Customers overwhelmingly choose brands that match their personal values (87%) and avoid those that do not (71%), according to a Brand Engagement Survey from Gensler Research.

According to the survey, the most successful brand connections go even deeper, not only aligning with consumers’ individual values, but helping people feel their lives are more successful. Respondents ranked family, friends, and health among the top elements that define success for them.

Here are some key takeaways from the fascinating survey:

·      Deliver on quality and core brand promises. Engagement and emotional connections rest on the bedrock of quality. Our data suggests that to get to the top of the engagement pyramid, the foundation has to be rock solid. Quality far outranks any other attribute contributing to brand loyalty among our respondents—price and familiarity also play a key role.

·      Declare your values openly and consistently. Customers choose brands based on their most personal values and aspirations, so those who share your values will hold you in high esteem. You are likely to gain new like-minded customers who take note of your declaration.

·      Delight customers at every touch point. To really engage, leverage the human moment. Personal, emotional connections are often missing in brand strategies, and they are a key way to create real engagement. In return, customers become enthusiasts and ultimately brand evangelists. Without your even asking, they’re out in the world telling friends and family how much they love you—and that’s invaluable.

The survey included 2,838 adult consumers from all 50 U.S. states and explored questions such as: What are the signals that a customer is truly engaged with a brand? What attributes or behaviors distinguish a consumer with a deep emotional connection to a brand from a consumer who might just have a habitual connection, i.e., an emotional relationship versus a transactional relationship?

The online survey invited participants to name their three favorite brands, and identify the one that is most important. That single brand was then referred to by name in the questions that followed, with the goal of digging deeper into how and why that brand is so meaningful to that respondent. That allowed the researchers to measure emotional engagement with that particular brand.

Survey respondents were segmented into levels of emotional engagement, based on their responses to specific questions with emotional triggers, to test the return on investment that comes with emotional engagement with customers. The results were dramatic: Customers with a high level of emotional connection to their favorite brand were significantly more likely to make frequent purchases and own a lot of that brand’s products. They reported higher satisfaction with both in-person and online interactions too.

Purchases happen with or without emotional connection, but consumption is a choice, and today’s consumers have more options than ever before, the survey says.

“Brands must not only stand out, they need to put effort into the customer relationship, or they will likely be replaced as soon as something better comes along,” according to the survey. “This reality is increasingly understood by our clients, who are poised to invest in strategies that would improve their customers’ experience and increase brand engagement. However, most existing definitions of engagement rely on transactional metrics like purchases, social media interactions, or store visits. We believe that engagement is more emotional and rooted in the personal relationships, aspirations, values and motivations of consumers, and that the more a brand acknowledges and aligns with those priorities, the deeper engagement can be.”

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