Whether you’re an Italian restaurant, a vendor of smartphones, an organic grocery store, or a women’s fashion outlet, something about your brand needs to gain the long-term favour of its consumer base in order to be successful.
Sure, it’s important to provide a service where customers ultimately find what they’re looking for. But they will – whether it’s from your brand or not.
Customers can probably travel within a few miles or go online and find another business elsewhere that has what they want or need. And there’s no reason not to, because it’s just a transaction – an emotionless exchange of money for goods or services that can be completed anywhere.
Customers won’t return to you if they’re not invested in your brand.
What’s the difference between simply completing a transaction and forming a long-term relationship with a customer? How can your brand gain an invested consumer base? How can you make your brand a haven? Well, outside of selling excellent products and having incredible customer service, the answer to these questions is surprisingly simple.
Establish an emotional benefit to your brand.
What makes us watch our favourite films over and over again? Our desire to invoke the same emotions we felt the last time we watched it.
There’s a sense of security in knowing that what we’re about to watch is definitely something we’re going to enjoy. And the same goes for a brand.
We feel a sense of comfort in buying from a brand that has made us feel positive emotions in the past.
That’s why a person’s emotions are the most important factor when deciding whether to buy from a brand or not. Once we’ve found a comfort zone – once we’ve found our haven – why leave it? Why would we risk going somewhere else?
So, what makes people feel emotionally invested in my brand?
Jim Joseph’s article on entrepreneur.com perfectly summarises what it is that separates a brand in which customers are emotionally invested from those in which they aren’t.
“Customers don’t necessarily remember what you do for them as much as they remember how you made them feel.”
What brands have to do specifically to achieve this will vary depending on the type of business they run and their intended audience. But there are a number of key elements that will always apply. For example:
- Making your brand feel human.
- Forming relationships.
- Consumer identity.
- Care about your customers.
How can I humanise my brand?
Portray your product or service in a way that is relatable; in a way that feels real; in a way the average consumer can connect with it.
Humans all have core values, a few of which include family, friends, having a social life, and the desire for relaxation and taking a break. These values are all associated with comfort, inclusiveness, and enjoyment – feelings we actively seek out in life and create a haven for us. Your brand should represent these values.
Let’s look at T.G.I Fridays, for example.
Their brand’s appeal is not a one-of-a-kind menu, because let’s face it: chicken wings, burgers, and ribs are not exclusive to them.
The feeling of indulging in some good food while surrounded by family or friends in a social, guilt-free environment is an innately human, emotional desire. The feelings that Fridays bring as they usher in the weekend – a time when people can relax and socialise – is represented by their brand, and appeals to people’s emotional desires.
It makes consumers feel good to be eating there – the environment creates a buzz. So when they next think about eating out, they’ll want to capture these positive feelings again. They’ll return to T.G.I. Fridays, the haven in which they can do so. They become emotionally invested.
How can my brand form relationships?
People are, for the most part, social beings. The relationships we construct with other people are important to us and we don’t abandon them easily.
Your brand should build strong relationships with customers. Make them feel like they’re a part of a family or community. This will make them feel emotionally invested in your brand and not only willing, but also eager to use your services again, because they receive gratification from maintaining a positive relationship. This also contributes to humanising your brand.
Social media is an excellent way to do this. Whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, talking to and communicating with your customers without the sole purpose of marketing your service or product is a great way to connect with them on an emotional level.
Countless brands, big and small, build their brand through social media because it’s an opportunity to show customers that there are humans – who value their values – behind the brand.
Customers will feel confident in and trusting of your brand as a result. They’ll feel like they can easily open up to you and chat if they ever needed to, which transforms your brand into a comfort zone: a haven.
Consumer identity: how does it help make my brand a haven?
A person’s identity is important to them. Their opinions, their preferences, their routines – these factors and so many more all define who they are. And people don’t like to have their identity stifled.
Therein lies a great opportunity to effectively gain customer’s loyalty and make them feel attached to your brand. Recognise their individuality. Personalise their purchase.
An excellent example of this is Starbuck’s ‘Name on a Cup’.
Anyone who’s been to Starbucks within the past couple of years will remember ordering a latte or hot chocolate and being asked by the server behind the counter for their name. It seems like such a small, insignificant addition to the transaction, but it makes a huge difference to the way they experience their order and perceive the Starbucks brand.
The intention is clear: by referring to you by name, they want to make your purchase feel more personalised and inclusive of you as a person.
The customer is no longer a reference number or simply a transaction. They’re a person. And the person will recognise that the brand recognises that.
This makes them feel respected and validated as an individual.
This makes them feel emotionally invested in their order and in the brand, with whom they have now started to build a relationship.
The brand will now feel like a place where they belong; somewhere in which they’ve personally invested themselves. It’s a haven: a place in which they feel secure and comfortable in their identity. And they’ll much prefer to return to a place that invokes this feeling as opposed to another coffee shop where they are simply referred to as a latte, decaf.
Make customers see and feel that you care.
I’m a huge lover of Chinese and Japanese cuisine. The experience I had at one restaurant I dined at is a perfect example of why the emotional benefit of a brand is so significant.
The ambience was wonderful – it was dripping with Japanese culture. Prices were reasonable, the dishes available were varied, and the food was some of the nicest I’ve had amongst the numerous Chinese and Japanese restaurants I’ve eaten at. But each time I went, the staff were notably disinterested. Their body language seemed closed and they rarely ever smiled.
I felt like I was a bother to them – like serving me was a chore.
They never made an effort to see if I was enjoying my experience or even make conversation at given opportunities. It felt like my service was just another transaction to them.
Suffice to say, I never returned and have no desire to. And in big city centres like the ones I live near, there’s no shortage of restaurants that serve a plate of fried rice or bowl of ramen with a side of sushi.
Their service was perfectly adequate: the food was great, the service swift, and the payment process easy. But as Joseph said, it’s less about what brands do and more about how they make you feel.