Customer Strategy

What’s the value of emotional loyalty?

Brand love isn’t just a marketing cliché; it’s key to lasting consumer-brand relationships.

by Edwina Dunn, Starcount
2 minute read

At dunnhumby (the customer science company I co-founded), we pioneered the idea that previous shopping behaviour is predictive of future purchases; or, in other words, what you did directly relates to what you will do. However, this theory is only effective in relation to a small portion of consumer purchases. Supermarkets have a high success rate with this approach; after all, humans need to eat! We tend to shop regularly for the same groceries in the same locations, leaving a trail of transaction data that’s relatively easy to follow. For other industries, however, it’s not quite so straightforward. The average retailer only sees their customer around a maximum of 5-6 times a year. What’s more, the digital age has turned the world into a beautiful bazaar of options and opportunities, with consumers being spoiled for choice in every possible category. With so many possibilities on the table, how do brands begin to predict customer behaviour?

Don’t rest on functional loyalty

The answer lies in emotional loyalty. Traditional measurement methods focus on functional loyalty: that is to say, a customer returning to a particular brand again and again for practical reasons. Our relationship with supermarkets tend to fall into this category - popping into your local Tesco Express on the way home from work, for example. Emotional loyalty, however, is only achieved when a customer feels that a brand corresponds with their passions, values and ideals. Does it support a particular charity you care about, for example, or produce eco-friendly products? You only have to look at Apple for an idea of this: the brand has done a great job of aligning itself with a trendy, personal and aspirational lifestyle, so much so that customers queue around the block whenever a new product is launched.

Emotional loyalty is especially valuable in the modern, social media-driven world, where consumers can cultivate ‘Brand Me’. Consumers are becoming savvier and more self-aware, actively choosing how they want to be perceived and chasing brands, products and experiences that reinforce the feeling of “It’s very me”.

Your customers can’t be stereotyped

If brands want to encourage emotional loyalty, not to mention tempt their loyal customers towards new products and trends, they need to understand that their customers’ motivations for engaging with them may not always be predictable or straightforward. Take the emerging trend for electric cars. An automotive brand launching a new electric model may reasonably assume that their safest bet would be to tap into the eco audience, emphasising the environmentally-friendly properties of the vehicle as its strongest selling point. However, a recent Starcount study of the UK electric car audience reveals that different consumer groups have diverse motivations for becoming interested in this emerging automotive trend. While electric cars are widely associated with an eco-friendly lifestyle, only 14% of the UK audience have moved towards this mode of transport for environmental reasons. Instead, a passion for technology is by far the most popular motivation for exploring electric cars (true for 56% of the audience), while a general love of motoring is a secondary motivation (true for 30%). By focusing purely on clean-living consumers, then, an automotive brand risks missing out the majority, tech-savvy audience. A brand that’s truly informed about their customers’ differing passions can tailor their marketing to accommodate them and conjure up that special, personalised feeling that is the lynchpin of brand love.

Customer motivations are key to brand love

Different things matter to different people. Blanket advertising runs the risk of striking at the heart of some consumers, while alienating others. By understanding and tapping into consumers’ genuine passions, aspirations and motivations, brands can forge lasting emotional connections with consumers. Whether it’s a start-up or an established conglomerate, any brand that truly understands and caters to the needs and desires of their customers will be a step closer to achieving emotional loyalty and will feel numerous positive effects.

KPMG and Starcount are working together to help organisations create sales growth and competitive advantage by knowing their customers better than anyone else.

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