Replica brands

Brands that make emotional connections earn the right to own the heart

In today’s high-tech world, marked by product parity, media proliferation and fickle brand loyalty, it’s become difficult to win the heads and hearts of consumers, says Bill Stephens, consultant public relations executive at M&C Saatchi Abel. Stephens adds that consumers are faced with many choices in every conceivable segment of the market.

Accelerated by the pandemic, consumer buying habits have been disrupted. We now prioritize convenience and accessibility.

From cars to computers, appliances to clothing, fast food to soft drinks, the choices are endless, making prices and product intrinsics difficult to discern. The Internet has become our best and most indispensable friend and with it, product features, benefits and prices are available at the touch of a button.

The consequence of all of the above? Brand loyalty was seriously eroded.

As marketers, we need to mitigate this erosion to embrace this complex and rapidly changing consumer world in a way that creates a discernible advantage for our brands.

The answer lies in establishing an emotional connection with the consumer. It must be a connection based on the universal human emotions of:

  • to like
  • trust
  • charm
  • forgiveness, and
  • loyalty.

“If humor and emotion are the two things that travel the most virally, why is advertising so lacking in advertising these days?” says Ryan Reynolds of Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2022.

Based on the economic challenges the world is currently facing, consumers are understandably pushed back to a place where the substance and deep questioning of a brand’s value proposition matters. Customers want to know what they are paying for.

Marketing fluffs like badges or eye-catching images no longer work. Instead, people want substance and a product that prioritizes what’s really important. Part of the lesson when dealing with an economic recession is taking stock of what is right and what is wrong.

Make no mistake: establishing authenticity isn’t a quick and easy fix. Building an emotional connection between a brand and the consumer takes substance, time, consistency, and most importantly, a crystal clear North Star.

Take Volkswagen, which took emotional center stage in the South African automotive segment in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s. Through a groundbreaking marketing and advertising campaign, VW captured the hearts of consumers South Africans.

VW employees and retailers united and publicly committed to building and servicing people’s cars to meet or exceed consumer expectations – the advertising campaigns conveyed this commitment in a genuine, charming and heartfelt way.

As VW discovered, the key was getting the right balance between the emotional connection and the product’s intrinsic properties. That’s why these elements have started to make a comeback as we start to see work that centers the product and its benefits in an emotional way that resonates with consumers.

The finance department is a good example of a successful space. Over the past couple of years, it’s become common to hear customers say they’ve “sort of fallen in love” with a banking brand – because of the way they’ve been cared for and helped through the last difficult moments.

This is Nope chance. It comes from those brands claiming high emotional emotion.

In a segment as competitive as automotive, the space is wide open for a brand to own the core space that VW has vacated as it has moved into new and different spaces. Brands well positioned to claim this high segment potential include:

  • Ford
  • hyundai
  • Kia, and
  • Toyota.

All have been highly successful in the volume segments of the South African passenger vehicle and light commercial vehicle market over the past 10+ years.

The obvious question is which of these high appeal, high volume brands will seize the moment? To claim center status in any segment, the key prerequisites are volume or share of:

  • market
  • inheritance
  • reputation
  • the picture, and
  • substance of the product.

A “johnny-come-lately” brand with superficial offerings will never occupy the heart of the segment. As one of the doyens of advertising, David Ogilvy, said, “The consumer is no fool. She’s your wife. Don’t insult his intelligence.

The Holy Grail of Heartland must be earned. Just as respect is earned.

Once a brand has won over, consumers will be inclined to be indulgent. It will be less beholden to new product rollouts from competitors, or the lifecycle factor, because its customers are so enamored with the brand that they will wait years for the new model to roll out.

The opportunity to win and occupy the vacant heart exists in many market segments in South Africa. However, the absolute prerequisites are badge, substance and market presence. And to that you have to add the silver bullet: emotional connection.

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brand loyalty Technology M&C Saatchi Abel Brands Connections Trust Consumer post-pandemic marketing Bill Stephens emotional marketing marketing marketing tactic marketing approach marketing strategy