For brands to gain lasting distinction product differentiators are not enough. Successful brands connect powerfully at an emotional level with their customers.
As Brad VanAuken of The Blake Project points out in this article “Emotional connection can take your customers beyond brand loyalty to the ultimate measure of a compelling brand: brand advocacy.”
How Brands Make Emotional Connections
Emotional connection is one of the five drivers of customer brand insistence as outlined in our BrandInsistence brand equity system. (The other four drivers are awareness, relevant differentiation, value and accessibility.) The consumer must first know your brand, then like your brand, and finally trust your brand and feel an emotional connection to it.
People become emotionally connected to a brand for a number of reasons:
- The brand stands for something important to them. It shares values with them.
- The brand is intense and vibrant. It connects with people on multiple levels across several senses.
- The brand is unique.
- The brand is admirable.
- The brand consistently interacts with them. It never disappoints them.
- The brand makes them feel good.
There are many innovative ways to achieve this emotional connection— from advertising and the quality of frontline consumer contact, to consumer membership organizations and company-sponsored consumer events. Emotional connection can take your customers beyond brand loyalty to the ultimate measure of a compelling brand: brand advocacy.
It is especially important to ensure that all of your employees with frontline customer contact are like Boy Scouts—that is, that they are trustworthy, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, and cheerful. Add to that list empathetic, good listeners, and reassuring. To have a quality workforce you need to establish the appropriate hiring criteria, training, and organization culture. Remember, good service is all about creating positive feelings, treating people well, and solving people’s problems. Ultimately, emotional connection will come from positive shared experiences with the brand over time. While this trust is built over time, offering an unconditional guarantee is a quick way to reduce the risk posed by a new, unknown brand and to generate some minimum level of trust immediately.
There are other loyalty-inducing approaches, too. For instance:
- The brand encourages frequent, habit-forming interaction (as long as the interaction is pleasant or beneficial and not against people’s wills).
- The brand finds ways to build cumulative value for customers over time, especially if the value is not transferable to the use of competitive products and services.
In his book The Dream Society, Rolf Jensen makes the case for a shift from an information society to a dream society in which imagination and storytelling become the primary drivers of value. He identifies six emerging emotion-based markets:
- Community (togetherness, friendship, and love)
- Providing and receiving care
- Self-expression (“Who am I?”)
- Peace of mind
- Standing for something (convictions)
Any brand that seeks to create emotional connection should find ways to tap into these and other underlying human motives.
I’ll close with this example of Pedigree dog food moving from functional to emotional messaging.
In 2004, Pedigree was the share leader in its category; however, it was losing share to the competition at both the high and low ends of the market. At the time, Pedigree focused its messaging on product attributes. In 2005, Pedigree’s advertising agency (TBWA) recommended changing the emphasis from functional attributes to the “love of dogs,” appealing to the customer’s hearts instead of their heads. TBWA’s chairman and chief creative officer, Lee Clow, asked Pedigree to embrace this statement as its new brand mantra: “If you convince me you love dogs, I’ll let you feed mine.”
Today, Pedigree offers its customers a breed gallery, dog age calculator, breed match questionnaire, “adopt a dog” search, free puppy guide, “Dogs Rule” apparel, and an opportunity to donate to the Pedigree Foundation, which is dedicated to helping dogs find loving homes.
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