Emotion is the Key to Transform Satisfied Customers into Devoted Advocates


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Building exceptional customer experience has made its way into corporate missions of many businesses. But achieving highest customer satisfaction alone is not a guarantee to make your business stand above and beyond your competitors, because satisfied customers may not have affinity toward your brand.

The Holy Grail to get ahead is by transforming satisfied customers into brand advocates—customers who show affinity to your brand via frequent purchases, cross purchases, aversion to competitor promotions, and recommending your brand via their spheres of influences. In John H. Fleming and Jim Asplund’s book Human Sigma published in 2007, the authors analyzed customer experiences and reported that extremely satisfied customers can be classified as two distinct groups: rationally satisfied and emotionally satisfied. Emotionally satisfied customers are those who are rationally satisfied as well as emotionally attached.

They found that only those emotionally satisfied customers demonstrated brand affinity. Interestingly enough, the rationally satisfied customers showed no difference in spending characteristics when compared with the unsatisfied ones. This is why merely building exceptional customer experience is not a strong enough revenue oriented corporate mission, building or improving brand affinity is.

Achieving brand affinity by resonating with customer emotions

What do businesses need to do to make advocates out of their satisfied customers? They need to positively arouse their customer emotions to form affinities toward their brands. When customers have strong emotional affinities toward a brand over its competitors, they become the brand’s advocates.

To build brand affinity, businesses must understand the basic human emotional needs, and imbue their brands with attributes to satisfy such needs as much as possible. Max-Neef classified fundamental human needs in nine areas as shown on Wikipedia and businesses can treat them as the target needs to architect their brand attributes to satisfy.

By infusing the right attributes into its brand to resonate with the target clientele’s emotional needs as described by Max-Neef, business can make advocates out of its satisfied customers.

Successful businesses that have played the right emotional affinity cards

The table below describes a few businesses whose brands satisfy one or more of these human emotional needs, and have been enjoying strong brand affinity.

Building brand affinity towards a restaurant

There is a story about a restaurant in Taipei that successfully built its brand affinity by playing the emotional needs card well. In the 1970’s legend had it that it targeted two groups of business people as its primary clientele—those with average to below average height, or those being average to below average appearance.

To build its brand, its owner hired only young females (for energy and trainability) with average or below average height and appearance as waitresses. As a result, the restaurant was packed for hours every night with business people from its targeted groups, many of them repeat customers and strong advocates. Even though its food was good, its price was above its competitors’ price. It was said that its success was mainly due to the emotional appeal of the feel good factors — #1, #3, #8, and #9. It made its customers feel that they were tall in there, they could afford the price, and they looked good.


The key for any business to stand above and beyond its competitors is to have devoted customers who prefer and advocate its brand via their spheres of influences. The way to make advocates out of satisfied customers is by building brand affinity, which a business can achieve by infusing its brand with carefully chosen attributes to strongly appeal to the customers’ emotional needs.

Chi-Pong Wong
Chi-Pong Wong is a seasoned supply chain strategist, program manager, service center manager, and relations manager with specialty in process strategy, risk and postmortem management, and customer experience management. He earned a MA in Economics at SUNY @ Stony Brook, and a MS in Computer Science at Duke University. He has worked at Arrow Electronics, IBM, STMicroelectronics, and is currently with Hewlett-Packard.


  1. I enjoyed this article and can’t help but look at the quality attributes popular brands like Apple and Starbucks have created to create a strong (and successful) emotional connection with customers.

    Our corporate logo is no longer enough to communicate our brand promise. The customer experience is really our brand, and that is how people will remember and connect with us. No wonder our loyal patrons are no longer mere consumers; they become brand champions representing our company.

  2. I am glad that you like it. Is there any interesting findings from your looking at Apple and Starbucks quality attributes that you can share?


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