It is apparent to marketers who’ve chosen to look with a critical eye that the old-school, text book, command-and-control branding is headed the way of the dodo bird. The idea of managers controlling brand is not just quaintly archaic, it is thoroughly ineffective. In the Age of the Customer, marketers do not get to control, they get to influence. And what brand marketers try and influence is the perception of a brand.

As the discipline of branding transitions to acknowledging perception as the epicenter of attention, we must reframe our brand thinking around how people form opinions, make decisions based on these opinions, are influenced by and in turn influence others, and similar ideas of an ilk that have often not found a welcome home in traditional marketing literature. Central to this emerging holistic and human notion of branding is the belief that emotions are of paramount importance in guiding brand choice (if you are curious about how that works, my Intelligent Branding report awaits).


It is with this hypothesis of the primacy of emotions that we set out to build a quantitative “big data” analytics model to explain how people make brand choices. And what we found (which you can read about in my Emotions Fuel Your Brand Energy report) is validation that emotions make up about half of what we define as the “energy” of a brand. Our first foray was to build an overarching framework to position the role of emotions across categories and relative to other drivers of choice. Our next step, which we launch today in the form of “Put Brand Energy To Work By Building A Five-Step Action Plan” is to provide marketers a tactical way to leverage our brand energy framework and build an emotion-driven strategy and tactical action plan specific to their brands and competitive context. To illustrate the granularity of the approach, we handpicked a brand – JCPenney – and walked the brand through the mechanics of the entire Brand Energy model as if were the team entrusted with its care, nurture, and growth.


A close reading of the report will be rewarding for those who engage with brand strategy as if it were a contact sport. The data is laid bare in all the glory that comes from knowing that the devil is in the details. And there are step-by-step waypoints to help you navigate the path. For example, you’ll see that JCPenney suffers a deficit in emotional connection with its customers relative to a brand like Nordstrom:


Apart from the specific workings of the framework, there are four principles that will determine a successful implementation of an emotional brand strategy. We recommend that CMOs and other senior marketing, business, experience, and growth leaders:

  1. Build brand energy into value-driven brand thinking: It gives marketers a metric that they can dissect and scrutinize for emotional drivers.
  2. Use highly customized data: To develop a meaningful plan you must incorporate factors most relevant to your business, such as customers, prospects, and competitors.
  3. Connect to action: Have your emotional drivers link to pathways of execution within the framework of your brand study.
  4. Deploy the plan to drive to value: A methodical execution of the framework allows the CMO to identify sources of value and shapes marketing’s execution.


The report, Put Brand Energy To Work By Building A Five-Step Action Plan, is available for Forrester clients to read. If this is a topic of interest to you, I also recommend Conquer Three Emotional Territories To Power Your Brand Experience which utilizes the same research data to highlight the most important emotions to focus on. And if you’re the kind of person who would rather have it straight from the horse’s mouth, I conduct onsite strategy sessions on this new perception-driven, customer-obsessed, energy-fueled brand model (B2C and B2B). Email me dchatterjee@forrester.com or contact your account team.