Brands and emotions

20 August 2015 14:51

(updated: 18 December 2016 14:54)

Brands and emotions

Research has shown that both functional and emotional facets of brands are important drivers of brand performance indicators.

When it comes to more recent studies, this has been shown both using the concept of brand experience (Brakus, Schmitt, & Zarantonello, 2009) and brain research (Esch et al., 2012). The latter study has in fact shown that customers rely more on emotions than cognitive associations when evaluating brands.

These findings are as relevant for the service as for the consumer goods industry. At the same time, there may be additional sources of cognitive and emotional dimensions of brands for the former. For example, organizational culture may be a potent source of brand associations and emotions for service brands. However, it is more difficult to communicate the two brand dimensions in the service industry due to the lower degree of tangibility (vs. consumer goods). Service design is a prime candidate to make services more tangible and shape customers’ cognitive and emotional experiences.

Extant research has started to develop insights on how dimensions of design may affect brand perceptions. A recent study focused on how different dimensions of, in this case architectural design – elaborateness, harmony, natural feel, transparency, and colorfulness, are related to brand personality, as perceived by consumers (Raffelt, Schmitt, & Meyer, 2013). It turns out that architectural design dimensions have significant effects on brand personality that reflects cognitions and emotions triggered by a brand. Also, one design dimension may have opposite effects on the functional and emotional brand perceptions. To give some examples, brands with elaborate design of their headquarters are perceived as more exciting, but at the same time less competent. At the other hand, brands with harmonious design are less exciting, but more competent. Colorfulness of design is associated with lower brand competence, but greater naturalness (or sincerity).

These findings from architectural design raise interesting questions for the domain of service design. For example, will we find corresponding effects in e.g. design of digital channels or physical service landscape? Will the design dimensions have similar effects on employee perceptions of organizational culture? If this is the case, careful engineering of service design may prove to be a powerful driver of cognitive and emotional service experiences. Finally, extant research has found that aesthetic design preferences vary across cultures (e.g. more generally West vs. East Asia). Therefore, an intriguing question is whether such design effects are internationally universal.


Brakus, J. J. k., Schmitt, B. H., & Zarantonello, L. 2009. Brand Experience: What Is It? How Is It Measured? Does It Affect Loyalty? Journal of Marketing, 73(3): 52-68.

Esch, F. R., Moll, T., Schmitt, B., Elger, C. E., Neuhaus, C., & Weber, B. 2012. Brands on the brain: Do consumers use declarative information or experienced emotions to evaluate brands? Journal of Consumer Psychology, 22(1): 75-85.

Raffelt, U., Schmitt, B., & Meyer, A. 2013. Marketing function and form: How functionalist and experiential architectures affect corporate brand personality. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 30(3): 201-210.