Emotional engagement is the new holy grail of marketing today, contributing more to customer loyalty and profitability than many other factors.
That is the key finding of the 17th annual Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, put out by Brand Keys, a brand, customer loyalty, and engagement consulting firm.
"The rule of thumb should be to view the purchase decision-making process as more emotional than rational," says Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys. The breakdown today is roughly 70 percent emotional and 30 percent rational, he adds.
Passikoff defines emotional engagement as anything that the brand does or stands for that elevates it beyond competitors when all other factors, such as product quality, product placement, price, and promotions, are basically the same.
"I don't care that the company has made a name for itself. If you don't stand for something in my mind, you're just another commodity," he says. "You have to move me to where I think you're going to meet my needs and expectations better than anyone else."
Emotional engagement also has an element of personalization, Passikoff says. "Can I personalize the brand to fit my lifestyle?"
As an example, Passikoff notes that increased expectations in personalization and a sense of enhanced personal productivity in the smartphone category contributed to Samsung's triumph over Apple.
With the prevalence of smartphones and tablets today, consumers have access to all the information in the world about particular brands and products, and can talk to other users of those products via social media. Brands can even take part in those conversations, but there needs to be more to create that emotional connection, according to Passikoff.
"It's not just about creating a buzz, because a buzz can be positive or negative," he says.
A big mistake companies make in trying to connect with customers on an emotional level is confusing entertainment with engagement, Passikoff maintains. "Super Bowl ads that try to get a laugh, giggle, or tweet do not necessarily move people to the idea that this is a product they should try. If I'm watching [the ad] and I'm not moved to buy the product, the ad has failed," he says.
"Advertising and promotion [do] drive consumer behavior, but no matter how entertaining the ad, it's extraordinarily less powerful than being able to leverage the emotional aspects of the product and service," Passikoff says. "If all you stand for is shampoo, you've become a product placeholder whose name people know, but [they] don't know [you] for anything in particular, and [you have] no advantage in the marketplace."