The Power of Creating Emotional Loyalty

By: Melissa Canellis


Building brand loyalty today requires a deeper, more strategic approach than simply offering points and rewards. As opposed to driving faceless, nameless transactions, the goal is to build lasting, loving and mutually profitable guest relationships. But it takes more than just a digital marketing/CRM platform to achieve this goal; rather it requires an enterprise-wide commitment to treating customers as “guests” across every brand touchpoint.

In today’s challenging and competitive marketplace, growth-minded brands must demonstrate value in ways that are relevant, compelling, motivating and share-worthy — beyond merely selling products and services — to enhance the quality of a guest’s life. It’s a tall order and perhaps it’s why only 35% of customers feel strongly that brands are loyal to them, according to The Loyalty Report 2022.

Why is building emotional loyalty important?

Customers have a range of dining options to choose from. Brands that build emotional connections have customers that:

  • Spend more
  • Keep them top of mind
  • Promote/refer them to others

How can brands leverage loyalty to drive emotional connections?

To nurture emotional loyalty, brands need to be able to take a quantifiable approach to seeing the total value they deliver to a customer during in-store and online interactions. This occurs by engaging customers outside of the buying cycle through surveys and quizzes, as well as encouraging and responding to reviews, referrals, and social posts. Brands need to reward these non-transactions because they demonstrate valuable engagement and are an opportunity to gather valuable data.

Customer data insights can again lend a hand to expand reward offerings that create emotional attachment through feelings of exclusivity or with experiential promotions such as a free cooking class or access to a special store event. Delivering relevant messaging and individualized offers and experiences help a brand establish that they know their customers better than their competition.

  • Important tactics for growing emotional loyalty
  • Demonstrate relevancy
  • Be transparent about your environmental and societal impact
  • Anticipate guests needs with the help of ML
  • Deliver gamification through your app
  • Create experiential interactions
  • Utilize surveys and feedback tools
  • Provide outstanding customer service 

Saladworks offers a great example of how a brand consciously worked to create more emotional connections with their guests to grow customer loyalty. In 2021, as other brands struggled to try and recover from the pandemic, Saladworks went all out to give their customers multiple reasons to visit and engage with them in new and entertaining ways. 

Saladworks Emotional Loyalty Case Study Highlight

The brand created a ‘Flavor Passport’ promotion for their Saladworks Rewards members to drive awareness and reward trial of their new globally inspired “Flavor Your World” menu items. Members also received emails and SMS messages with an exclusive perk for an experiential component to the campaign. They had the opportunity to demonstrate their originality by creating the next “Flavor Your World” menu item with chance to win a $5,000 travel voucher to travel anywhere in the world, a cool Saladworks swag bag and have their recipe featured as LTO menu items this fall in the form of a salad, warm grain bowl or wrap. From over 1,000 entries, “Amy’s Fall Fest” was selected by both fellow Saladworks Rewards members and a Blue-Ribbon panel of celebrity judges as the winning recipe.

In addition to the prizes, Amy’s recipe will be a key component in Saladworks’ fundraising efforts with purchases resulting in $0.35 being donated to No Kid Hungry, part of the WOWorks High Five Challenge, running in commemoration of Saladworks’ 35th Birthday. As an exclusive member benefit, Saladworks Rewards members will have an opportunity to be the very first to try the “Amy’s Fall Fest” menu items on a special Preview Day held in restaurants the day before its systemwide launch.

Saladworks integrated efforts and attention to emotional connections helped loyalty sales grow 84% YoY, referrals by 106% QoQ, and loyalty retention rates to 47% in Q2 2021.

Delivering seamless, rewarding customer experiences across the entire customer journey has become tricky as guests often interact with brands across multiple channels. To provide the level of service needed in today’s demanding restaurant environment you need a dedicated team of experts. Punchh Guest Services offers brands the ability to extend their CS team to review, respond to, and manage guests’ mobile app and loyalty program questions. Often all it takes is one bad experience to lose a customer. With the ability to positively influence consumer behavior, customers feel appreciated and the innovative solutions brands implement are able to deliver efficiency and effectiveness. 

Schedule a demo to learn more about how Punchh clients use emotional loyalty, offers, and engagement to drive higher sales and CLV.

Stay in the know. Subscribe to our bi-monthly newsletter to receive proven loyalty strategies, offer management techniques, and new trends in your industry. Sign up today!