Behaviors Trump Emotions

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Craig Lister, RAPP
Craig Lister, RAPP

What's more valuable to business performance: emotional or behavioral loyalty, and why?

It's behavioral loyalty that drives business performance. In all honestly, it's clear that this question represents a false dichotomy, and when interpreting the value of emotional versus behavioral loyalty, you really wouldn't want to choose one without the other. With that said, it's important to consider that having behavioral loyalty without emotion clearly leads to strong business performance. Though, having emotional loyalty without behavior leads to nothing of immediate business benefit.

Emotions and emotional loyalty often play a strong role in leading to business performance, and the idea that emotion directly causes behavior is an established theory in psychology. It's important to understand that when drawing conclusions, psychologists and researchers demonstrate the linkage of emotions to cognitive thought, which then triggers behaviors that lead to business outcomes. To me, these are a lot of assumptions that need to be met before getting to outcomes, with more than a few ways things can go wrong along the way to achieving business performance.

This is why I'm on the side of behavioral loyalty as a more concrete bet when deciding on where to focus. Throughout my experiences in marketing, I've seen countless examples of behaviors that accelerate pathways to purchase. Behaviors that are repeated over time give us muscle memory, allowing subconscious thought to take over, leading to a powerful influence over us that's hard to break.

In his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, psychologist and Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman brings to life two cognitive systems that drive the way we think. System 1 leaves control to intuition and is faster and more automatic, using very little effort and energy. System 2 is designed to process information and solve problems, taking over when attention to detail and deep analytical thinking is needed.

Think of System 1 as responding to, “Can you please resend me the dashboard on customer performance?”—which can easily be done while eating a banana and listening in on a conference call at the same time. System 2 is what kicks in and responds to the request, “Can you provide me with a point of view on how to grow market share into our aspirational customer target?,” requiring much more conscious thought and logical reasoning. Granted, emotions have an impact on System 1 thinking, and are the basis for how our feelings guide our intuition.

The behaviors I'm referring to are those that are habit-forming, and take on a path of least resistance when put into motion. Achieving the kind of loyalty that takes advantage of habitual behaviors and automatic responses generated from System 1 is something any business would enjoy.

We're a society in constant motion. Multitasking is the new norm, and connectivity to the world is an “always-on” feature in our time-starved daily lives. People are looking for simplicity anywhere they can find it, and businesses that make things easier are winning out and growing at incredible rates. In this environment, what you buy matters just a little bit less, and how you buy it has never mattered more.

Another compelling reason for choosing behavioral loyalty over emotional loyalty is ease with which behaviors can be measured in today's interconnected and digital world. As marketers, we have unprecedented amounts of behavioral data available to us, and we  now have the ability to close the loop and get insights surrounding the end-to-end customer journey. This type of analytical work illuminates impactful behaviors, which are the key to establishing business objectives for customer experience design. There's no question that emotions play a role, such as pinpointing customer needs, aligning messaging to those needs, and delivering a communication that results in an emotional response. But what role emotions play exactly is one that goes beyond what fact-based, measurement-using data can achieve. When measuring and demonstrating business success, the cases that are made using behavioral impact are the ones that can be delivered to the C-Suite.

Tapping into loyalty behaviors that are automatic is a clear path to business success, where harnessing and leveraging emotional loyalty takes on a more circuitous route.

Measuring behavioral loyalty using data is a fact-based approach to marketing and decision sciences, where understanding how emotional loyalty is causal to business performance takes a few leaps to arrive at a sound conclusion. If the behaviors we can measure create the business performance we seek, then behavioral loyalty is the game, and my answer to one tough question.

Craig Lister, RAPP

Prior to joining creative agency RAPP LA as its VP/solutions lead, Craig Lister led marketing and CRM for Mammoth Mountain Ski Area in California, where he ran loyalty and retention initiatives based on the resort's cutting-edge, newly designed customer database and RFID (radio frequency identification) ticketing system. At RAPP, Lister continues to innovate, and is currently working on a project to deliver behavioral CRM information to clients who leverage cross-platform and organizational data to help create meaningful experiences informed by real customer behavior and brand relevance. An avid traveler and a skilled skier, Lister grew up in the Catskill Mountains in New York where he was literally raised on skis, sporting his fi rst pair at age four. Lister's love of travel began with a year-long experience as an exchange student in Gavle, Sweden.

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