The rational and emotional benefits of brands

None of us like to think our buying decisions are ever influenced by fluffy things like image or brands. If you ask us, we’ll tell you we always make logical, rational decisions based on things like quality, price and availability. Sure, it might be a nice brand of ’thing’ we end up with, but ask us why we bought it and we’ll jump straight to how it’s better quality, lasts longer or is made from much better ingredients. That’s just how we are. We don’t want to be perceived as shallow, book cover readers. And mostly we genuinely think we are not, and only challenge our thinking if really pushed. The truth however is that most of our purchasing decisions are made up of both rational and emotional considerations. Depending on what it is, the choice may be weighted more rational or emotional, but nearly every time our choice is a balance of the two. What this means for product and service owners is that we need to understand what are the rational and emotional benefits of our offer and make sure we leverage both of them when communication to our audience.


To illustrate the point let’s use the well know, modern brand PAYPAL. You all know Paypal right. It’s a payment platform. Paypal helps you pay for things or helps you get paid for things. Sure it does its more, but that’s the basic model.


If I were asked to list a few benefits of Paypal to me, first I’m going to jump straight to the rational benefits:

  • it’s free to set-up
  • it’s available for nearly all online purchase I make
  • it’s simple and easy to use
  • the site rarely crashes (I’ve been using it for ever and not once has it been down)


But there is much more value in the Paypal offer for me if I think a little deeper. On the emotional side:

  • it is trustworthy (important with things that handles my money!)
  • it’s US based. That will mean different things to different people, but for me it’s a plus. No systems are perfect, but the US tends to look out for consumers
  • it is big. So if need to do something more or if I have some questions there will likely be someone I can talk to.
  • it is a successful, growing company so out is nice to be with a winning team that is keeping pace with technology.


So as a package I really like the Paypal brand. It is my payment platform of choice whether buying or selling. And it’s more than just the payment products and services the platform offers. I like the brand and what it stands for. 


The point of this story it to illustrate the that the rational and emotional benefits of brands is real. If you are a brand owner you need to articulate what your rational and emotional benefits are and make sure you flex both of these muscles when communicating your offer. Don’t get stuck on rational benefits only. Depending on what you are selling, that may be only half the story (or less!).

USP explained

USP is a term you may have heard bandied around when discussing marketing and brands. Just another one of those ACRONYMS right. Well kind of. I agree there are lots of useless, complicated ACRONYMS out there most of which I avoid like the plague. But USP is a rarity. It is actually very useful in branding. So let’s break it down. What does USP it stand for?

U= Unique

S= Selling

P = Proposition


So we all know what these words mean individually, so where is the value and insight in such a simple phrase for brands? The killer word in Unique.

What this phrase is asking for is THE (singular) UNIQUE (different to all others) SELLING (the act of..) PROPOSITION (a suggestion you might consider) for your product of service. And why is this so important? Because it makes us critically focus on our offer. The phrase is not interested in all the selling propositions you may have, the top three selling propositions you are proud of or a list of the types of propositions that are valuable to your customers. It wants just one. One that is different from everyone else’s. The one proposition that is going to sell you product or service to your customers when comparing with your completion. And there is a reason why designers, advertisers and marketers want brand and business owners to answer this critical question. Because we are charged with selling your product or service and we need to be single minded with our communication messages so it sticks in your target consumer’s minds. And we need something we can pin down and own!


Examples of rationale USPs are: cheapest, strongest, lightest, fastest, brightest, smallest, prettiest, oldest, tastiest, healthiest, bluest, smelliest, fastest growing, longest lasting.

Examples of emotional USPs are: most authentic, friendliest, most stylish, most trustworthy, most french, happiest, meanest!


It is helpful to contextualise your USP in a phrase. For example.


‘At 10,00 lumens, our bike headlight are the brightest headlights on the market.’  A singular, unique selling proposition for those looking to buy bright bike headlights. If you’re in the market for super bright headlights, you are definitely going to stop and take a look at ours. Whether or not you end up buying them will depend on lots of factors, but the job of getting your attention is done.


Get the idea?


Think about your brand or business. What is your USP? Come up with a list. Firstly make sure that they are true. Then test them versus the ACRONYM. How did you go? Do you have one stand-out that you can own?


Working out you USP is a very important excise and sometimes one that opens your eyes. You must do it. What if you don’t have a USP – your product is just like everyone elses. Say you are an accountant that does tax returns. All the same right? Wrong. You can be the fastest, the cheapest, the most expensive (lots of people choose based on high price!), the expert in cleaning businesses, the most local, the smartest, the only one in your city that speaks Thai!. What-ever it is you need to give your customers a reason to pick you. Find your USP. If it doesn’t yet exist, then build one into your business.  If you are starting a new business, there is no better strategic foundation than starting with your USP.