing the product being used, rather than discussed.

Context

The context of a brand, whether it is a slogan or text, varies depending on the type of appeal used. An emotional appeal strategy would emphasize the benefits of a product, service, or company to the consumer. A rational brand strategy would emphasize the benefits of the product, service, or company itself. An emotional appeal for a hotel chain, for example, might include phrases like "value" and "family friendly" in the text, while a rational appeal might include phrases that describe the features of the hotel in correlation to the room rate.

Product Placement

Both emotional and rational branding strategies present the product to consumers, but how they use product placement in ads can be very different. Showing people enjoying the product or, very commonly, showing customers interacting with friendly, helpful salespeople or employees is a common strategy for companies attempting to appeal to their customers on an emotional level. Rational brand advertising often places the product in the center of the ad, with all the activity revolving around the product as opposed to revolving around the people who use it.

Visual Elements

Visual elements in branding can be anything from a logo, photos used on a website or ad, and even company colors. Warm, soft colors and photos of people are often used to create emotional brand appeal. Brighter, bolder, and contrasting colors, and photos of the product, people using the product, or the end result of using the product or service are more commonly used in rational brand appeal strategies.

About the Author

Hazel Baker has been writing professionally since 2003. She covers e-commerce, technology and legal topics for various online publications. Baker has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism with a minor in history from Point Loma Nazarene University.

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