Brand language in the online world

Continuing our series on linking human psychology to data analytics, we explore how brands can use language to trigger consumer emotions in a digital world.


In the first post in this series on getting meaning from 'Big Data', we showed how approaching data' with hypotheses based on human psychology leads to different types of insights.

In this post, we'll look at some of those insights around communication triggers that work for different types of consumers with different motivations.

Dominant motivations

Earlier, we looked at how understanding the motivational patterns of target customer personas can help you decide how to position your brand in the market and define its brand role.

Brand positioning to attract and retain customers means bringing it to life with a unique brand story that connects with your customers consistently across all their experiences with the brand.

In the offline world, we use as many sensory touch-points as appropriate to do this: aroma, taste, feel, sound and visual identity are all important to brand-building.

In the online world, we are more limited, so the sensory modalities that are available to us must work hard to trigger the right associations for our customers.

Much of online communication is via visual and verbal elements of the brand identity. In this post, we'll look at language triggers.

How should brands talk?

What type of language connects to different customer personas? In the digital world, what is your brand’s social media voice?

The typical advice from social media experts is to tell your brand story and to be authentic, open and transparent - all good advice. However, this still leaves open the question of what to talk about - the specific triggers that will help you attract customers online.

We can get some clues by profiling the ideas and concepts that trigger positive emotions in different Customer Personas.

Developing personas

To develop customer personas linked to psychological motivation, we analysed 24,000 consumers across 13 different categories - from soft drinks to sports shoes. To make comparisons across different categories, we need a general model of psychological motivations rather than a category- specific model - an advantage of using the archetypal psychology model.

Then, for each category, we analysed the concepts used by different types of brand to tell their stories and the concepts that triggered positive emotions in consumers.

Feeling warm about financial services

For example, in one category of the Financial Services market, we looked at two customer archetypes that are important in the category and profiled their trigger concepts. Some examples of these positive concepts are shown in the graphic below:

You won’t be surprised to find that ideas such as ‘prudence’, for Persona 1 or ‘discipline’ for Persona 2 are relevant or that the shared trigger of ‘logic’ is there but we also find some less obvious ideas such as ‘noble’.

Knowing these triggers inspires you on how to connect better with key customer personas.

It also helps to balance the brand messages between the authentic brand story. For example, Metrobank is a relatively recent entrant to the banking category in the UK. It positions itself in opposition to the dominant category motivations of security and control.

By challenging customers to  join the 'revolution in banking ' and using  a tagline of “love your bank at last”, it is triggering motivations that connect its brand story very well with non-traditional customer personas. Yet,  importantly, it also emphasises safety and security (prudence and discipline) of its product and services.

3 key questions to ask about your brand storytelling:

1.  Do you understand the motivations of your target consumers?

2. Have you matched your brand story to those motivations?

3. Are the ideas you choose to talk about tapping into those motivations?

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