“Companies and their brands need to reach out and speak directly to consumers, to honor their values, and to form meaningful relationships with them. They must become architects of community, consistently demonstrating the values that their customer community expects in exchange for their loyalty and purchases”. – Simon Mainwaring
We have discussed several times in the past that among the top reasons that customers buy – almost 50% of their ‘experience’ with a company – has to do with emotions. The decisions to buy are not always rational, analysed or based on logic. Emotions drive buying behaviour and emotions influence almost all customers – they may not realize or accept it. Over time, customers begin to ‘care’ about products, services and brands and it would be prudent of a company to use this emotional connection between customers and brands to drive sales. This ‘attachment’ between customers and brands is what will define the robustness and duration of their relationship with the company. The emotional connection between customers and brands will take on the ‘face’ of customer loyalty, profitability and brand advocacy – the strongest pillars for any business.
Without an emotional connection between customers and brands, it would be extremely simple for the company’s competitors to lure the customers away, which becomes a highly unmanageable situation for any company. The costs incurred, efforts made to attract and retain those customers hitherto would be a waste, and the whole exercise of attracting new customers would begin afresh. To save themselves from this humongous problem, companies need to have a planned strategy to include ‘humanness’ into their service, thereby creating and fortifying the emotional connection between their customers and brands.
The fact is customers want this emotional connection – they are no longer happy with only basic service. The emotional connection between customers and brands is about being able to create memorable, pleasant and lasting experiences for the customers – since this is a very real human emotional need. Companies that can successfully elevate each customer experience to a level of ‘bliss’, will be able to form an unconquerable emotional connection between customers and brands. With so much choice now available to customers, they need a reason to ‘stick’ to a brand. They must not feel ‘trapped’ in the relationship with your company simply because no one else offers the service or product but rather they should want to stay in the association even if everyone else provides the same offerings. Make it easy for your customers – to form a relationship with your company, to continue the association and even to leave if they want. Forming an emotional connection between customers and brands is about giving the customers what they want with a focus on brand loyalty.
Sustainable relationships with customers form through building emotional connections with them. Each experience they have must be one that satisfies the ‘emotional need’ that led them to buy or interact with the company. Any company would understand that forming emotional connections between customers and brands is more advantageous to them than to the customers. Doing so will keep them fixated and loyal to the company’s brand despite the vast array of brands and products in the market. Creating and sustaining an emotional connection between customers and brands has, therefore, has a direct link to building profitability and sustainable success for a company. Branding strategies that focus on the ‘emotional needs’ of customers, help a company to appear distinct and unique. This is critical in the current business environment, where getting lost in the melee of products and companies is a high possibility. Emotionally connected customers do their part in deflecting the company’s competitor attempts to lure them away. With the emotional connection between customers and brands, a company has little to worry with regard to the self-defeating price wars prevalent in the current market.
Creating an emotional connection between customers and brands is not just about skilful marketing and promotions. In fact, a company must place the emotional and other needs of its customers well before their products and brands. The customers will connect with a brand when it amply demonstrates the ability to understand their preferences and is able to serve their current and maybe future needs. A company would find it hard to sell even if they have the best products in the market if they are unable to form the emotional connection between customers and brands. This connection will, support the great array of products and services that a company has to offer. Many of the large companies have built such strong emotional connection between customers and brands that they never need to worry about pricing. Their ‘regulars and fans’ will buy their products irrespective of the cost – their buying decision comes from their emotional needs and connection. Companies that have mastered the art of forming emotional connections with their customers, position their brands to particular customer segments based on the emotional needs they would have demonstrated. Needs such as – feeling important and powerful, status symbol, wanting to look good and attractive and other such emotional needs – are what these companies focus on and create experiences around them.
Customers stick with a brand based on how it makes them feel – a single instance is enough for a customer to use a brand repeatedly. It is therefore highly crucial for companies to form such an emotional connection between customers and brands. Brands that support the values of the company and address a pertinent emotional need of a customer will set it apart from the crowd and have customers return time after time. Companies must resist the desire to make a sale each time a person connects with them. Rather, they must focus on first creating a robust relationship with the customer – the sales, referrals and continued relationship will follow.
So much has changed in the world of business. Most importantly customers now are ‘warriors’ – they go after what they want with single-minded focus and refuse to settle for less, irrespective of from where they can get it. Smart companies are those that are able to change their business strategies to match these expectations and create an emotional connection between customers and brands such that customers become ardent followers rather than ‘warriors’. Companies must understand that they are in business for and because of customers and hence whatever they do must focus on the needs of the customers – emotional needs being paramount. The company must display commitment towards creating pleasurable experiences and forging impenetrable bonds with their customers in order to build and sustain market leadership.
The first step before building the emotional connection between customers and brands is that a company must thoroughly understand its target audience. It is through ‘knowing’ the customer, that a company can decide which emotional need is stronger and hence would need to be addressed first. Addressing the ‘core’ emotional need is what will lead the company to success and achieve for it customer loyalty, profitability and brand advocacy. Each person in the company must have the same goal, for the company to satisfy successfully the emotional needs of its customers.
Forming an emotional connection between customers and brands is almost like a bond between two people and the stronger this bond becomes, the harder it is to disassociate from it. It would therefore be prudent for a company to master the art of creating an emotional connection between customers and brands in order to remain in the ‘race’ for very long time.