6 ways to make branding emotionally engaging

Leading designers discuss how to create standout branding in tough market conditions

What happens when you're tasked with creating the branding for a product, service or organisation within a deeply saturated market?

It's a classic design conundrum – but if you're aiming to make an emotional connection with your audience, you're already half-way there.

When brands establish an emotional connection with their target audiences, the results can go beyond brand loyalty, developing into a deep personal connection.

But how do you create that emotional connection through your branding? Here leading designers share their secrets for creating outstanding emotionally engaging branding in a super-saturated market…

01. Find the brand's voice

Vasava created the stunning graphics for Diesel's SS15 Preview collection

"I believe that the key to connect and improve engagement with branding work nowadays is to celebrate the differences, embrace the originality and let the brands speak their very own language," says Bruno Selles co-founder, Vasava.

"As designers it is our duty to define brands' voices. Markets are very fragmented and so the brands should be."

Vasava designed the heat-reactive cover art for Computer Arts issue 246

"It is our job to build identities in a inventive and unpredictable way, avoiding the standandarised solutions and allowing enough time and resources to explore every single aspect and peculiarity of the brand," Selles continues.

"If we can detect what makes a brand unique and build over it accordingly we'll be succeding no matter how crowded the market."

02. View it as a short story

"Branding projects should be seen as short stories; ones that designers are enthusiastic and capable of writing or talking about in a variety of situations," says Richard Baird, freelance designer and founder of BP&O.

"Good aesthetic sensitivities appeal to base instincts and a shared sense of taste. It is a connection easily made, but just as easily broken. In a saturated and increasingly capable market it is commonplace and offers little in the way of differentiation or longevity."

"Fostering and enhancing a genuine emotional connection comes from the recounting of process. This should be clear and honest, not reworked or post-rationalised."

"Happenstance should be celebrated, not downplayed. Process stories should be written or told with good intention, character and passion, in a way that is insightful and self-assured, yet avoids arrogance and the esoteric."

03. Nail what you want to say

"Develop an intimate knowledge of your target audience; dig past the stereotypes to find what resonates with them (and what doesn't)," recommends Holly Karlsson director, Shillington (US).

"You also need a clear understanding of what it is you're trying to communicate; you can't expect your audience to listen when you don't know what it is you're trying to say."

04. Work with the intended users

"We work a lot with users – from the very beginning of a project at brainstorming sessions to testing of prototypes," advises Tim Smith, studio lead at ustwo.

"We like to tackle problems and create exciting experiences with their best interest at the core of the project. The branding tends to lead from the product itself and therefore it fundamentally connects and engages with the user – they crafted it with us after all! So my advice would be to work with the intended users as much as you can."

05. Be authentic

"It takes many skills to build a brand," points out Well Made creative strategist Gemma Germains. "It's not enough to rely on strategists, we need to be proactive in the pre-design stages."

"However, we can build relationships that equally value these skills. Good design won't fix a dysfunctional team, immoral goals or a rubbish product. Maybe sometimes we should consider doing nothing at all."

06. Tap into the lifeblood

"It's a tricky question, but emotional engagement must come from the organisation itself, the visual branding can only do so much," explains Sawdust co-founder, Rob Gonzalez.

"It's the lifeblood that runs through the business (that the identity is for), which ultimately will engage with its audience."

The full version of this feature first appeared inside Computer Arts issue 245, a branding design special packed with expert tips for creating outstanding branding.

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