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Carly Wickham, Head of Marketing

Customer Experience Series: Part 4

Emotional connection is a stated objective of many brands. It’s personal and evocative, hard to measure, and interestingly it opposes the current belief that shopping is a rational process.

Emotional connection is the desired outcome of experiential marketing. It is what the Coffee Shops in part two (in our series of blogs about the importance of customer experience) are trying to foster, and it is the single-minded focus of sensorial engagement we discussed in part three.

What is Emotional Engagement?

Emotional engagement is viewed as the solution, the golden bullet, the ultimate truth for brands. And research can be found to back up this thinking. When Forrester conducted research into customer experience, they broke it down into three dimensions; effectiveness, ease and emotion. They then went on to study which dimension has the biggest influence on brand loyalty. Amazingly, they found that emotion was the number one factor in customer loyalty across 17 of the 18 industries that they studied.

It’s all down to neurology – what fires together, wires together. You associate a good feeling of happiness with a brand, for example, and the brain will wire them together; your brand = happiness. The reverse also means that you are playing with fire if you associate a negative emotion with your brand, exacerbated by the brain’s natural negativity bias (evolved through the need to remember dangerous plants/animals as the biggest threat to self-preservation).


Defining customer emotions

Being mindful of the range of possible emotions, beware of the term ‘Emotionally connect’, scratch the surface and that’s a vacuous notion. The emotion must be defined. A recent study by Tiffany Watt-Smith documented over 156 different emotions. Her research found that emotions were historically based as well as culturally and, therefore, geographically diverse. The emotional range explores euphoric high to black dog depression.

Take away learning – if the phrase ‘emotionally engage’ appears in any document, make sure it’s given further clarification. Take a look at these three examples of defined emotions (from Tiffany’s encyclopaedia) and imagine how design briefs to create experiences based on that feeling could be so inventive:


Derived from the Dutch word for ‘friend’, gezelligheid describes both physical circumstances – being snug in a warm and homely place surrounded by good friends (it’s impossible to be gezelligheid alone) – and an emotional state of feeling ‘held’ and comforted. Closely aligned to ‘cosy’ (from the Gaelic còsag, a small hole you can creep into).



This Japanese word refers to the sense of belonging, comfort and warmth experienced when someone is looking after you.


A new emotion fomo (fear of missing out) is a distinct experience reflective of our time, and already engendered by many experiential marketing campaigns. Draw a crowd and more people will come looking.