When Kevin Roberts of Saatchi and Saatchi proposed the concept of Lovemarks (http://www.lovemarks.com) it represented a paradigm shift in brand communication away from the ‘hard sell’ and towards the creation of a desire or ‘love for the brand.’ Whether through celebrity endorsement and association – think the latest perfume ranges – humorous advertising or creative design, ‘love’ was now intended to be truly ‘all around’. Perhaps not the kind of love that makes you want to hug trees, but a warm ‘I love that brand’ glow, that infuses an offering with a certain mood.
Critically, this approach was not meant to be some esoteric exercise but a genuine and fundamental means by which brands could differentiate themselves in an environment where both products and services were fast becoming indistinguishable from each other.
Consider for instance the insurance industry. Faced with a plethora of similar competitors offering similar policies, a number of brands have sought to become differentiated through a focus on becoming most loved. At least in the UK this typically means the use of humour – as in the comparethemeerkat.com adverts –focusing the mind of the consumer less on the product or service on offer and more on its entertainment potential.
Alternatively, most loved can mean investing the branded product or service itself with a kind of magic. For instance, think how the iPod, through the dancing silhouettes adverts represents cool not just practical innovation: something that would not have arisen without the effectiveness of its brand communication.
Yet in spite of all this Lovemarks is only a part of the story. It may communicate attraction and the immediacy of desire but from a business point of view, it is the relationship, the longer term returns from customer lifetime value that should be truly craved. And for relationship we mean the whole experience the client or consumer has with an organisation not just the advertising.
Indeed this is beginning to be recognised as a key critique of the Lovemarks principal. To quote: “some marketers question the usefulness of the Lovemarks concept. A recent study tested whether one of Robert’s Lovemarks – Nike – actually enjoyed higher than expected brand loyalty. The study, based on analysis of TNS consumer panel data, found Nike did not exhibit higher than usual loyalty” (Dawes, J. “Brand Loyalty in the UK Sportswear Market” International Journal of Market Research, Vol. 51, 4, 2009
At the end of the day, it seems that all the advertising in the world will not help if the experience of actually using the product or service is dissonant to how the brand is communicated. This is why for us making an experience feel loved is not just about Lovemarks but about something actually in the experience that acts to communicate that desire: we call this LoveSigns or Lovemarking your Experience
Figure 1: LoveMarks and LoveSigns
Figure 1 describes the basic differences between Lovemarks and LoveSigns.
The LoveSigns concept has some resonance with Moment of Delight, except that the intent is different. Rather than just be a tactical adjunct to an experience the whole purpose is to create ‘loved moments’ that add up in the same way as Lovemarks, to a ‘most loved experience’. The purpose is deliberate and emotional, whether consciously or subconsciously the consumer is intended to come away with a comparative feeling of emotional warmth that feeds directly into loyalty behaviour: a warmth that comes from how that brand is experienced.
It is this direct link that is important ‘I love your brand’ because of the experience becomes an output from an engagement. It is a benefit that customers seek not just a temporary emotional high.
For instance, consider the case of Harley Davidson. Facing a decline in sales they focused their attention on their most positively emotionally engaged segment and wrapped their experience around what would bring most emotional value to them, if you like what would make them say ‘I love this brand’. Of course, this meant some loss in custom from segments that had grown used to a bland experience but ultimately Harley knew that focusing on creating an emotionally engaged experience creates long-term value.
Another example is Cerritos Library in the USA. In this case they purposefully designed their Library as a mall to attract the teenage segment so they too could say ‘I love the experience.’
“When we imagined the library we thought, what is the hardest group to attract? This was the 12–25 age group, junior high school, pre-teens through colleges, who in most communities were not in the library. What is this group attracted to? Mall structures, where they can see their friends at the escalators. So the library was made to look like a mall”, (Don Buckley, Cerritos Library)
In this case, creating an experience that this audience would love expanded the range of audience attracted to the library. Indeed, shopping malls themselves now seek to have mini-Cerritos Libraries as anchor tenants because browsers – not just teenagers – want to hang-out there.
Cerritos never even realised the potential of their brand until they designed an emotionally engaging experience.
How to develop your LoveSigns
The branded experience, how your companies brand is reflected in the ethos you impart through your touchpoints is a key issue for many firms. It is no good saying, we are easy to do business with or our door is always open in your brand statement to the market if the reality is the opposite.
So how do you get your brand ‘into’ the experience?
For Beyond Philosophy we regularly deal with this situation. Our first port of call is either a quantitative modelling of the drivers and destroyers of the brand promise lie using Emotional Signature) and / or a detailed mapping (including emotion) of the experience, expressing in both cases not just what is but what the desired state could be.
The key point of our findings is to develop that emotional reaction akin to Lovemarks, when you touch the experience. This does not necessarily mean achieving perfection, it can just mean developing clues in your experience that are both memorable and warm. Unfortunately, for many companies, their experience is all about avoiding negative events or a blandness drawn from practical, running the business concerns. Our advice would be, actively look for where you could inject LoveSigns, don’t just depend on the brand to do the work for you.
|Steven Walden is VP Consulting and Thought-Leadership for Beyond Philosophy. Steven has 17 years Strategy Consultancy experience directing and designing strategies for major B2C & B2B firms. At Beyond Philosophy, the Global Customer Experience Consultancy, he is a Thought Leader and Innovator, directing engagements to assist leading firms to transform through Customer Experience. A world-leader in emotional experience his skills lie in innovation, thought-leadership, strategy consultancy and Qual/ Quant research. He is a regular speaker at conferences, blog writer, CE Trainer and international author.