Dear Dr. Jay,
What’s love got to do with it?
The path to brand loyalty is often like the path to wedded bliss. You begin by evaluating tangible attributes to determine if the brand is the best fit for you. After repeated purchase occasions, you form an emotional bond to the brand that goes beyond those tangible attributes. As researchers, when we ask folks why they purchase a brand, they often reflect on performance attributes and mention those as drivers of purchase. But, to really understand the emotional bond, we need to ask how you feel when you interact with the brand.
We recently developed a way to measure this emotional bond (Net Positive Emotion Score - NPES). By asking folks how they felt on their most recent interaction, we’re able to determine respondents’ emotional bond with products. Typical regression tools indicate that the emotional attributes are about as predictive of future behavior as the functional benefits of the product. This leads us to believe that at some point in your pattern of consumption, you become bonded to the product and begin to act on emotion—rather than rational thoughts. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t rate the performance dimensions of the products you buy.
Loyalty is a behavior, and behaviors are often driven by underlying attitudinal measures. You might continue to purchase the same product over and over for a variety of reasons. In a perfect world, you not only create a behavioral commitment, but also an emotional bond with the brand and, ultimately, the company. Typically, we measure this path by looking at the various stages you go through when purchasing products. This path begins with awareness, evolves through familiarity and consideration, and ultimately ends with purchase. Once you’ve purchased a product, you begin to evaluate how well it delivers on the brand promise. At some point, the hope is that you become an advocate for the brand since advocacy is the pinnacle of the brand purchase hierarchy.
As part of our Consumer Pulse program, we used our EMPACT℠: Emotional Impact Analysis tool to measure consumers’ emotional bond (NPES) with 30 brands across 6 categories. How well does this measure impact other key metrics? On average, Net Promoters score almost 70 points higher on the NPES scale versus Net Detractors. We see similar increases in likelihood to continue (or try), proud to use, willingness to pay more, and “I love this brand.”
What does this mean? It means that measuring the emotional bond your customers have with your brand can provide key insights into the strength of that brand. Not only do you need to win on the performance attributes, but you also need to forge a deep bond with your buyers. That is a better way to brand loyalty, and it should positively influence your bottom line. You have to win their hearts—not just their minds.
Dr. Jay Weiner is CMB’s senior methodologist and VP of Advanced Analytics. He has a strong emotional bond with his wife of 25 years and several furry critters who let him sleep in their bed.