Beyond Customer Loyalty: Building Emotional Attachment to Your Brand

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In a culture driven by consumerism, it makes sense that many of us have attachments to products and brands that goes beyond simple preference. Maybe it’s a cleaning product brand that you trust because your mom swore by its efficacy, and even though newer products with lots of hype have tried to sway your devotion, you figure if it was good enough for the woman who kept your childhood home spotless, it’s good enough for you. Maybe it’s a product that gives you a deep sense of comfort because you’ve used it since childhood. Kleenex brand tissues recently reported that one of their consistently best-selling products are the tissues that have the Vicks Vapo-Rub scent added to them, a success that their research suggests is simply because Generation X has strong “sense memories” of being cared for and feeling protected when they inhale that telltale menthol scent.

What do these two examples have in common? They’re both significant examples of brand attachment in action. Today’s marketing strategist has devoted a decent part of their strategy and marketing budget to creating customer loyalty, and there’s no denying that investing in customer fidelity via a meaningful customer experience is a smart play. After all, consumers still rate a personalized customer journey as the most important component for creating brand devotion.

Recently however, some marketing experts are wondering if there are some other factors to consider when building a Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) strategy. A study published in Applied Psychology Today conducted by a team of sociological and consumerism experts revealed a potential gap in the roadmap, one where emotional attachment to a brand can play an even greater role in the formation of consumer loyalty.

What does that mean? In short if a customer associates a positive emotional connection to your brand, their loyalty to it runs deeper, making it that much harder for a competing brand to win over. If you can effectively build a positive emotional bridge between you and your customers, you can engender a symbiotic relationship that boosts CLV and grows your overall audience share. Understanding what brand attachment is and how to create it can be a major boon to your overall marketing strategy.

What is Brand Attachment?

You’ve probably heard of the terms brand engagement, brand development, and brand loyalty; but have you heard of brand attachment? And how does brand attachment differ from brand loyalty?

In a recent study published in Ad Age, brand attachment was defined as “the emotional connection between humans and brands.” Thus, just as people can be attached to a person, they can also – by and for a host of reasons – become attached to a brand. 

Whereas brand loyalty may be somewhat superficial, brand attachment goes much deeper. According to the McKinsey Group, there are 3 components to creating brand attachment:

1. Affection

2. Connection

3. Passion

So how do you develop these 3 emotional connections in your customers? Let’s look at a brand like Crocs, those rubber clogs that have become a staple in many a millennials wardrobe.

Crocs embraced what was different about them and ran with it. Yes, they weren’t the most empirically attractive shoes on earth. But they were practical, comfortable, durable, and most of all, colorful. Their willingness to celebrate what made them unique created interest and an affection in their customer base.

By living up to their brand promise that they were both comfortable and durable (Crocs offers a 2-year warranty on all their clogs), they let proved both their worth and their value to customers, which inspires connection.

Finally, the Crocs brand has a demonstrated commitment to sustainability. When some pundits raised concerns about the rubber products that Crocs used in their shoes, Crocs announced their plans to become Net Zero by 2030, meaning that none of their products would be made with carbon by the year 2030. They also announced their initiative to donate over 1 million pairs of shoes to countries in need by 2022. This commitment to global stewardship inspires real Passion in Crocs aficionados and demonstrates that Crocs knows their customer base.

A large portion of Crocs customer base is comprised of individuals who have a passion and commitment to a living a more sustainable lifestyle, and by echoing this commitment at a corporate level, Crocs becomes a brand that inspires true emotional attachment in their target audience.

When these three emotions are in play, it is highly likely that there is brand attachment. It may be an indirect influence on the brand, but it is a strong influence. More than brand loyalty, brand attachment almost becomes a part of you.

How Does Marketing Foster Brand Attachment?

Whatever it is that attracts you to a brand in the first place most likely has to do with the way PR and advertising have served up the content, as well as what other competitors in the market are doing. In this exposure to PR campaigns and ads, you are then brought into what McKinsey calls the “virtuous circle of brand attachment.” There are three specific phases for the brand, which follow along this path. From each of these, it leads to the other:

Advertising & Marketing to – -> Brand Attachment to – -> Financial Performance

Thus, if you are attached to a brand like the aforementioned Crocs, it follows that by buying Crocs repeatedly, their financial performance improves. Multiply that by millions and your bottom line is happily shored up by engaged, repeat, ATTACHED customers.

What are the advantages of Brand Attachment over Brand Loyalty?

The good thing for brands and companies is that consumers with strong brand attachments influence other people around them. So, in this sense, there are brand advocates that develop from their strong brand attachments. These fans or followers of the brand are not only becoming fans or followers to stay, but they also bring their friends along, increasing the customer base for the company. They are true brand advocates, going beyond brand loyalty. Highly attached consumers are more motivated to devote their own resources, devoting more time to the brand through brand communities and brand promotion using social media.

Bottom line on Brand Attachment

Find out what your customers’ passions, connections and affections are. Inform your overall marketing strategy with emotional appeals to your customers. Personalizing the customer journey is still incredibly important but finding opportunities to build emotional bridges with your customers and create messaging that resonates on a deeper level will help drive your customers to a deeper, more sustainable level of connectivity to your brand – not just showing loyalty, but true attachment.

If you have yet to begin utilizing Zero-Party Data, Customer Loyalty or Insight Marketing Platforms to boost your customer engagement and overall customer lifetime value (CLV), then it’s time you begin implementing this next wave of technology into your marketing strategy. Contact the team at Group FiO today to find out more. Click here to arrange a meeting.