Emotional connections can drive consistent growth
Your consumer is not an analytical, fact-based decision-making machine. Ironically, however, most brand marketing and communication automatically presumes people lean into logic to rationally assess the prevailing evidence of superiority or product benefits companies provide.
The Pandemic has added an exclamation point to this intel as consumers increasingly want brands to be authentically rooted in shared values, beliefs and a higher purpose. Understanding how the DNA of successful brand/consumer relationships has changed is vital to gaining business traction. As you’ll see in the Harvard Business Review case study we review later, evidence is piling up that mining emotional connectivity is simply a far better business-building decision leading to increased sales and market share over time.
We now have data that confirms brand relationships tethered to emotion are far more effective in delivering the engagement and business results you seek. Here’s the headline: all people are emotionally-driven creatures whose decisions are governed by how they feel about your brand.
Like a lightbulb to a lamp, brand growth is powered by its relevance with consumers who show the highest propensity to engage. Emotion and engagement are uniquely bonded in a vital marriage that will stand the test of time, weathering adversity and continuing to grow deeper, richer like fine wine in the cellar.
How important is this discovery about emotion-led marketing to your business?
Motista conducted a study of 100,000 consumers across 100 different brands and learned that emotionally-connected consumers are more valuable to the balance sheet than the ‘highly-satisfied’ customers you may covet. The former spends, on average, two-times more with retailers they prefer and have a 306% greater lifetime value to the business. Emotionally-invested consumers even recommend favored brands at a much higher rate than those who claim to be super satisfied – 30.2% vs. 7.6%.
Motista concluded emotional connectivity is the most valuable, predictable and enduring strategy you can deploy to build a business that routinely surpasses category growth rates.
Insight Informs Your Strategic Platform
- Emotional connectivity happens when your brand reflects back to the consumer values, desires and aspirations consistent with their own. If you want a deeper relationship with your users, then imbue your brand with deeper meaning.
- Knowing your customer on an intimate level is necessary to provide the understanding and ability to secure three important qualities of like, know and trust. This will require an ongoing investment in consumer insight research designed to unearth details of what they care about and who they are.
- All purchases today are largely symbolic gestures designed to flag to the rest of the world around us what people value and who they are. It isn’t possible to achieve this kind of relevance without knowing what your best users desire.
- Which leads to this key question: is the relevant lifestyle symbolism people look for embedded everywhere your customer is likely to encounter the brand online and off? Said more succinctly, is the entire customer journey infused with the insights that feed emotional communication?
Harvard Business Review case study offers proof
HBR published an intriguing report to fully test the hypothesis that emotional connectivity leads to out-sized financial results. You can read the report here. Their conclusion, when brands are able to successfully build emotional connections, the payoff is significant.
The journey begins with correctly assessing emotional motivators that are relevant to your brand. An example: “I am inspired by a desire to…”
- Enjoy a sense of well-being.
- Have confidence in the future.
- Become the person I aspire to be.
- Experience fulfillment and purpose.
- Feel secure in the midst of uncertainty.
- Experience a sense of freedom.
HBR reported on a fashion retailer who participated in the project. Appropriately, the company identified a “propensity to engage” segment they characterized as Fashion Flourishers. The segment represented 22% of the customer base but accounted for 37% of sales. This enthusiast customer group spent $468 a year on average vs. $235 for traditional shoppers, and 46% visited the stores at least once a month over 21% for everyone else.
Initial analysis showed this cohort was less price-sensitive and remained a loyal customer over a longer period of time. The goal was to initiate direct investments in forming emotional connections with this group.
To start, the company conducted discovery research around emotional motivators for the segment and found three distinct attributes:
- Makes me feel more creative.
- Makes me feel a sense of belonging.
- Makes me feel a sense of freedom.
Marketing programs were created around the insight. For example, to leverage the sense of belonging motivator, the retailer invited customers to submit selfies wearing their favorite outfits which were then posted as slide shows on video walls inside the stores.
Further the company weighed into emotionally-relevant media and experiences such as social channels and enhanced store design to marry the shopping experience to the emotional traits. Similarly, an email campaign was created around messaging that nurtured the ‘makes me feel creative’ attribute.
Outcomes confirmed the hypothesis
As a result of investing in emotional connections, stores optimized to reflect the emotional interests of Fashion Flourishers averaged 3.5% annual sales growth vs 1.0 percent for other stores in the chain. Inventory turns improved by 25% and customer advocacy scores grew by 20% year over year.
Key to success
Emotional motivators will vary across brands and audience segments, which underscores why the insight research component is so important to achieving results.
Bottomline, brand communications focused on building emotional connection is the secret sauce to consistently strong business results. Emotional connectivity works because it is respectful of what we now know about how people operate and how they make decisions (not analytically).
Thus, it is important to marry the emotional-driven strategy to every touch point and contact opportunity consumers may have with the brand. COVID-19 and the cultural disruption it is creating will change the face of marketing. The emotional-led strategy is aligned with these shifts and can help improve the future business results for brands that are wise enough to pursue it.
We can help you develop the strategic plan and execute the appropriate research for building emotional connections with your consumers, as well as bringing it to life with creative communications tools. Let us know if you would like to discuss informally.
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Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, The Healthy Living Agency. Traditional brand marketing often sidesteps more human qualities that can help consumers form an emotional bond. Yet brands yearn for authentic engagement, trust and a lasting relationship with their customers. Emergent helps brands erase ineffective self-promotion and replace it with clarity, honesty and deeper meaning in their customer relationships and communication. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.