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Catching feelings – Emotional Loyalty

Those who have worked closely with me know how passionate I get when terms like Customers, Loyalty and their unison come up! It is one of those unique avenues of data & analytics which is very human, giving and rich in learnings about who we are and how we evolve. I was recently taking a session when someone probed a great question, “The execs we’re in talks with believe investing in building a Loyalty program is not of return at this point. They already are the ONE in their industry and geography. They have numbers and forecasts to prove the same.”

How do you explain Loyalty in a word to that person who is so tunnel-visioned on commercial benefits?

Can’t recollect why, but my subconscious self just blurted out, “It’s an emotion, if you wanted your business to have a heart, you’d invest.” Seems very philosophical and non-measurable isn’t it? Well, that’s Loyalty in any realm of human life, it is not just another KPI, it is an emotion. Emotions that drive your KPIs, so as insignificant as they may appear on surface, it is a very deep-rooted concept.

Let me break it down. Broadly, there are 3 types of Loyalty (you can vouch for more, because perspectives matter!)

  • Behavioral Loyalty: I buy eggs every week. Do not care about the brand (Cage-free? Probably yes, but that’s more of trying to act like a self-proclaimed righteous person I guess). I repeat it every week, there’s no alternative unless I stop eating eggs or turn a vegan some day I reckon? Same goes for avocados that go really well with it as you can imagine!
  • Cognitive Loyalty: Is this value for money!? What’s the discount I’m getting or the points I’m earning to redeem for something else. Is it a good deal? Instantly nos start running through your head, you feel smart on the savings! Need I explain more?
  • Emotional Loyalty: This one as it suggests is about emotions, the stories, mission…. It has the heart and mind attached to it. Apple, Disney, Nike, Coke….. you get the picture.

What is it about human emotions ?

They’re complicated (and beautiful). It has elements of relatability, reciprocity, reassurance, realization, reminiscence, relapse…. I could just go on and on with more Rs. Trust me that is not the magic letter, just comes to my mind at this very moment. Told you, it’s complicated, it’s human! What is not so complicated is finding the correct drivers of emotions for your brand/business.

I found this framework of high value motivators pretty interesting and agreeable.

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Satisfied vs emotionally connected customers

Having satisfied customers is cool, but do you know what’s cooler? Having emotionally connected customers. It is not a prophecy or propaganda, it is proven via research. Take an example of this one from HBR. The emotionally connected customers were 52% more valuable than those that were highly satisfied.

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Knowing emotional connections and putting them to work are two very different things!

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The latter requires work and deep thought! Probably, also the tougher way, and hence the age-old question – what and when can I expect as an ROI? The answer is simple: their Loyalty, now and later!

So the question now is – The Brain or the Heart?

I would love for it to be a 0/1 situation. Then again, we’re talking Loyalty! The origin, concept and value is very native to human life and not a robot. Discovery, derivation, implementation and, learning is the way! It has to be a right mix of emotion, cognition and behaviors.

  1. Identify key emotional motivators and their interactions
  2. Use them across your key business functions and problems they are solving
  3. Identify OKRs across each and solve for it

The function and results of collective efforts = Loyalty!

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Now I wouldn’t unfurl the actual solutions, would I? (Some of it pays my bills and if I were that big of an expert, I’d probably be running my own company). Jokes apart, it is subjective to the situation and problem at hand.

I’ve built some successful solutions, learned from some failed ones but one thing is common amid all – the emotion and it’s derivatives play a major role in the results. Each case is different, yet interconnected.

What I can tell you for sure is that, data may never lie, but it also cannot emote or tell a story by itself. Humans do. The cutting edge ML targeting algorithms and analytics systems and processes might be able to accurately predict purchase patterns but not how they feel. After all, we’re still creating products, services and brands for humans are we not?

Quick tip; if you’re really interested in creating an emotional brand, give a hug to your D&A and Customer Research teams, place them side by side and let them do their magic! Customer research is not just surveys and NPS, it is a voice. Your campaign analytics can get biased due to a variety of reasons, if I as a customer am angry with your brand, I’m angry – because that’s an emotion!

Pratik Saurav
Author: Pratik Saurav

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