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A recent study reveals what consumers ‘feel’ about brands

How consumers really feel about brands is hard to measure, yet useful to know. Consumer analytics company Foresight Factory has published a study that explores where brands fit into consumers’ emotional landscapes. The research shows that a growing majority of people choose brands that match their personal style and taste, whether they are shopping in a supermarket, a car showroom or online.

 Discussing the problems of eliciting how consumers really feel about brands, Meabh Quoirin, co-owner and CEO of Foresight Factory, says: “The difficulty here is that the brain is a swirl of conscious and unconscious emotions, rationalisations, intuitions, and snap judgements. Much of our decision-making is influenced by processes that we are not even aware of.” 

Standard deviation of brand attribute scores:
emotional attributes differentiate brands more than functional ones

 Emotional drivers

The study focuses on five automotive brands, and highlights the power of emotional, non-functional elements that people associate with brands. Quoirin explains: “Non-functional positive associations such as ‘genuine’ or ‘makes me feel good’ can enhance the probability that a consumer will recommend a given brand to others by 14%. Brands which strike an emotional chord with their customers and consumers benefit from significant degree of differentiation in their minds, as opposed to those which are primarily associated with rational benefits.”

 Key findings

 1. Emotional brand associations have the power to significantly enhance the tendency to recommend a brand to others.

2. Most of the five car brands studied are implicitly associated with functional brand attributes Analysis reveals that functional brand attributes – including those relating to reliability, practicality, value, safety and trustworthiness – are widely associated with automotive brands. The two brands that are specifically excelling in this arena are Nissan and Ford.

3. Emotional attributes provide fertile ground for commercial differentiation, UK consumers’ associations with automotive brands reveals that functional attributes are relatively less impactful than emotional ones in their ability to differentiate brands.

4. Skoda packs an emotional punch Once a marginal – and maligned – brand, Skoda stands out among its competitor set because of its ability to elicit emotional associations with the brand.

 Don’t be too rational

Quoirin concludes that focusing on rational metrics rather than emotional drivers is a mistake in PR: “PR often works through what is sometimes considered a ‘rational’ medium – the media and other relevant third parties such as influencers. However, this research reveals that campaigns that focus too much on communicating rational messaging neglect the emotional drivers that underlie much decision-making.”


Foreshight Factory worked with emotional solutions company Sensum using implicit response testing (IRT) alongside robust quantitative methodologies in order to uncover non-conscious drivers of belief and behaviour. Download a copy of the report here.

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