How to Create Emotional Connections with Your Customers – Aaron Ahuvia

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Show Notes:

Apple, Starbucks, and Coca-Cola are some of the most influential brands in the world. But have you ever wondered what their secret to success is? They were built on brand love! And our guest today is an expert on brand love.

Meet Aaron Ahuvia. Aaron is a Professor of Marketing at the University of Michigan. He is a research psychologist who has been ranked 22 in the world for research impact on consumer behavior and ranked in the top 2% of all scientists in the world across all disciplines by an independent study from Stanford University. Aaron is also the author of The Things We Love: How Our Passions Connect Us and Make Us Who We Are, which has been named one of the top 20 business books of 2022. He was the first person to study the topic of brand love and is now the world’s leading expert on the psychology of brand love.

Aaron often speaks about how love works when we love an object, activity, or anything else that isn’t a person, how to make products that people will love, and how to generate brand love in your marketing communications.

In this episode of the Think Business with Tyler podcast, we talk about how loving something becomes a part of your identity, how brands create emotional connections with their customers, why brand love is not the right approach for everyone, and why it’s essential to understand you are not your customers.

If you want to learn how brand love can help you skyrocket your business, make sure you tune into this episode to hear what Aaron has to say.


💡 Name: Aaron Ahuvia

💡 What he does: He’s a Professor of Marketing and author of The Things We Love: How Our Passions Connect Us and Make Us Who We Are.

💡 Noteworthy: He is the most widely published academic expert on brand love. An independent published study ranked him among the top 25 consumer behavior experts in the world in terms of research impact. Also, Amazon named his book one of the top 20 business books of 2022.

💡 Key Quote: “Everything that we love, we think at a non-conscious level, again, is sort of part of who we are at some level, and that’s also true when you love an object or a brand or an activity.”

💡 Where to find Aaron: LinkedIn

Key Insights

Loving something becomes your identity. When you love something, it becomes a part of who you are. You talk about it with your friends, and you think about it often. Just like we love people and activities, we love brands and products. So, if you’re a business owner, you need to understand the power of brand love as soon as possible.

Aaron explains how loving a brand can change a consumer’s perspective. He says, “Everything that we love, we think at a non-conscious level, again, is sort of part of who we are at some level, and so that’s also true when you love an object or a brand or an activity. And if you want to see this in action, just think about this. If someone were to insult you, you would normally feel offended ‘cause that’s what we feel. […] Offense only happens if you feel that you yourself are insulted. Well, what if someone insults someone that you love or something that you love, or your home or your country, or your family? You definitely feel offended. Why? Because you’re seeing them as part of who you are.”

How do brands create an emotional connection with their customers? Brand love is incredibly powerful. And there are so many different examples that prove it. For instance, Apple is one of the brands that’s built on brand love. They have a loyal customer base and strong numbers to prove their dominance in the market. But what’s their secret?

Aaron talks about how brands can create a strong emotional connection with their customers. He says, “Apple has been super good at this. They have all these ads; a part of their ad is like, ‘Oh, functionally, Apple computers are really good. They just work. You don’t get frustrated. And that’s very important. But there’s another part of Apple, which is like we’re for the free-thinking people, we’re for the creative people. And they have those pictures of the casually dressed, friendly-looking guy that says, I’m a Mac, and then the uptight guy in the suit that says I’m a PC. […] So, one of the ways that brands generate love for their product is by having it fit with some sort of values or other kinds of an identity that the consumer has.”

Brand love is not for everyone. As much as it helps generate long-term trust, brand love is not the right approach for every company. If you’re a business owner, you need to think about whether it makes sense for you to build emotional connections with your buyers.

Aaron explains, “Brand love really can work incredibly well. […] However, it’s not the right approach for every company. In order for people to develop these kinds of connections with a brand, the person has to care a certain amount about the brand. If you’re selling a product that people just don’t care that much about, they’re buying quality, convenience, and price, then you compete on quality, convenience, and price.”

You are not your customers. Don’t make the mistake of assuming what your customers want or need. You are not your customers, so you can’t know what they want without getting to know them and researching the market. As Aaron nicely puts it, other people are not you; that’s why they’re called other people.

He says, “Get to know your customers and keep in mind as you do it, they’re not you. And look for the places, notice the things that make them different from you, because that’s going to be the stuff that you will miss under normal situations and will overlook to your detriment if you don’t keep a special appeal for it.”

Top Quotes

“Love is one of these topics everyone feels they have a point of view on, which is great. You should all have a point of view on love. Absolutely. You should also have a point of view on what team is going to win the Super Bowl. That’s also something you can have a point of view on. But our point of view is sometimes not based on that much, and I really wanted to connect into what this now rather abundant scientific literature has to say on this.”

“The human brain is structured at a neurological, anatomical level it is fundamentally hardwired to sort out and divide up people and think about people one way and everything else in the world and think about all that stuff a different way. And love is kind of reserved for the people way of thinking about things. We do love all sorts of things, including our pets, but whenever we love something, it’s because our brain is taking it and making it an honorary person. So if you love your car, your brain is kind of thinking about your car as if it was a person and if you love your dog, it’s ‘cause your brain is kind of thinking about your dog as if it was a person.”

“If you love a person, you are expanding your sense of identity and including that other person within that sense of identity. And the reason that that happens is that’s why love evolved in animals and then in people is to get you to care for and protect and to be concerned about your children, your spouse, your siblings, or depending on the different animal species in humans, your friends, et cetera.”

“One of the most powerful forces that lead people to love products and brands is the way that they connect to a person. […] You probably know this, dear listener, already. You probably already realize that the relationships as an entrepreneur between you and your various clients are important, but I’m here to tell you that however important you think they are, they are more important than you think they are.”

“If you love a brand or a product and it does something wrong, your brain’s going to do the same thing. It’s going to make up all kinds of excuses for it, which is one of the reasons that brand love is profitable for companies because people do forgive brands much more readily if they love that brand. However, if it gets to the point where it gets hard to make up excuses, then people feel betrayed, and then they get even angrier than they would have if they had had simply a very pragmatic relationship.”


The Things We Love Website

The Things We Love Book

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