3 Steps to Build a Lasting Emotional Connection With Customers

70% of users who feel a connection to a brand spend twice as much as those who don't

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Emotion. It is what drives our thoughts, actions, decisions and purchasing behavior. Consumers are increasingly making purchasing decisions based on how they feel about brands instead of what they know. As ecommerce and giants like Amazon and Walmart present shoppers with more similar product choices than ever at comparable prices, emotion will only increase for the decisionmaker at check-out.

In fact, according to Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman, 95 percent of our purchasing decisions take place in the subconscious mind, which is overseen by our emotions. For this reason, Harvard Business Review also found that emotionally connected customers are more than twice as valuable to brands as highly satisfied customers. To thrive in today’s marketing landscape, it is no longer enough for brands to simply communicate what their products and services provide; brands must cultivate an emotional connection with their consumers that will ensure continued loyalty. Brands that have not established this sort of bond are bound to be lost in the sea of competition.

So where to begin?

Here are three steps brands can take to achieve meaningful emotional connections.

Recognizing the long-term value of emotional connection   

Marketers focus so much attention on executing short-term tactics that bring an immediate return on investment, but brands can gain bigger benefits when prioritizing long-term strategies. Connections based on feelings last longer than those based on necessity, resulting in deep-seeded loyalty that stays throughout the entire customer lifecycle.

Seventy percent of emotionally connected consumers spend twice as much on brands they have an emotional attachment to than those who do not. Significantly, 81 percent of those respondents also promote their favorite brands to family and friends. In this way, emotional connections to brands grow over time and can even be passed on through generations.

A prime example of a company putting emotion-based campaigns to use for decades and reaping the long-term rewards is Pepsi. Since the start, Pepsi’s campaigns have encouraged customers to have fun, live out loud and enjoy life to the fullest. In the 1960s, Pepsi commercials featured the tagline “Come alive! You’re in the Pepsi generation,” highlighting a common identity and youthful spirit. Today, by continuing to engage customers with these emotions, Pepsi has surpassed Coca-Cola in brand loyalty. 

Understanding emotional motivators

A recent study from Harvard Business Review proves that customers feel most emotionally connected with a brand when its value proposition aligns with their motivations and desires. For example, people who strongly wish to “stand out from the crowd,” “feel a sense of freedom” or “feel a sense of belonging” will choose products that market that feeling.

The key emotional motivators driving consumer behavior are unique to each brand and category. To identify what moves the needle for their brand, marketers need to lean on data and analytics gleaned from focus groups, social media listening or messaging analysis. This last and most groundbreaking method of capturing consumer insights involves understanding in what context consumers talk about brands where they share the most: messaging.

By pinpointing the honest emotions that customers describe when craving or using a product or service, marketers can align brand positioning in accordance with these feelings and ensure a message is consistent across every company touchpoint. Additionally, considering significant cultural moments, such as holidays or major events, can help brands determine how to reach customers with emotionally appropriate content, demonstrating they truly understand their customers’ lives.

Starting a conversation, not just a campaign

With emerging communication channels and technologies, brands can now be a direct part of consumers’ messaging conversations in the form of branded stickers and GIFs. By creating shareable, visual content, brands are appearing right in people’s messaging screens without interrupting the natural flow of conversation. As consumers express their feelings using branded content, they are naturally developing an emotional connection with those specific brands.

For example, Tide released a set of emotionally expressive stickers emphasizing the satisfaction that comes from having clean laundry. These visual, sharable stickers featured fun images like animal-based characters doing laundry, the Tide logo transforming into a heart-eyed smiley face and the Tide bottle wearing a superman cape. The conversation-focused campaign generated over 59,000 brand advocates who shared the Tide content as part of their chats with friends and family. In total, Tide became a part of over 4.8 million targeted conversations, solidifying its emotional association with accomplishment and excitement in every interaction.

The unifying factor at each step of the journey—whether in understanding the value of an emotional campaign, identifying key motivators or creating the right type of content—is to make informed decisions based on data and analytics. Today’s tools can provide near-infinite data points. When pulled from the right places and applied to the right framework, this data can help uncover new, and sometimes surprising, insights on customers and their true emotions. Insights-driven strategy and execution will be the key to creating campaigns that drive a sustainable emotional relationship with customers and generate tangible business results.