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Building Brand Intimacy: How to Emotionally Connect With Customers

Julie Thompson

An emotional connection can make all the difference when a customer is deciding to buy.

Emotions are the driving force behind most buying decisions. According to the Small Business Administration, "creating strong emotions – either positive or negative – can help build a bond between your customers and your business," which is a goal all businesses share. In addition, positive emotions are vital to an excellent retail customer experience as a loyal customer is more likely to recommend your company than a one-time customer.

What is brand intimacy?

Brand intimacy is a deep emotional connection between a business and its customers. This marketing model involving a focus on emotions can establish how customers make purchase decisions and become long-time fans of a particular brand.

Brand intimacy should not be confused with brand loyalty. While brand loyalty is defined by loyalty incentives, rewards, or a person's favorite brand, brand intimacy is solely how a customer "feels" about a brand.

Bottom LineBottom Line: Brand intimacy encourages bonds that are reciprocal and are deepened by emotions. The user must have engaged with or repeatedly tried a brand before a connection is expected.

Brand intimacy model

A strong emotional connection is determined by the degree of overall positive feelings a customer has toward a brand and the extent to which a person associates the brand with critical attributes. Some of the patterns or markers of such intimacy are fulfillment (when your brand delivers service exceeding expectations), identity, nostalgia, indulgence, ritual and enhancement.

Various stages reveal the degrees of brand intimacy with customers: Sharing is when the user and a brand engage and interact. In the bonding stage, acceptance and trust are established when an attachment is created, and the relationship between a user and a brand becomes more significant and committed. Finally, fusing is when a person and a brand are inexorably linked and co-identified. The identities of the person and the brand have merged and become a form of mutual expression.

Marketing agency MBLM developed a model, which measures brand level intimacy and assigns a brand intimacy quotient. The first step is connecting with customers by building strong emotional ties. Then, by investing in any of the six archetypes or characters of bonds, brand intimacy can be achieved.

  1. Fulfillment: Meeting a customer's needs beyond their expectations can position your brand as one that over-delivers.

  2. Identity: Creating an aspirational image that resonates deeply with consumers. Customers identify as a group and feel the brand represents them.

  3. Enhancement: Helping customers become better, smarter and more capable through using your brand. Your brand reputation is reinforced and makes consumers even more connected to your brand.

  4. Ritual: Making your brand part of the daily routine of your readers. Think of the blog that you read daily and consider how you feel about the brand. Certainly, the connection is far more intimate than a blog you visit randomly.

  5. Nostalgia: Evoking the memories customers have of your brand is a sure way to make the connection deeper. If a brand had been part of a customer's childhood, it could be particularly effective.

  6. Indulgence: Creating a relationship around fun and gratifying experiences. Consider your to-do activities in your moments of bliss and reflect on the brands in which you have interactions.

Did you know?Did you know? A business must exceed expectations by investing in one or more of the six archetypes or characters of bonds to reach a solid emotional connection between the brand and customers.

Best practices for small businesses

1. Practice empathy.

One of the easiest ways to connect with your customers is to read body language, ask questions, pay attention and offer straightforward solutions at any point of contact. However, if consumers feel you are not invested enough in solving their problems, it is impossible to form an authentic relationship between business and customer.

2. Be authentic.

The best way to send a brand to oblivion is to lose it in a sea of sameness. Gone are the days when outlandish corporate-speak was the trade of the market. Instead, today's consumers expect a brand to connect with them in an intuitively human way. Doing this means finding and pushing your brand's uniqueness in non-intrusive ways.

FYIFYI: An example of this is the #LiveOutside ad created by Jansport regarding the outdoor culture showcasing street artists painting bare walls in cities worldwide and posting on JanSport's social media channels.

3. Identify what drives the customers.

The Harvard Business Review details 10 emotional motivators for customers. Zeroing in on what emotionally motivates your target market helps nurture an emotional connection. As an example, many customers may want to be perceived as unique and special. Marketing efforts, in this case, should be highly personalized, with associates making themselves readily available to meet client needs.

4. Show your caring side.

During critical moments in our history, companies that act tone-deaf can be a significant turnoff to customers looking for an emotional connection with their brands. Brands don't have to become political, but they do want to demonstrate their human sides. Participating in relief efforts or donating to disaster recovery efforts are just two examples.

5.  Connect whenever possible.

When interacting with customers, always put yourself in their shoes. What's important to them? How can you talk in their "language"? Be willing to connect with customers both in person and through outlets like social media.

6.  Tell stories.

If you look at the six archetypes the MLBM study identifies, you will find that it would be nearly impossible for a brand to score for any of those points without solid storytelling. Timepiece brands use storytelling to build strong traditions around their products. No matter how big or small or the brand is, we see storytelling playing a pivotal role in building brand intimacy.

7.  Maintain client relationships with a dedicated CRM.

The more customers you acquire, the harder it is to have a one-on-one connection with each of them. As it is nearly impossible to spend the time manually keeping track of all of the details, investing in a dedicated CRM (customer relationship management) can keep you connected with your customers.

The best CRM software can automatically track customer data, interactions and even shopping habits. You can segment your customers to send targeted offers, track social media interactions, and use reporting to identify your VIP customers.

8.  Lead Nurturing

While it's essential to build relationships and engage your current customers, nurturing leads should also have priority. Quality leads should receive personalized communication, automated drip emails based on their buyer journey and lead scoring. Incorporating targeted efforts for qualified leads can help you turn potential customers into repeat customers.

9.  Connect with your community

With the necessity of online business, business owners can forget about engaging with their local communities. However, investing time and resources locally can pay off big. From partnering with neighboring businesses to joining a local business organization and sharing your skills, connecting with your community can bring in revenue often with less effort than traditional advertising campaigns.

10.  Offer customer service through social channels

With all of the options customers have in today's market, it is critical to have superior customer service. Consumers are more likely to become repeat customers with companies in which they had experienced excellent customer service.

Providing multiple customer service options can help answer questions 24/7. For example, consider adding live chat, phone, email automation and employees to monitor and respond quickly to social media comments.

Image Credit: Dean Drobot / Shutterstock
Julie Thompson
business.com Contributing Writer
Julie Thompson is a professional content writer who has worked with a diverse group of professional clients, including online agencies, tech startups and global entrepreneurs. Julie has also written articles covering current business trends, compliance, and finance.