Welcome to Emotional Loyalty


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I had an epiphany about emotional loyalty in Target yesterday. I was buying a welcome mat – a pedestrian purchase (literally), almost too banal and mundane to write about. Target had a dozen or so on display, and as I debated about the coir with red poppies versus the streamlined rubber grid, I suddenly realized that I wasn’t looking for a welcome mat. I wanted a vehicle for self-expression.

Consumer brand affinity can be sorted into essentially two camps: transactional loyalty, in which customers buy your product because it’s easy, affordable and does the job; and emotional loyalty, when customers buy the brand because it helps them express who they really are.

The thing is, today’s consumers are all looking to make purchases based on emotional loyalty. That’s because most of the products out there meet a consumer’s basic needs for functionality, performance and affordability. When those basic needs are met, consumers move up Maslow’s hierarchical pyramid to the higher-level desires – things like love and self-actualization.

Love from a welcome mat? Target’s dozen mats all offered me functionality, affordability, and even some cute decorative options, but I found myself wanting more. I wanted a relationship. I wanted a welcome mat that truly understood me. Am I a floral person? Or do I prefer geometrics? Am I the matchy-matchy type who wants the mat to fit my house style? Or someone who is willing to “break a look” with clashing styles? My mat needed to support me, and sing my praises to everyone who comes to my front door.

Is your loyalty program offering customers the opportunity to express themselves? Can they align themselves with their preferred brand, via their preferred channel, at their preferred touchpoint? Customers want more than value, it’s not just me looking for self-actualization from a welcome mat. This is evidenced from COLLOQUY’s 2011 Cross Cultural Research Study [link], in which consumers in the U.S. and Canada say that their loyalty program communications are less relevant than ever.

Ultimately, I left the store empty handed. Loveless. Un-actualized. When you can have any “pretty good” mat, then only the perfect one will do.

Phaedra Hise
As Senior Editor, COLLOQUY, Phaedra leads the creation of new editorial pieces for multiple distinct content platforms in the COLLOQUY media enterprise: COLLOQUY magazine, the Enterprise Loyalty in Practice journal, COLLOQUY web site, COLLOQUY social media blog, COLLOQUY Network Partner content commitments as well as other LoyaltyOne vehicles.


  1. Phaedra, I respectfully disagree with a couple of points in your blog. First, I don't believe there is such a thing as "Transactional Loyalty”, in fact, I think that is actually an oxymoron…I don't believe you can be "transactional” and "loyal” at the same time. By definition, when you are transactional you are making a purchase as an isolated incident, perhaps in the context of other transactions you have made, but a purchase that makes sense in that moment. When you are loyal, by definition, you are making a choice based on some kind of value-driven relationship that you have built with that provider.

    Second, I think in your experience you are trying to find emotional connection with the welcome mat provider, which is almost impossible to do unless you intend on starting a long term pattern of buying welcome mats and you are searching for a singular provider. In your example, the loyalty relationship (or lack of it) is with Target…and the value proposition that determines whether or not you are loyal to them is not whether or not you can find a welcome mat that "channels” your inner welcome mat aficionado, but whether or not, over time, they are your preferred provider for a large range of products, including welcome mats, that meet your practical and emotional needs.


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