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Building the right emotional bridge is the key to brand success

November 17, 2020


Building The Right Emotional Bridge Is The Key To Brand Success

Your Brand Is a Bridge

We’re big believers in metaphor around here, especially when it comes to describing the work of brands. Metaphors help us get our heads around what a brand is and what it should be doing.

Recently, I heard brands described as the “emotional bridge” between consumers and a business. That resonated for me. So much of what we do here is based on this idea of a relationship between the brand and the customer. Relationships are, more often than not, based on emotions. We work with someone because we like what they do or they believe in the same values we do. We avoid working with someone else because we don’tlike what they stand for.

It’s as simple as that! So let’s think about our brands as being the bridge connecting our customers and our businesses.

The Brand Leads Customers to the Business

We have two points: the business itself and the customer. There’s a river flowing between each of these two groups. Without a bridge, the customers can’t reach the business, and vice-versa.

That means that our business can’t get our messages to the customer without the bridge. The customer can’t buy from us if there’s no bridge. Or maybe they could, but they don’t see how. They have no real reason to try to swim across the river to get to our business, even if the river is slow and shallow.

So, we need something to connect our business and our customers. That’s where the brandcomes in. The brand is more than the business or the product alone. Maybe it’s like a drawbridge across a moat or a long bridge built right into our business-castle.

The bridge is public-facing. It’s what we put forward to our customers on the other side of the river. Once we’ve constructed it, we can send messengers across it to tell our customers all about what we do. If they like what they hear, some people will cross the bridge and check out the business.

Emotional Response Builds a Stronger Bridge

Let’s suppose there’s a stepping-stone path across our hypothetical river. A few brave customers take the leap and check out our business. If they like what they see, they’re going to want to build a better bridge.

Why? It makes it easier for them to get back and forth across the river. If they like our brand, they’re going to want to come back to our business over and over. Building a better, stronger bridge makes it easier for them to do that.

Some other customers won’t be inclined. They might build a better bridge; they might leave the stepping stones. And some customers won’t like what we do at all, and they’ll want to flood the river so those stones are underwater!

For the customers who want to build better bridges, they’re often willing to meet us at least part of the way. We still have to do our part to strengthen the bridge. We often have better resources to help reinforce the bridges our customers want to build.

That’s where our marketing and messaging come in. We strengthen the brand by living up to our values, by demonstrating them for our customers. We deliver on our promises to them time and time again, which reinforces the bridge our customers have designed.

We Have to Listen to Our Customers to Build the Right Bridge

The bridge metaphor also works when we consider why some brands “get it right” and others don’t. Most often, those of us who miss the mark aren’t listening to what our customers are saying.

What we’re doing in this case is building a bridge our customers don’t want. We need to realize here that they’re the architects of the bridge. They’re the ones who are coming up with the “plans” for it. We can tell them we want to build a bridge. We think it might look like this, but they’re the ones drawing it up, imagining what it looks like.

So if they say they want the Brooklyn Bridge, with its very solid supports, and we give them a drawbridge, they’re not going to be very happy with us. They might withdraw their support for the bridge and let what we did build crumble.

Emotionally speaking, this process is all about respecting what our customers value. We need to talk to them and discover why they like our brands, what we provide them with. That way, we can be sure we’re reinforcing their “values” bridge, not imposing our own designs. And we can both be sure we’re building the bridge in the same location. If they build their side of the bridge at “Port Environmentalism” and we’re building to land at “Port Best Price,” we’re going to have a problem. We’ll both get halfway across and realize we don’t have the right support.

That’s where so many of us miss the mark: we’re building to where we think our customers expect or even want us to meet them. In all actual fact, they’re standing somewhere else.

The other issue is that we often fail to reinforce the bridge our customers want to build. They start building their bridge with trust and honesty. They believe in us. We say we’re involved in our community. They like that, so they start building this bridge to connect our businesses with them. That will make community efforts easier.

Except then we build a sort of rickety bridge. Our actions don’t link up with what we’re saying. Instead of the Brooklyn Bridge, we end up with a couple of two-by-fours or a rope bridge that could get swept away. And sometimes, we make it to the other side, then decide to torch the bridge—even accidentally.

What Does This Mean for How You Market?

The bridge metaphor should show us a couple of things pretty clearly:

1.      We must be on the same page as our customers.

2.      We must carefully consider our actions and how they reinforce (or fail to reinforce) our bridges.

3.      Bridges are two-way streets. We can cross them to deliver our message, but our customers can also cross the bridge to reach our business.

The brand has to be the conduit for delivering that message, for making it possible for our businesses to reach our customers and vice-versa. Without it, we’re just kind of standing on either side of the river looking at each other.

Even if we build a great bridge, we still have to make sure we’re lining up with our customers and building the bridge they want to build. Only then will they trust us enough to cross the bridge. Brands connect us with our customers, allowing us to reinforce our values, and letting us invite our customers to join us.

And building the right bridge, being able to reinforce it the right way, means listening to our customers and connecting with our brand essence. So, as always, start with the why!


Here to inspire!

I am a business person who has excelled in driving a competitive edge through marketing, strategy, innovation, building irresistible brands and unlocking the genius that exists. I am writing is inspire or create new consideration. If you have ideas or questions that you would like me to put a pen too, I would be delighted.

I would also be grateful if you shared this or any of the articles I have written to inspire others.

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