When emotional becomes the new rational

Brand Building and Marketing in Key Emerging Markets

25 Strategies and Frameworks for Brand Growth

Part VI

Welcome to our series about the 25 strategies that will support your brand building and business development activities in key emerging markets. Today we highlight how you can turn the trend towards individualization among emerging markets consumers into profitable business. Young and aspiring people in China´s, India´s and Brazil´s new consumer class are climbing up the social ladder, equipped with a much better education and knowledge of the world than their parents. They are more self-confident, they want to do what they are happy doing, and they want to stand out.

Rising individualism – ‘My brand’ is on the rise

Successful brands know how to make use of the individualization trend among these consumers: they gain relevance by reflecting the user’s individual style and personality. And they need to be emotional. Emotional relevance can be achieved or deepened when the brand positioning illustrates how a specific offering can enhance a consumers social standing.

The rapid transformation of society and the economy in emerging markets has had direct effects on the personalities of consumers. There is a strong emotional factor that marketers of foreign brands should not forget. It is the wish of many BRIC consumers to catch up after many years lost under strict communist (China, Russia), socialist (India) or dictatorial systems. As consumers in China, India, Brazil and Russia move up in terms of disposable income, they become more aspirational, independent and individualistic.

One of the consequences of this shift in consumer personality is a significant trend towards trading up. As conspicuous consumption gains traction, more and more shoppers want to buy better versions of the same product next time. globeone’s BRIC Branding Survey yielded that across the BRIC population there is a strong desire to own (foreign) prestige brands. A quick look at the most important reason for trading up reveals big opportunities for Western brands. In India and China, the “better brand” itself seems to be the number-one reason for trading up.

Another important shift is that consumers who are trading up are becoming more sophisticated with their research and buying decisions and are less attracted over time by mere status symbols. They want to get value for their money in the form of emotional benefits. “Emotions are the new rational”, reports the Indian “Business Standard”, and argues: “Thanks to the changing times, the Indian advertising industry is using emotions to make the right connect with the consumers.” And the BBC just recently praised an emotional advert by Japanese beauty giant SK-II which is referencing China´s leftover women. The documentary-style video went viral in the Middle Kingdom.

A growing sense for the self and emphasis on self-expression are fueling a rise in emotional considerations. The perfect shoes not only make you look fashionable. They also make you feel special. In times of rapid economic development, people start to use brands to communicate their personality and individual style. They want to show that they are part of a group, or they want to differentiate themselves. This can be a powerful driver for purchase decisions, and foreign brands enjoy an edge in catering to these emotional needs.

Nowadays, there are many campaign examples that show the importance of highlighting emotional aspects and the individual self instead of mere product features. Audi features campaign examples that stage the car in a very free and relaxing ‘holiday by the sea’ setting where the people can just focus on their own wellbeing. Some newer ads of Mercedes-Benz China do not even feature a car but only focus on people and their feelings.

This is just one of many examples of how to turn the trend towards individualization and emotion into profitable business.

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