What comes first, loyalty or engagement? The answer, it seems, is: It depends.
During a conversation this morning with Laura Hewitt, director of marketing and communications for Carlson Marketing, we talked about the issue. Some marketers think that you need to build loyalty before you can create engagement; others think it's quite the opposite--build engagement to foster loyalty.
I think it's a journey during which both can happen concurrently. But let me clarify here that I'm referring to emotional loyalty. Behavioral loyalty, I think, can happen with no engagement at all. Consider customers who fly a certain airline because they live near its hub. It's convenient, nothing more.
Customers need engagement to become emotionally loyal. They also need it to stay loyal. Emotional loyalty, concurrently, promotes engagement. It's a virtuous cycle.
When there is a link between behavioral loyalty and engagement, it's more like building a Dagwood sandwich: I become behaviorally loyal due, say, to price or convenience; the company I'm loyal to engages me in some way that connects with me on a more emotional level; they continue to build engagement over time; eventually my loyalty becomes emotionally driven, not just behaviorally driven.
What do you think? Does engagement drive loyalty or does loyalty build engagement?