Brand Strategy And The Lovemarks Theory

Brian SheehanAugust 14, 201318055 min

Lovemarks theory is based on a simple premise: human beings are powered by emotion, not by reason.

This is the essence of the Lovemarks argument. If you want people to take action—whether for something momentous, like voting for a president, or seemingly mundane, like buying one brand of facial tissues over another—you need to appeal to their emotions.

Neurologist Donald Calne perhaps said it best: “The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions.”

How can we create the kind of appeal that makes people feel inspired or laugh or cry? First, we must realize that brands don’t just get it by asking. They start by giving love, demonstrating that they love the people who buy them. The sea change comes when brands stop thinking about their customers as “them” and start thinking about “us.” When marketers make this change, they start rewarding their customers every day with brand experiences that have special resonance in three key areas: mystery, sensuality, and intimacy.

Of all the potential aspects of emotional resonance, perhaps none is more important than the sense of mystery that comes from great storytelling. Annette Simmons, an expert in storytelling, puts it precisely: “When you tell a story that touches me, you give me the gift of human attention—the kind that connects me to you, that touches my heart and makes me feel more alive.”

Stories have huge value in business as well. They look in the right direction: at people. You cannot tell a story without characters and emotion and sensory detail. Even the dumbest chicken-crossing-the-road jokes have it. And stories capture us faster than the most elaborately produced annual report.

Sensuality is another aspect of emotional engagement that too many brands ignore. Lovemarks ask, “What does our brand smell like, taste like, look like, sound like, and feel like?” These are not easy questions, but the best brands find answers. If they are not in the food or perfume business, most marketers don’t immediately think that taste or smell are relevant. But taste and smell are surefire ways to stretch your brain about your brand. Walk through any mall in America and you can smell Hollister from a mile away (you can hear it at a slightly shorter distance), it is also the only store that actually invades the corridor space with its red-tiled porch. Hollister gets sensuality.

When you think about it, love is based on inspiration. We are inspired by brands for the same reason we’re inspired by the people we love, because they have principles and treat me like a human being who is intelligent and has feelings. They show empathy and bring joy to my life. ~ Juan Carlos Rodriguez, Executive Creative Director, Badillo Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi

The Love/Respect Axis

How do you know when you have gotten there?

Lovemarks are not created overnight. Marketers need to know where they stand in the beginning, and how well they are doing along the way to building a Lovemark. To help them, Kevin Roberts created the “Love/Respect Axis.”

This tool allows companies to measure how much consumers respect their brands versus how much they love them. Low respect and low love? You are a commodity. Low respect and high love? You are probably a fad. High respect and low love? You are a solid brand with a big opportunity. High respect and high love? You are a Lovemark.

Call it Lovemarks or call it something else, but the pressing question for 21st-century marketers in a digital world of social networking and brand advocacy is how to engage people so they embrace and proselytize your brand. The answer to that question: move from the top left hand quadrant to the top right.

Lovemarks theory makes intuitive sense, but how do we know it really works? Well, that’s what this book is all about. I will show how it works every day for some of the best marketers and brands that have a laser focus on building strong emotional connections with their consumers.

The Data

First, let’s look at some research statistics.

Knowing the need to prove the Lovemarks theory, Saatchi & Saatchi engaged pioneers in emotional research, London-based QiQ International. It was essential to have evidence showing that being a Lovemark delivered higher return on investment (ROI). QiQ’s work showed that growing love and respect can increase buying intention for a product by as much as seven times. Even if your brand has high respect already, you can double volume by increasing love and becoming a Lovemark. For example, in the cereal category, a respected brand can increase the probability of future purchase intention by 60% by increasing their love quotient. In the car category it is 133%!

Beyond purchase intention, people use their Lovemarks more often than they use other products. The average consumer uses their respected brands 26 days per year on average. For Lovemarks it is 119 days.

Further research has supported the overall thesis. The 2007 “Firms of Endearment” study by Sisodia, Wolfe, and Sheth of 35 public companies that had Lovemarks characteristics showed an ROI of 1025% (between 1996 and 2006)—compared to only 122% for the S&P 500, and 316% for the companies profiled in Jim Collins’ book Good to Great.

Love equates very strongly with loyalty. A survey of 60,000 shoppers across 50 markets found that if a brand can increase its loyal shopper base by just 5%, it can expect an increase in sales of 10%. And in this age of online social networking, loyal shoppers have a much higher propensity to recommend products to friends. In effect, people who love and talk about your brand online are now part of your sales force.

Research never sleeps. An associate company of Saatchi & Saatchi, AMR Research of London, has a reservoir of knowledge about what makes a Lovemark, after doing proprietary research on 4,000 brands in 50 countries and reviewing over 100 industries. It found that consumers are tough, awarding Lovemark status to less than 10% of brands surveyed.

Perhaps this is why Lovemarks don’t just create typical loyalty. They often create loyalty beyond reason. What that means is that people who love those products often buy them without cross shopping any other brands. For example, in research, when they are asked if they can imagine a world without that brand, they honestly answer “no.”

A recent paper in the Journal of Marketing by researchers Batra, Ahuvia, and Bagozzi (2011) reported on a three-stage study of brand love. The results of the study summarize Lovemarks in a nutshell. They found that when consumers feel a sense of love for a brand they have a higher sense of brand loyalty, spread positive word-of mouth, and resist negative information about that brand.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider By: Brian Sheehan, excerpted from his book Loveworks: How the world’s top marketers make emotional connections to win in the marketplace, published by powerHouse Books.

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