Emotive Branding: Becoming a Global Movement? A Fellow Agency Share Its Thoughts

emotive branding

Kindred Agencies Building More Meaningful Brands

At Emotive Brand, we work to build meaningful brands that can change the trajectory of a business. Purpose and feelings sit at the heart of what makes our approach different.

The awesome thing about sharing our unique methodology of emotive branding with the world is discovering like-minded people and agencies. Throughout our 8+ years, we’ve connected with agencies from across the world. From Amsterdam to South Africa, there are others who believe what we believe about brands – emotive brands drive business.

Recently, a kindred-spirit agency of ours, the Brand Station from South Africa, made their way into our own studio. We have been digitally connected with Brand Station for years, but hadn’t yet met them in person. If there was only one thing we gathered from meeting in person, it’s that the world (yes, the whole world) is ready for emotive branding. If there was ever a time for purpose and meaning, it’s now.

Read our interview with the Brand Station to find out why.

So what brings you to Oakland? It’s not a short trip here from where you call home.

We love Cape Town. It’s home. But we needed to step out of our own playground and gather some new inspiration. Hit refresh a bit. We’ve been traveling all over – across the ocean, across the states, down the coast. We hit LA next. But for right now, we’re just soaking in this Bay Area magic. And we couldn’t be happier to finally be in the Emotive Brand studio – it’s taken too long. We are thrilled. Traveling and meeting new people really fuels our creativity and passion. We are going to go back home feeling inspired and refreshed.

How did you get connected to Emotive Brand? Why did you stay connected?

In 2012, our agency friends in Amsterdam told us we had to get connected. That our three agencies were all doing similar things in different parts of the world. We all cared about building meaningful, purpose-led brands. So we had a Skype session and we started an Emotive Transformers group online. We became knowledge partners. We became friends.

Knowledge partners? Like you would exchange ideas, learnings, and challenges with each other?

Exactly. Exchanging ideas would strengthen our thought process. Thinking about emotive branding became a kind of school of thought. And together, by discussing our challenges and wins, we could strengthen our methodologies and processes and ultimately innovate together. Whenever we did talk, I would think, this should be done more frequently. We could ask questions like “all of us follow a pretty linear process – but maybe there is another way?” Things like that that unlock new possibilities.

What are some of the relevant challenges your agency is facing lately?

Our ultimate challenge – what faces most agencies today – is what do our clients really need? How can we be more client-centered? How can we fulfill our clients’ immediate needs? In fact, lately, we’ve thought about devolving into five different companies that all have the same core – meaning and purpose. One company could be a campaign studio, another a design studio…Basically it’s a solution for creating clarity and making it easier for people to approach us and understand that we can actually solve their problems. A lot of the time in branding, you are offering the same thing – brand strategy – but you have to put a different name on it so people get it.

Another challenge we’ve been thinking about lately is that a brand strategy that’s left in a deck or a brand book has little to no meaning. Activating the strategy – that’s what matters. We’ve been focusing on activation lately. How does the brand live that strategy? How do people live the brand every day?

At Emotive Brand, we have our own way of defining emotive branding. How would you define it? What does it mean to you and your clients?

To us, emotive branding is a framework. It’s an authentic way of thinking and looking at things. We actually never put emotion into something. We just help infuse the emotion that’s already there – maybe it’s hidden – into the brand so that people can get behind its purpose. We assess brands, redefining and rediscovering what they can offer to the world and in what ways. Our favorite brands to work with are purpose-driven already. Our job is to make sure that purpose comes to life in everything that they do and say.

What are some major shifts you’ve seen in branding since you founded the Brand Station?

Branding used to be super design driven. Most branding agencies were founded by people who came from design agencies – like Emotive Brand. Strategy was kind of in the slip stream for us. Now, we’re strategy-driven and strategy-focused. Our first clients were brave to do the insights and research parts of our process. Now, that’s always where we start. We’ve also moved design in-house which wasn’t always the case. This helps integrate the two and make sure that all our design is directly tied to strategy.

We’ve talked a lot about things that Emotive Brand and the Brand Station have in common. What’s different? I assume branding in South Africa means something slightly different?

Can you think of a South African brand you know of the top of your head? Probably not. That’s our problem – we don’t have any national brands that we can all be proud to call South African. Because of our history, brands have to have a deeper meaning in South Africa. People are always changing and often fickle. That’s part of the reason why we set out on this journey – we wanted to help create the South African brand. The Nike of South Africa. For us, it’s all about building brands that we feel our country can proudly rally behind. That vision fuels us forward. Most of our favorite clients are brands that want to start some kind of movement. But a lot are too humble to start it on their own.

As business and life partners you must think highly of collaboration?

We both believe strong collaboration can propel a business forward. And yes – a good partnership always inspires. Just like Bella and Tracy, we both have our strengths and our interests. And we complement each other. We are always there for one another – in life and in business. Plus, we always take time to have a little fun.

Do you think more people are getting on board with purpose and meaning?

Yes, definitely. Now, every agency is claiming that they are purpose-led. This is exciting because, like Emotive Brand, we were at the forefront of this moment. But it’s also a challenge. In the end, I think agencies who are focused on authenticity and meaning are going to come out on top. People are demanding more authenticity and more meaning for a reason. With all the empty marketing out there, being purpose-led has to ring true at every touchpoint. And I know Emotive Brand feels the same way.

Emotive Brand is a San Francisco brand strategy and design agency.

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