Marketers work hard to create an emotional link between consumers and promoted brands. One way to create that emotional link is by aligning a brand’s identity with the consumer’s sense of self, their understanding of who they are and what they want to be. “The Emotional Brand Attachment and Brand Personality: The Relative Importance of the Actual and Ideal Self” paper published by Lucia Malär et. al. explores the relationship between the consumer’s actual and ideal sense of self, and emotional brand attachment.
According to the paper, consumers generally form greater emotional attachments with brands that align to how consumers view themselves, rather than what consumers aspire to be. Malär et al. identify three significant attributes: the degree of product involvement, the level of consumer self-esteem and the propensity for public self-consciousness. Individuals who score highly in any of these have a positive emotional attachment to brands that focus on their actual sense of self, while those with low scores have a positive attachment with brands that focus on their ideal sense of self.
Product involvement is largely determined by how relevant consumers perceive that product to be in their lives. While less engaged consumers have positive attachment with brands that focus on their ideal sense of self, they will not necessarily respond positively to brands aligned to it: Consumers may be aspirationally green but are often not familiar with the products that can help them achieve this aspiration.
Thus, green marketers might first need to educate consumers about green brands before those brands can become relevant in their lives. One powerful tool is to communicate a goal-driven message around green products while showcasing their actual use by people with whom consumers can readily identify.
Consumer self-esteem is essential for emotional brand attachment as consumers seek out brands that reinforce or enhance their own self worth. Green marketers may interpret self-esteem as a consumer’s confidence in their ability to make greener choices that are right for them.
When engaging green-confident consumers, brands might therefore want to emphasise evidence that confirms the consumer’s self view, for example by praising consumers for taking eco-friendly actions. In contrast, when engaging less confident consumers, a brand may want to shape the perception of what it means to be a greener product, and to actively facilitate their purchase.
Public self-consciousness is a consumer’s awareness of how others perceive them. As people like to be seen positively, green marketers should provide ways for consumers to receive public accolades for eco-friendly behaviour, for example by embedding gaming elements such as badges and points into networked products. Alternatively, brands can encourage the use of social media apps that allow consumers to share and compare energy savings.