“The best brands consistently win two crucial moments of truth,” says A.G. Lafley of The Procter & Gamble Co.

“The first is when a consumer decides to select one brand or another,” Lafley says. “The second is when she/he uses the brand and is delighted or isn’t. Brands that win these moments of truth again and again earn a special place in [people’s] hearts and minds; the strongest of these establish a lifelong bond with consumers.”

Pure Culture Consulting calls this lifelong bond an “emotional connection,” the by-product of a healthy brand that puts the customer first.

The consulting firm says truly great brands:

  • Continually reinvent themselves to create long-term sustainability.
  • Consistently excel financially against those in their market space.
  • Create an emotional connection to their brand.
  • Possess a culture that embraces the mission and strategies of the organization.

No matter what a company is marketing, “there’s an impressive financial return that results from emotionally engaging customers, and there’s a substantial cost that results from disengaging them,” according to Married to the Brand’s William McEwen.

Emotional connection builds customer loyalty because emotions drive behavior. Customers who feel passionate about a brand are typically not swayed by competitors, are the first to try new products or services, brag about their favorite brands to friends, share good and bad feedback willingly, and give brands the benefit of the doubt when things go wrong.

5 Steps to EngagingClients’ Emotions

Pure Culture Consulting suggests these simple tips to strengthen your company’s emotional connections with customers:

  1. Clarify and simplify the essence of your brand.
  2. Cascade and reinforce the messagethroughout the organization.
  3. Listen for validation and inconsistencieswith your brand image.
  4. Empower your big fans to spread the wordand never take them for granted.
  5. Look for ways to enhance, execute andinnovate to create bonds that can’t be broken

Think Harley Davidson or Apple or Southwest Airlines. If a brand like Toyota were to think about engaging its customers’ emotions, they would focus on the driver behind the wheel vs. the car on the road (something they did a couple of years ago).

One service company that most recently altered its brand to drive customer connection is Jiffy Lube, the oil-change chain. The company’s new commercial opens on a quiet road where a mechanic working under a car at a repair shop, spots a woman driving by in an SUV, and begins to chase her on a creeper to get under the vehicle as if in an action-adventure film.

“Some mechanics are just determined to find something to repair,” says a voice-over. As the mechanic gets under her car, the driver hits the brakes at a light, sending the mechanic under the car and flying off a pier into a bay. “But, unlike those guys, we don’t fix vehicles, we help keep them running right,” the voice-over continues. “At Jiffy Lube, we offer preventive maintenance using vehicle manufacturer recommendations to help you leave repair shop worries behind.”

The commercial concludes with Jiffy Lube’s new motto: “Leave worry behind.”

Jiffy Lube did its homework and determined that its brand messaging needed to change. The recession and people’s changing habits impacted their business. As gas prices climbed, Americans drove less – 692.3 billion miles in the first three months of this year compared to 712.8 billion miles during the same period in 2007, the U.S. Department of Transportation says. Customers also started delaying oil changes to save money – the average oil change is every 4,800 miles today compared to every 3,000 miles a decade ago, Jiffy Lube reported. Cars are also lasting longer today – the average age reaching 10.8 years in 2011 versus 8.4 years in 1995, according to the Polk automotive research firm. Older cars are typically in repair shops more where oil changes are simple add-ons so the need for Jiffy Lube services decreased.

In addition to this research, Jiffy Lube filmed motorists before, during and after oil changes, and learned its sales approach was turning customers off.

The result was the new commercial and tagline. Jiffy Lube also made its locations more customer-friendly, offering coffee and windows for watching the service in action. Since the company’s competitors also offered speed and convenience (Jiffy Lube’s old marketing message), company executives said they had to do something that set their company apart. Since most people are always worried the work being performed on their cars is really unnecessary, this change was “an emotional connection we could establish with consumers,” says Jeffrey Lack, Jiffy Lube’s director of brand marketing.

Landscape contractors can build brand loyalty in this same way. If all of your competitors offer the same services at similar prices, what are some ways you can connect emotionally to customers in need of your services and differentiate yourself? How can you market in a way that alleviates concerns related to common customer pain points in your market?

Emotional connections take time to develop, but it’s the moments of truth that can take your business to the next level.

Nicole Wisniewski is a 15-year green industry veteran and award-winning journalism and marketing professional. She is currently a senior project manager in The Davey Tree Expert Co.’s marketing/corporate communications department. Visit her blog at or reach her at [email protected].