Fostering Brand Love

Fostering Brand Love: How to Build Customer Affinity in a Noisy World

The fight for attention is more complicated than ever. Our busy world leaves businesses with the challenge of creating deep customer affinity and fostering genuine brand love.

Christina Garnett, advocacy strategist and principal marketing manager at HubSpot, created a guide for customer affinity in her Marketing ProfCon 2023 session, “Fostering Brand Love: Driving Customer Affinity in the Age of Noise and Automation.” Read on to learn how to create exceptional customer experiences and measure the impact while proving the return on investment (ROI) of brand love.

The Battle for Attention and Art of Connection

In a world saturated with information and distractions, businesses battle for attention. With countless demands on our time, wallets, and attention, how do brands cut through the noise? Your audience needs to care about you in a meaningful way.

“The easiest way to make sure that you’re cutting into that noise is to make sure that you are finding ways to make them care about you too,” Christina said. “Here’s the problem: This is going to take time …”

Brand love isn’t just a buzzword, Christina said. Building a deep connection with your brand influences behaviors that other factors can’t replicate. Relationships with customers become your differentiator and your moat to safeguard your reputation. The emotional bond you form with them, appreciating and hearing them in good and bad times, strengthens the ties that lead to continued business.

“No matter what you think about your audience, they can pick up on patterns and they’re going to start seeing the same kind of flavor and content across channels in emails,” Christina said. “The more they see it as a pattern, the less human it feels … That’s why it’s so deeply important for us to go back to the basics to really go back to being empathetic. And I don’t mean empathy as in like a hype word. I mean empathy as like you actually care. You really give a damn because people can tell.”

People want genuine connections. Your audience should feel heard, appreciated, and valued. It’s how you build those connections that truly sets you apart. Christina said every interaction matters, whether it be a response on social media, a personalized email, or a phone call.

While automation can be powerful, you should be thoughtful with it. You have to strike the balance between automation and personalization. 

“It’s not a coincidence that we’re striving for connection all while we have AI being a massive trend,” Christina pointed out. “This singularity has the potential to disrupt connection or drive efficiencies. [If it drives efficiencies] we have more time to connect and be more human, but we have to do that and take those steps thoughtfully.”

So how do you fight back?

Christina suggested that you know your brand well enough to be playful with it. You need to know exactly where the line is that you’re not supposed to cross and know how to be playful near it.

“You can take off the professional proverbial tie and feel human,” Christina said. “I don’t want your MLA format in my tweets. I don’t. I don’t want your email to me if we’re supposed to be you talking to me like we’re casual and we’re friends, but you use really formal copy. Find out what it means to be your brand and where you can play.”

The Pyramid of Delight

Consumers feel tired and overworked. However, they still yearn for delightful experiences. A brand that exceeds expectations, delights, and genuinely cares for its customers will stand out from the noise.

Christina said that building brand love isn’t a one-time effort; it takes time. You can build brand trust through relationships and empathy. She encouraged businesses to be the brand that understands, cares, and listens — even when things go wrong. These moments of vulnerability and genuine care can turn a customer into a lifelong fan.

Incorporating Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs into Christina’s “Pyramid of Delight” helps illustrate how brand love develops. Survival and support lay the foundation. Safety ensures customers have a safety net when things don’t go as planned. As you ascend the pyramid, you reach love, belonging, esteem, and self-actualization — the stages where brand love flourishes.

Christina shares a success story from Chewy, an online pet supply retailer, which exemplifies the power of delighting customers. By going above and beyond, such as sending condolences and paintings of pets, Chewy creates emotional connections that extend far beyond transactions. This level of care transforms customers into fans who become advocates for the brand.

The Measurement for Love

While the emotional impact of brand love is often clear, as a brand professional, you need to be able to demonstrate measurable results. Christina offers a four-step framework to analyze how brand interactions lead to behaviors and impact:

  1. Begin with an action or initiative.
  2. Consider how it makes customers feel.
  3. Determine the resulting behavior.
  4. Track the behavior’s impact.

By following this framework, businesses can assess the tangible outcomes of their efforts, aligning brand love with business goals.

Christina emphasized that the path to brand love requires authentic interactions, empathetic relationships, and a thoughtful approach to automation. Making these a priority enables businesses to forge relationships that stand the test of time and distinguish themselves as a brand that genuinely cares.

By making customers feel special, brands can navigate the competitive landscape, leaving a trail of delighted fans and measurable impact. Remember, brand love isn’t a destination, it’s a journey worth taking.

Marketing ProfCon 2023 was a three-day academic conference held from June 14 – 16, 2023. Each year, ProfCon presents actionable tips and strategies for marketing educators to use in their classrooms. To watch sessions on-demand, visit the Stukent Webinars Library.

Stukent® is here to help educators help students help the world. To learn more about our first-in-the-world Simternships™ and courseware, or to get FREE instructor access to our products, visit our website.

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