Valentine’s Day is here, and perhaps you’re feeling a touch of the brand blues. Your inbox is empty, your website traffic’s at a standstill, and, outside, the rain is pouring.

The age of captive audiences ended long before Mad Men’s final wrap. With one tap of a button, today’s customer can saunter down myriad digital avenues in search of better deals, better experiences, and better brands.

Want a hope in hell of competing? Accept that everything rides on the customer’s emotions. Research has shown that, when we like a brand, the feelings it triggers mirror those we have for close friends. The corporate cousin of platonic love, brand love really is alive and kicking.

Love breeds loyalty: customers who emotionally connect to a brand have a lifetime value 306% greater than those who don’t. They’ll even sing your company’s praises at a rate of 71%; the average is 45%.

If you’re after that elusive prize – brand love – your customers need to feel like you ‘get’ them. Every exchange with you needs to culminate in a positive emotional payoff. Want to go from headache to heartthrob? Here are 5 useful tips…

1. Show off your personality

Always remember: a brand is not what you tell people it is, it’s what they feel when they encounter it. This is why strategies shaped by artifice are often leaky buckets: authenticity tends to outrank falsehoods. If you pretend to be something you’re not, you risk damaging your relationship with customers in the long-run.

Brand Persona

To be human is everything: Studies have demonstrated that we place greater value on crowdsourced feedback than professional reviews; 55% of us trust companies less than we used to. We’re inclined to trust people over corporations because we feel more naturally, viscerally in tune with them, flaws aside.

The problem? In a business, it’s not practical to expect one person to write every email and meet every customer. Richard Branson is the heart and soul of Virgin, but he probably spends more time on Necker Island than the shop floor.

How can any company hope to operate effectively whilst retaining its humanity, the very thing its audience relate to? It crafts a brand persona.

This is what allows you to metamorphose from corporate avatar to trusted, perfectly imperfect ally.

It neatly packages up your core values and unique quirks, so customers can experience your brand in a consistent, interesting, and emotionally engaging way. It ensures your personality shines through, even when you’re ‘out of office’, and that’s what people will really connect with.

2. Court compatible matches

Such is the power of brand love, it even trumps more tangible perks: Pepsi wins in blind taste tests, but, seemingly since the dawn of time, Coke has sold in superior numbers. Why? Neuroscientists have clearly linked Coke’s fizzing success with the love people feel for the brand itself.

Of course, if you’re trying to tug at heartstrings, you need to settle on your target audience. A hit and miss attitude is not an option if you want your solutions to chime with a particular person’s precise set of aspirations.

When you’re seeking long-term brand love, it’s important to identify and target the personas best suited to your offering – they’re the ones who’ll stick around. Your strategy should revolve around these profiles: aiming for blanket appeal only dilutes your message.

Brand Love

Consider who would best connect with your story. Which platforms are they likely to use? What keeps them up at night? Once you’ve worked these things out, you can tweak, tune, and primp until you’ve convinced them that you’re ‘the one’ they’ve been waiting for.

Wondering why you should go niche when the field’s wide open? Because loyal customers are the best customers. The top 10% spend three times the amount your average customer spends. The top 1% are splashing out five times the amount.

3. Consider The Cocktail Party Effect

Personalisation is all the rage, but it seems something’s got lost in translation. A study highlighted that customers’ top three most irritating exchanges with brands related to immaterial or outright random offers.

As ‘suggestions for you’ feeds Netflix-wide can attest, what passes for personalisation often misses the mark.

On-point personalisation doesn’t have to be complicated: it should simply consider The Cocktail Party Effect. The psychological principle states that we train our focus on information relevant to ourselves – in fact, just hearing our name can be a real attention-grabber.

A sensitive strategy won’t place metrics above our lived experiences. It will obsess over users’ real-time needs and map their individual journeys. It will look to custom CRMs, first-party information, and customer feedback for more meaningful insights into lead generation and buyer behaviours, crafting bespoke, seamless experiences on and offline.

Cocktail Party

When done right, personalisation boosts performance: research showed that 93% of businesses with extensive personalisation strategies enjoyed revenue growth, while only 45.4% of businesses devoid of such a game plan celebrated equivalent growth. It also drives loyalty: brands with a personalisation ROI of 3 times or more cited loyalty as their number one KPI.

Customers want trusted, transparent brands to get personal: 65% would rather buy from brands who know their purchase history, and 56% prefer buying from retailers who identify them by name, so don’t be shy.

4. Ditch the rhetoric

If you take someone out to dinner, only to drone on and on about how fantastic you are, it won’t end well. Listening to hours of self-referential spiel pays your companion an emotional dividend of zero, and, frankly, it’s boring.

Brand messaging is a lot like dating. 71% of potential customers find ‘salesy’ content a turn-off, and 47% of internet users fortify their online time with ad-blockers. Why? This kind of marketing only signals benefits for the brand behind it – forget about displaying any interest in the needs of the audience.

Attention is the ultimate commodity nowadays, but customers will willingly grant it to brands serving up relevant, informative grist for their respective mills.

Unsurprisingly, content marketing wins three times more leads than paid search. Over ¾ of internet users frequently read blogs, and marketers who prioritise their blogging output are 13 times more likely to see notable ROI.

This kind of content is the trojan horse of marketing. Rather than going straight for the jugular, it aims to delight and educate. Instead of shamelessly hawking your goods, it spins sparkling, digestible yarns around a customer’s central concern, magically tackling and vanquishing it.

By placing an audience’s pain points at the heart of the action, storytelling fosters connection on an emotional and cerebral level, solving problems whilst entertaining – the most bewitching CTA.

When you offer empathic, useful information, you genuinely help your customers. This is what lowers the communicative drawbridge, and this is when trust begins to be built.

5. Don’t be lazy

It takes time to win someone’s heart: 80% of customers’ loyalties are built incrementally over time, thanks to a mix of positive experiences with a brand.

An audience will always sniff out the noxious odour of inauthenticity. To woo them, you have to stay true to yourself and deliver a rolling batch of fresh-from-the-oven, moreish content. Only then will they start wanting to hear from you.

Once they’re in your corner, continue to fight fiercely for their affections – after all, winning new customers is 5-25 times pricier than holding on to existing devotees.

Fall out of shape and you’ll be last week’s news: 50% of customers have ditched a brand for a rival who managed to maintain greater relevance whilst better serving their needs.

Consistency and innovation is everything in the game of brand love. To avoid heartbreak, you need a long-term strategy, honest marketing, and memorable branding: nail these, and next Valentine’s Day should be a corker.

Written by. Amalie Bleackley

Amalie Bleackley