Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on August 21, 2018 and was updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness on October 23, 2019.
“What is your favorite brand and what is it about them that you love?” This was a question that I was asked in an interview a few months ago that really caught me off guard and made me think. After thinking for a few seconds my answer came to me - Lululemon, because they make me feel like more than just a customer. While their products are premium quality, that’s not what first came to mind. I love this brand because they make me feel like I belong in their community and wearing their products makes me feel confident and powerful.
At the end of the day, your emotions have the most influence on the brands you decide to be loyal to, which is why emotional marketing is key to your small business' success. The classic Coke vs. Pepsi debate isn’t driven by the few grams of sugar that separates these colas, it’s driven by the loyalty people feel to either the red or blue can.
Understanding how powerful emotions are will help you tailor your customer experience to draw these out of your customers. The trick is knowing which emotions to tap into.
Some emotions are more powerful than others
As advertising becomes less and less effective, emotional relationships are more important than ever. Without a solid emotional foundation, your customers won’t be willing to invest in your brand long term.
In order to build those long-term relationships, you need to focus on the three emotions your customers desire most: joy, trust, and belonging.
There’s nothing more contagious than a smile, which explains why happiness is one of the strongest emotional desires. That’s also why positive content is shared so widely — in an effort to portray the idea of ourselves as approachable, fun-loving people, we do our best to create personas that reflect that idea.
Joy is also one of the most addictive emotions. When we experience happiness, we want that feeling to continue and will seek opportunities to feel that way again. By tying your brand to this feeling, you create a sense of instant gratification your customers won’t be able to imagine themselves without. This will bring them back to your store to make more purchases that protect their view of themselves and make them feel good all at the same time.
A heartwarming story is one of the easiest ways to make someone smile, so telling your customers your brand story can instantly build an emotional connection with them.
Create an engaging brand narrative
One of the biggest reasons we choose to shop with certain brands is the story they’re telling and how that story makes us feel. When brands develop a story that communicates who they are, it tells us why we, as customers, should care.
The same applies to your own brand. By taking the time to develop a singular story for your brand, you can show your customers what’s important to you. If they share these values, they’ll be much more likely to align themselves with you and your small business. Finding a brand that lives and breathes by the same values as you creates a sense of joy and fulfillment every time you interact with them.
By far the best example of this principle at work is Apple. Steve Jobs understood that in order to build an emotionally engaging brand, he had to combine his product’s features (otherwise known as rational triggers) with a story fuelled by emotional triggers.
He and his team accomplished this by painting the picture of a brand that allowed customers to become the best version of themselves with Apple products. Whether they are an artist, engineer, or stay-at-home mom, everyone can see themselves represented in each of Apple’s meticulously crafted marketing messages and, as a result, understands the ways each product will enrich their life. It’s this commitment to making their customers happy that has transformed Apple from another tech company to a world-class brand.
These positive images, combined with voice-overs that specifically speak to the emotional benefits of using Apple’s products, are extremely good at fostering feelings of joy that everyone wants to experience. It’s this type of community that has allowed Apple to dominate the tech industry for decades, with no signs of slowing down.
Trust is the foundation for any long-lasting relationship, including lasting customer loyalty. When your customers trust your brand, it means they see you as being transparent, sincere, and authentic. As one of the only emotions that can’t be faked, this sense of trust lays the groundwork for sustainable relationships that go beyond simply making a purchase. Your customers will choose to engage with you in whatever ways you offer because they know you have their best interests in mind.
Believe it or not, some customers still perceive shopping online as a risky process. Displaying your brand personality shows your customers that you’re more than just a nameless, faceless store on the internet. This redefines your brand-to-customer relationships in a way that makes you more human, more relatable, and more trustworthy.
Develop a brand personality
When customers discover your brand for the first time, it’s just like introducing yourself to a new person. How you choose to present yourself will have a huge impact on whether they want to engage with you again, and since you want them to like you that’s pretty important.
Luckily, there are a lot of things you can do to make sure your customers are happy to have met you!
- Visuals — use lots of images to show your customers what being part of your brand community looks like. Use faces, bright colors, and dynamic composition to show customers how good it feels to be part of your community, and inspire them to get involved.
- Language — the way we talk has a huge impact on how people respond to us. This includes not only the words we use, but how we use them. Make your brand more human by choosing words and phrases that feel conversational, and keep your copy short and sweet. These considerations make you feel relatable and real, inspiring a sense of trust early on in your relationship with each customer.
- Packaging — whether you realize it or not, your customers care how you package your products. Paying attention to these types of details is a fantastic way to incorporate value-add marketing into your existing marketing strategy and let customers know that there are real people who care about them handling their purchases. If you want a great example of a strong brand personality at work, look no further than Spectrum. With a passion for unicorns, mermaids, and everything pink, Spectrum understands that their target customers have a passion for beauty, imagination, and anything that glitters. That’s why every touchpoint of their customer experience features each of these things with abundance.
From the products they sell to the additional content they put out, Spectrum’s voice as a brand is consistent, making them someone customers know they can trust. With a heavy presence on platforms like Instagram and YouTube, Spectrum has made themselves into that always there, always helpful beauty expert their customers know they can always turn to for advice, support, and inspiration.
People are easier to trust than technology. Introducing your customers to your brand through a strong brand personality is a great way to build trust right from the beginning.
As human beings, we are social creatures hardwired to avoid loneliness. This means that brands who can make us feel like part of a group are more appealing than those that focus on individual success or existence.
When you validate your customer’s decision to shop with your brand instead of a competitor’s, you create a space that makes them feel welcome and valued. These are the emotions that inspire a strong sense of community that can help your brand continue to grow.
By letting every new and returning customer know that they have a place as part of your brand’s story, you position yourself as a brand who truly cares about their customers — a feeling that everyone wants to be a part of.
Foster a strong brand community
The easiest and most effective way to give your customers that sense of belonging is to create a strong brand community around your core values. Your brand community cares about more than the products you sell, they care about the way you make them feel. It’s this ability to connect with like-minded individuals who share the same feelings that sets your brand apart from competitors.
There are many ways to start strengthening your brand community like rewarding customers for things like product reviews, testimonials, or referrals. This type of social proof is a powerful motivator in encouraging engagement with both your existing customers and new community members.
One of the best examples of the power of a brand community is semi-permanent tattoo brand, inkbox. Through their #TattoosforNow hashtag they celebrate the individuality of their customers by sharing the user-generated content on their homepage. In alignment with their value of inclusivity, this dedication to their customers’ self-expression shows their brand community just how much they truly value them.
With values such as acceptance, inclusivity, and support, inkbox treats their most loyal customers more like family. When joining their rewards program, members are welcomed into the inkfam with access to exclusive rewards. This level of customer dedication is the key to making customers feel like they belong to a community where they are valued.
Sometimes the best way to create an emotional connection with your customers is by connecting them with other customers.
Offer customers additional value with rewards
The idea of “value” has a lot to do with how willing customers are going to be to interact with your brand. Words like “free” can carry a lot of weight and inspire extremely positive feelings, which means you want to be delivering as much value as possible with every interaction.
While value-add marketing tactics like blog, video, or social content is a good start, rewards are by far the most effective way to motivate more purchase decisions for your brand. Not only do they excel in the joy and delight department, but they also allow you to establish a continuous cycle of reciprocity between you and your loyal customers.
When your customers know and believe that you’ll follow through on your promise to deliver more value, they’ll grow to trust you even more. This solidifies their decision to engage with you, drawing them deeper into your brand community and inspiring them to tell others about their positive experiences.
Inspiring the right emotions is the key to emotional marketing
No matter what you sell, your brand’s number one goal should be to make every customer feel emotionally connected to your brand. Knowing which emotions your customers desire is the first step in creating a loyal brand community that will stick with you.
Creating a strong brand narrative, a loyal brand community, and a distinct brand personality, can create positive emotional relationships that encourage every customer to turn their experiences into emotional marketing fire. Implementing a rewards program on top of this is the best way to leverage the joy, trust and belonging you’ve instilled in your customers. When customers share their experiences with others, they make positive connections that create a ripple effect back to your brand — a ripple effect whose payoff is unbreakable, sustainable growth.
All it takes to start is a smile.