Some customers take a utilitarian approach to your offerings, some engage emotionally and some fanatically. The path to success is different for each. With utilitarians, use continuity programs. With the emotionally engaged, live your story. Treat fanatics as co-owners. And don’t cross the lines.


Utilitarian customers focus on what your products or services do for them. Their interactions with you are transactional as they trade between similar choices based on their perceptions of relative value propositions. (Perceived value is a function of benefits and costs.

Strengthen your utilitarian business with transactional continuity programs.

The big airlines do a good job of this. Though most think of airline seats on a utilitarian basis, status on frequent flyer programs gives members enough extra benefits to alter their relative value proposition across airlines.

On the other hand Netflix almost destroyed itself when it split into separate companies to provide streaming and DVDs. It lost enough of its transactional customers to force a rethink its approach.



Emotional customers choose brands based on how they make them feel. They take into account all aspects of a brand including its heritage and character in making purchase decisions and will pay a premium price for that feeling. Things like fashion brands and cars are examples of brands that may fit this criteria.

Strengthen your business with emotional customers by telling and living your brand story, delivering on all your promises.

Some car brands do this well. People drive brands like Lexus , Acura, Mercedes and the like as much for how they make them feel as for their performance.

On the other hand, VW provided a classic example of an organization failing to keep its promises when it cheated on its environmental delivery – a critical part of its heritage and story.



Fanatical customers have an enthusiastic devotion to their brands. They identify with brands like sports teams, colleges, countries, political parties, and celebrities through thick and thin. And they invest to help their brand and other members of the brand tribe.

The key to strengthening your ties with these customers is to treat them like co-owners.

The New York Yankee – Boston Red Sox rivalry is visceral. Not only do die-hard Red Sox fans schedule their lives around Red Sox games, they root for whatever team is playing against the Yankees.

Some Republicans are feeling abandoned by their party. Even though they still define themselves as Republicans, they are now vulnerable.


Customer Loyalty

This is closely related to customer loyalty, but not the same thing. Tony Gattari describes seven levels of customer loyalty:

• Suspects who might be potential buyers.

• Prospects who are potential buyers. They’ve moved beyond awareness to interest and potentially desire.

• Customers who have bought your products or services once.

• Clients who have bought more than once – repeat customers.

• Members who “feel part of your tribe” and have a “sense of ownership with your offerings”.

• Advocates who, when asked, recommend your company.

• Evangelists who talk about your company whether they are asked or not.

Of course you’d like to move everyone up the loyalty ladder. In doing so, understand that different products or services engender different levels of commitment from different types of customers and require different approaches.

Stick with basic continuity programs to generate repeat business for products and services whose primary customers have utilitarian views. These, like airline frequent flyer programs, reward repeat purchase. Don’t waste your time or money trying to get these customers emotionally involved as “members” or more. It won’t work and they won’t like it. They don’t want a relationship. They want value.

Drive your brand story in multiple ways through multiple media to fuel emotions in customers looking for emotional benefits as they straddle the line between “clients” and “members.” They want to believe in you and your motivations.

Treat fanatics as co-owners of their brand. Let them into the tent to show you the way forward and evangelize you. They want you to believe in them.