3 Ways to Ignite the Spark of Emotional Engagement in Your Customers

March 09, 2017

Do you want your customers to feel emotionally engaged with your brand? Of course you do. Neuroscientists have proven, through fMRI brain-imaging studies, that emotions have a very strong impact on brand choice. Whether you’re in retail, travel, automotive or some other consumer-facing industry, emotional engagement also plays a critical role in customer retention.

But have you been able to define a marketing strategy to increase emotional engagement? One that can be linked to measurable results such as higher customer satisfaction scores and customer lifetime value? If that’s still a work in progress for you, maybe it’s time to try a scientific approach. 

A Scientific Approach to Emotional Engagement

A recent article in Harvard Business Review, “The New Science of Customer Emotions,” laid out three strategic elements: motivators, pathways and activators.

First, you need to determine which emotional motivators your brand should aim to activate, based on analysis of your category’s most valuable customers. A travel brand, for example, might find their customers are most inspired to act (purchase) when they feel a sense of freedom or thrill. An apparel retailer’s customers, on the other hand, could be most strongly motivated by feelings of belonging or living up to their ideal self-image. (You can find a variety of consultants who specialize in this type of analysis.)

Next, you need to decide which of your customers to target. The emotional engagement pathway has four steps: from (1) unconnected to (2) highly satisfied to (3) perceiving brand differentiation to (4) fully engaged. You’ll get the highest return by focusing on existing customers who are satisfied with your brand but not yet fully engaged. (To develop this customer segmentation, you’ll need a customer database with an array of online and offline metrics of engagement, such as website visits and purchases.)

Fully engaged customers are, on average, 52% more valuable than those who are just highly satisfied.

The third critical element of your emotional engagement strategy is, of course, marketing activation. There are, obviously, many different ways to make your marketing more emotionally engaging. But when the target audience is your existing customers, every strategy must include one foundational element, and that’s customer recognition. When a customer entrusts you with their identity — e.g., by signing up for your loyalty program, registering on your website or giving you their email address when they make a purchase — that creates certain expectations. The customer reasonably expects to be recognized at every brand touchpoint and to be treated specially based on their history with your brand.

It is technically complicated to quickly and correctly identify a given customer whenever they appear at any of your brand’s many digital and physical touchpoints, including your owned channels (websites, apps, emails, etc.), paid digital advertising channels, physical stores and customer service centers. And, on top of that, to integrate everything you know about this customer from their online and offline interactions with your brand – both real-time and historical – into one unified profile that is up-to-the-minute complete. Yet having this instantly-accessible single view of your customer has become a prerequisite for creating the kind of seamless, contextually relevant and emotionally engaging brand experiences that today’s consumers expect.

The technology to solve this problem is called an enterprise-wide customer identity solution. It enables your brand to continuously recognize each individual customer at every touchpoint. And to use everything you know about them — their entire online and offline history with your brand, not just their latest web page visit — to customize a more memorable and engaging marketing interaction. And to do this across all marketing channels and devices, from websites to apps to ads to emails. An enterprise-wide customer identity solution has become a requirement for the kind of omnichannel contextual marketing that today’s consumers expect.

Put the Principles into Practice

Now it’s time to put these principles into practice. What should your brand be doing to increase emotional engagement with your existing customers, to move them from satisfied users to enthusiastic promoters of your brand? It’s like starting a great campfire. Start with tinder: defining the emotions you want to evoke. Stack on some wood: the segment of satisfied users you want to target. And apply identity-based marketing to ignite the spark and keep the fire roaring.

Kathy Menis

Kathy is an expert in technology marketing, with 20 years of experience creating and leading strategic, results-driven marketing programs. As SVP of Marketing at Signal, she oversees all marketing initiatives, including the company’s brand, product marketing, and go-to-market strategy.