The traditional model of customer loyalty focuses around the idea of offering incentives in exchange for loyalty points or products. However, this transactional model overlooks those who aren’t loyal for the reason of logical transactions, but rather because of the emotional ties consumers have to the brand.

In our recent white paper, Emotional Loyalty in 2019: The Psychology Behind Consumer Behavior, we examine the importance as brands to strike a balance between emotional loyalty and tradition customer retention methods.

We sit down with Dr. James Intriligator, Harvard PhD & Professor of Consumer Psychology at Tufts University. He gives us some key insights on the problems with solely relying on transactional rewards in establishing loyalty, as well asd how emotional messaging affects how we see brands overall.

“There has been this trend where consumers create emotional ties to physical things they enjoy everyday,” said Intriligator. “These brands, products, and companies when using an emotional message often give us a sense of higher self and allow us to connect with like-minded people.”

Before we establish why emotional loyalty is so important, we first need to explain the different types of loyalty and the reasoning behind consumers’ long-term purchasing trends.

Types of Customer Loyalty

  • Rational Loyalty - Loyalty based on transactions. Consumers are attracted to quantitative metrics like points and incentives.
  • Behavioral Loyalty - Customer continues to purchase the same products based on purchasing behavior and convenience instead of preference, sale, or emotional ties.
  • Emotional Loyalty - Consumers buy not based on incentives, but rather things like customer service, storytelling, trust, and philanthropy.


Why Emotional Loyalty Matters

A study by CapGemini showed that customers with high emotional engagement are more likely to have strong brand affinity compared to those with low emotional engagement.

In fact, highly emotional people buy their favorite brand 82% of the time when they need a specific item, compared to 38% for less emotional people. Those with less emotional engagement fall more under the rational and behavioral models, making decisions based on logic and routine over emotion.

Brand Example: TOMS Shoes


Since the beginning, TOMS Shoes built a brand and business model on the foundation of giving. For every pair of shoes purchased from TOMS, a pair is donated to a child in need. Though they may not be the cheapest pair of shoes, consumers are committed to spending the additional money on TOMS because of what the company gives back.

According to Gallup, when customers build emotional ties with socially-conscious brands like these, they’re 32% more likely to visit their store and will spend on average 46% more.

Key Takeaway: Identify a social cause that is relevant to your business model. Make sure it makes sense for your business and find a way to tie it in with your brand’s storytelling.

Establishing Emotional Loyalty

Though emotional loyalty goes beyond transactional rewards, a loyalty program can be a great nurturer of emotional loyalty. This practice is a great way to strike balance between the rational and emotional consumer.

However, this requires creativity beyond the points-for-purchase model. Consider experiential rewards that resonate with your brand and your customers. This can take the form of personalized birthday gifts or unique shopping experiences.

It’s important to create balance between retention strategies and creating emotional loyalty through your brand’s messaging and service. By building that trust, you’re more likely to create a true bond with your customers. If you have any questions on ways to create more emotional ties in your brand’s messaging, contact us, and one of our consultants will help you every step of the way!

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