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Drive participation and foster emotional loyalty through shared values

Denise Holt

Denise Holt

Differentiation is key for brands looking to stand out in a crowded market and connect with consumers who are often overwhelmed by the demands of an always-on world. More than ever, consumers want to feel their purchases align with their personal values and beliefs, and even make things better for their larger community. This desire for meaning and purpose drives a shift toward more personalized human connections between brands and consumers.

According to our proprietary research, over 80% of consumers say a brand’s values and beliefs are important to them. This means brands must show up in ways that resonate with consumers on a deeper level in order to be relevant, ignite participation, and fuel emotional loyalty.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought about a greater level of introspection for consumers. The result is an increased focus on what is truly important and a desire for experiences that are tailored to individual needs and preferences. Brands that provide this personalized engagement will be well-positioned to connect with customers in more meaningful ways that strengthen loyalty.

Lean into shared values and beliefs

As brands look to leverage shared values and beliefs to elevate their relationship with consumers within formalized loyalty structures or to connect with consumers more broadly beyond the program, consider these key points.

Be authentic

This is a critical component of building an emotional connection between brands and consumers. Our research shows that 57% of consumers say it matters to them if a brand is authentic. Brands that show up in ways that feel true to their values and beliefs will resonate with consumers and engender trust. Consumers also expect brands to be transparent and honest in their approach—and our research shows that consumers rank honesty as their most important value.

Perform an audit

Brands need to know their values and beliefs and communicate them clearly to consumers. This starts with figuring out what their values truly are and if the beliefs they go to market with are the natural outflow of those values. Is there a true alignment between the two? Do both resonate with the brand’s target audience? Does the loyalty program—and any partnerships and related experiences—reflect those same values?

Prioritize thoughtful communication

Our research confirms that consumers view brands that communicate their values as authentic. Identifying core values and making them clear to consumers through a holistic communications strategy will drive connection and mitigate some of the impacts of evolving expectations. Once the brand has the right foundation, it is important to build out a communications strategy that conveys those values and beliefs in ways that are both authentic to the brand and relevant to the audience. This holds true for any marketing communications but particularly so when communicating with loyalty members who often want to feel recognized for their brand fidelity.

Educate and empower your team

Teach them about the brand’s values and beliefs, and how they need to be modeled in every customer experience point. Brands with teams that buy into their values and beliefs—and live them out authentically—will be more successful in building emotional connections with consumers. In-person experiences are particularly impactful, so make sure that front desk staff, in-store associates, and in-flight crews—as well as executive management—show up in ways that align with the brand values.

Consider generational differences

Our research confirms that the past few years brought more significant changes in what younger generations value. Brands need to think critically about the audiences they are trying to connect with and understand that consumers in different phases of life may have varying expectations and look for the brand to show up in distinctive ways. Experiences and rewards structures that are unique based on generational segments and informed by a data-driven understanding of your customers or members can be more impactful.

Continually check the pulse

Brands need to measure frequently and stay connected with their consumers to understand how best to champion and embody shared values and beliefs. It is important to get feedback regularly and know when to adjust. A set-it-and-forget-it approach can get brands into trouble.

Going beyond points to foster brand love

Consumers seek out brands that align with their values and beliefs, but it is not necessary to align in every aspect. Brands that are authentic and stay true to their values can even gain the respect of consumers with opposing views for exhibiting transparency and honesty in their approach. Serving customers well and providing a great product can also help brands connect by meeting needs and making lives easier, but shared values and beliefs can still be a differentiator when it comes to final purchase decisions. Even in challenging economic times, consumers may prioritize brands that align with their values—despite those brands being more expensive—and choose to sacrifice elsewhere.

Consumers look for brands that reflect who they are and add meaning or convenience to their lives, especially in challenging times. That means it is critical that brands leverage their loyalty programs to connect with customers in a way that feels unique and valuable to them. Perks such as early boarding on a flight, preferred seating, or larger luggage allowances can be appealing. Additionally, opportunities to support meaningful causes and simple gestures like a free birthday coffee or the convenience of pre-shopping a big sale can help to foster emotional loyalty.

When brands connect through shared values and beliefs, consumers feel seen and heard in ways that feel more personal and human. Resonating with customers on these deeper levels can take loyalty beyond points and the confines of a formalized program and foster brand love across all interactions—truly driving the emotional loyalty brands need to weather even the toughest times.