All marketers want to strike an emotional chord with consumers, which is why so often we see ads with children and puppies, or commercials where the adult son returns home to surprise mom on her birthday. The general consensus is, though fleeting and situational, the emotions these communications elicit drive consumer behavior.
While every psychologist will agree that emotions play a huge role in consumer purchasing behavior, can we really assume that they’re fleeting? And is it enough for an ad to be generally emotional, or do specific emotions prompt different behaviors in different people?
To find out, Motista looked at consumer behavior over a two-year period. Specifically, we indexed the level of emotional connection to buying behavior of more than 100,000 U.S.-based consumers across more than 100 brands. We then compared the behavior — spend level, lifetime value, brand loyalty, and advocacy — of consumers who were emotionally connected to a brand or product category to people who were merely satisfied customers.
The data was enlightening for several reasons. First, we learned the emotions that affect consumer behavior are very consistent and predictive — i.e., they’re not likely to change over the course of a person’s lifetime, and when a precise emotion is activated in a person, a specific behavior is likely. In other words, behaviors may be impulse-based, but the motivations that drive those behaviors are predictable and consistent because they’re directly connected to a deep underlying emotion.
Second, customers who feel emotionally connected to a brand or category are more valuable than those who are simply satisfied. For instance, they spend up to 2x or more with their preferred retailers, and have, on average, 306 percent higher lifetime value. They’ll stay with a brand an average of 5.1 years (compared to 3.4 years of satisfied customers), and recommend brands at much higher rates (30.2 percent vs. 7.6 percent).
Third, marketers and agencies approach the concept of emotions with broad brushstrokes when precision is required. As people, we feel a wide variety of emotions, all of which are tied to how our brains are wired. There's not just a single emotion that drives customer loyalty, prompts a consumer to purchase another product, or forward information about a brand to a friend. In fact, there's a whole taxonomy of emotions, and marketers can move the needle for their companies once they know which ones drive the exact behavior desired.
What are the implications of these insights to marketers? First, emotional connection is a strong motivator of behavior because consumers will connect their values, desires or aspirations to a brand or product category. These connections often reside in the unconscious and are not overtly acknowledged. And because they're predictive and consistent, leveraging them is the most effective long-term strategy for retailers.
For instance, just about every retailer has a loyalty program, and most offer an incentive (e.g., dollars off, percentages off, extra bonus points, etc.) to entice sign-ups. How many will never use the program or visit the retailer again once they’ve benefited from that one-time promotion?
Now contrast this with a loyalty program in which new members are recruited based on an underlying set of emotions rather than a one-time deal. Such consumers will have a lower acquisition cost and are likely to have a higher lifetime value for your brand.
The value of emotional connection isn’t theoretical; it’s quantifiable. The data clearly show that emotionally connected customers spend more, stay with brands longer, and recommend them at higher rates. And because these emotions are consistent and predictable, marketers can use them as a foundation to develop sustainable customer acquisition and retention strategies.
Michael Mathias is the president of Motista, a provider of predictive emotional connection intelligence solutions for acquisition and growth.
Related story: 3 Tactics for Understanding the Modern Consumer