All you need is Lovemarks?

I waited one week since Valentine’s day to be able to talk about something that is on my mind since a long time. It’s not easy as I was a fan of the Lovemarks for many years, working in Saatchi&Saatchi in 4 different countries and even participated to the second opus/book ‘The Lovemarks Effect: Winning in the Consumer Revolution’. Everybody know the beginning of the concept of Lovemarks – the future beyond the “ordinary” brands. This approach has two advantages. The first being the big promise for advertisers: we will cause the consumer to love your brand. Not just to “desire” or “prefer”, but to “love”. Who doesn’t want that? The second advantage: this concept has an easy to remember simplicity – “Saatchi & Saatchi is the advertising agency that talks about love”. Love is good. Love is fashionable in these times of getting in touch with your emotions. At the same time, although there was a wave of “emotional brands”, there was no other advertising agency that spoke of love as a leading motto.

We promised that we knew how to create the kind of brands that people fall in love with and remain loyal to “beyond reason”. But already, we could feel some limits when talking to our clients and partners – a Lovemark, we had no real clue on how it is done. We can speak of brands that people love and describe the characteristics of love of brands, but …it’s not enough.

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What is a Lovemark?

Your brand will be both respected and loved. These are two intersecting axes, which means that they are independent. In other words, S&S claims that respect does not influence love and love doesn’t influence respect. It will be difficult to find psychological experts that will agree with this statement. Brands that are both respected and loved are “Lovemarks” – a type of super-brands that the consumer is loyal to “beyond reason”. Like Google, Apple, Coca Cola, Nike and Starbucks. Although we tend to treat consumer researches with total disregard, Saatchi & Saatchi ordered, from the QIQ International Research Institute, the development of a technique for measuring whether your brand is a “Lovemark” or not, by measuring the level of respect and the level of love that consumers feel towards the brand in comparison to those of competitors. It seems that consumers say that they purchase brands that they both love and respect more often than brands that they just respect or rely on. Believe it or not, they also express their intention to continue and purchase them in the future. Today it is not enough to be respected we used to claim. Respect is only a condition for admission into the competition. The challenge is to be loved. Emotions are the inexhaustible resource. The appeal to emotions is the way to escape from the fate of the multitude of undifferentiated brands that become commodities. And a love for a brand has three characteristics that are supposed to help us create “Lovemarks”: Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy. “Mystery” means stories and fables related to the brand or its components and secret formulas that stimulate the imagination. “Sensuality” means a pleasant sensory experience, in part of the five senses or all of them. “Intimacy” means a sense of belonging or personal identification and empathy, or personal relevance and inspiration.

Confusion between words and meaning

We never defined really what is love. We assume that people have an intuitive comprehension of the concept of “love” and that is quite true. People use the same word to talk about totally different feelings in the same general direction. The love of a brand is more similar to the love of ice-cream than the love for a spouse. This distinction helps us understand what love for a brand means. “Love for ice-cream” is actually an excited anticipation towards the pleasant sensory experience that we feel when we eat ice-cream. And in fact this is what the “love for a brand” is: an excited anticipation for something good that will happen to us when we consume it or use it or even simply own it. If we love a brand because we expect to derive something good out of it – our loyalty is not “beyond reason”, but is rather reasonable. The term “benefit” is considered a cerebral matter, but, the benefit of ice-cream, lets say Ben & Jerry’s, is mainly sensory pleasure. There are brands like Versace, whose benefits are social. In every single case, a benefit is always accompanied by pleasant sensations or by positive emotions. Not really cerebral.

Another distinction is between merely stimulating emotions as opposed to developing emotions for a certain object, like a brand. Any reasonable television movie can stimulate emotions, but they pass without leaving their mark when it is over. But let us look at a television series, a telenovela for example; whose devoted viewers attest their love for. The emotions (and loyalty, clearly understood) for the certain telenovela, the “love” for the certain telenovela, stems from the anticipation for an emotional experience (pleasant to the viewer) that it provides. The arousal of emotions per se, does not develop continuous emotions. The creation of anticipation for something good / pleasant / beneficial – develops continuous emotions.

Confusion between symptoms and causes

So mystery, sensuality and intimacy are the three characteristics of love for a brand. Meaning, when a consumer feels love for a brand, the consumer feels that the brand somehow ignites his imagination, pleases his senses and arouses a deep relevance in him. But, to say that if we purposefully create mystery, sensuality and intimacy it will result in love for the brand is basically like saying that if we raise someone’s fever and cause him to cough, he will get the flu. In the case of the flu, the reason for the symptoms is the activity of the virus. In the case of a brand, the reason for the symptoms is the benefit that the brand has to offer and its impact on the consumer. The alert activity of the imagination, the sensual experience and the intimacy that the consumer experiences by loving the brand, are all outcomes of the anticipation for something good, for a benefit, or of a pleasurable experience. It is this anticipation that makes a brand enticing to the consumer and thusly successful. When creating a differentiated strategic concept for your brand that provides a new benefit to the consumer – you ought to thing of creating mystery, sensuality and intimacy or personal relevance. The essential need for a brand to be a means or instrument for the consumer to achieve benefit of any sort. The problem is that without it you will not have a brand that consumers desire.

Reason and Emotion

Over 15 years of psychological research that teach us that reason and emotion are far from being opposites. Rather, they are both part of one system. Alas, the connection between the thinking process, the imagination process and emotional processes. The quote of the neurologist Donald Kane that said: ‘reason leads to conclusions and emotions lead to action’ can be confusing. But the consumer thinks about the things that a candidate says in an election campaign and reaches the conclusion that he will raise taxes that will decrease his available income. This thought is terrifying! Meaning: stimulates emotion. The consumer thinks about the vehicle that accelerates from 0 to 100 in such and such number of seconds. He reaches the conclusion: “I will be the first to jump when the traffic light turns green” and intoxicating feelings of superiority overcome him. If you do not understand the connection between thoughts and emotions – you do not know how to develop love for a brand. Kevin Roberts does not know how.

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What is Love?

Our starting point is to be clear as to what we mean by “love for a brand”. Love for a brand is actually a strong feeling of anticipation for something good, pleasant or beneficial that we believe with great certainty that we will get from the brand. It is the anticipation for good experiences, pleasant sensations or positive emotions. Consumers love the M&M’s chocolate candies, or buying at IKEA or driving a BMW or using a iPhone device or searching for information in Google, exactly because of the focused and intensive anticipation which they enthusiastically describe as “love”. But we, as professionals, need to understand what is behind the verbal descriptions of consumers, so that we will be able to stimulate such feelings. To stimulate anticipation for benefit, even an intangible one, is a much clearer and approachable task than to “stimulate love”.

How do consumers “fall in love” with a brand?

Structurally, it happens in the same process as people falling in love with people. We all have beliefs as to what will satisfy our basic needs (physiological and emotional), what will be good for us and will make us happy. In many cases we are not aware of them or are only partially aware. Often they are not phrased in words, but exist in fleeting images and scenarios that we experience by imagination. These beliefs are shaped by the stories of the lives of people surrounding us, movies and television programs we watch, commercials and mainly by our personal experience. Some of them are beliefs that have accompanied us along many years and some change with fashion and trends. These beliefs are abstract (“If people think that I am successful they will admire me”) and we name them “goals” or “benefits” that we seek. These beliefs mold our pre-disposition to fall in love. Subsequently, other beliefs, which are more concrete and specific, focus our abstract beliefs on certain products or brands (“If I drive a Lexus; people will think that I am successful”). The beliefs of specific type come to life in our imagination and arouse our anticipations, evoking desire and “love for the brand”. But how are these specific beliefs formed? When a brand succeeds in being perceived by us as a tangible realization of our abstract beliefs regarding what will be good for us (our pre-disposition) – the anticipation that it will be good for us is the result. The brand is thus perceived as an opportunity to achieve the benefit that we have in our imagination. This is also what happens when we are seduced or fall in love with a partner, and this is also where the similarity between love for a brand and love as the basis for a relationship between people, ends. We anticipate that the brand will be good for us and therefore we want it. The commitment that we have towards people and the mutual pact that exists in relationships can never be formed towards a brand.

How do we create the “Click”?

The ingenuity of branding is obviously to first destine, whatever it is that we are selling, to be a unique answer to a pre-disposition of the consumer, and then to convey it in an effective manner so that it will become a belief of the consumer. The pre-disposition is not what the consumer already desires in the present, but rather what may potentially arouse enthusiasm and does not exist yet. That is where the great marketing opportunities lie. The problem is that consumers do not know much about their pre-disposition and therefore they can not tell us what will turn them on in the future when questioned in consumer researches. The process of developing a brand starts with an insight. To reach such an insight we must unearth and interpret the non-conscious set of rules that constitute the pre-disposition of the consumer. There are advanced research tools that help identify this set of rules. They require psychological expertise and advanced interviewing skills and thus they are not commonly used by research institutes (The main tool that I personally use is called ForeSearch). The insight is only the beginning of the process. We use to guide for the creative process by which we devise a new concept for providing the consumer with a benefit that realizes his pre-disposition. This concept is the basis for the brand.

How to influence the intensity of love?

There are two factors that influence the intensity of the consumer’s emotions towards the brand. The first one is a combination of the importance that the consumer attributes to the benefit that the brand offers, meaning the level of impact that he anticipates that it will have on his well-being and happiness, together with (and this is even more important), the rarity of the benefit: how difficult it is for the consumer to achieve the same benefit from other products or brands, that don’t necessarily compete directly. The more the benefit of the brand is perceived as important and rare, so will the emotions be stronger. The second factor is the quality of the supply of the benefit, or: how far can the brand be trusted to supply such benefit in a good and consistent level and in suitable availability in the course of time. Good management can guarantee the second factor. A brilliant strategy is needed for the first factor.

How do we create an important and rare benefit?

This is the arena in which the differences between brilliant strategists and fine marketing and branding professionals, become evident. The importance of the expertise and the personal abilities are essential and we need to admit that there is no formula here, but we can still talk about some guiding rules that help epitomize the personal ability.

The first rule is that you have a greater chance in creating a rare benefit or even an exclusive one, if you create for your brand a benefit that is “off-core” in your category. The core benefits are all the benefits that consumers are used to expect from a certain product they are perceived as important for such a product. In all that concerns the core benefits, we may talk about “defense strategy”: don’t let your competitors be better then you. On the other hand, there is no point for you to make efforts in such direction. Any innovation that you introduce into such benefits, your competitors will be quick to imitate, as they also know that these are important benefits to the consumer.

What you are looking for is a benefit important to the consumer, but not connected with your product category so far, and yet intuitively perceived as suitable for it (Off-Core Differentiation). An example of this is the commitment at the heart of the strategy of The Body Shop chain of stores for the protection of the environment and helping the needy all over the world, and the policy of Virgin to use a mischievous and cheeky spirit to break the rules of the game and beat the larger companies, creating fun for the consumer along the way, as well as the support of Vans to non-institutionalized sports of teenagers and the provocativeness of Diesel, and there are many more examples. In this way, successful brands enjoy immunity from imitation by competitors, as what they are doing seems so irrelevant to the category. The second rule is to supply this benefit in a new manner, unique and different from how it is supplied in other product categories.

The benefit can be social or psychological

Any off-core benefit is by definition an “added value” to the benefit coming from the product itself, as the benefit from the product itself is naturally on-core. The off-core differentiation that you adopt can be based on a benefit that is not tangible or experiential, but interpersonal, social or psychological. The Amex black Centurion card is obviously not only a means for payment that indicates that its owner has unlimited credit. The Centurion has a social value, as it allows its owners to radiate to their surrounding that they are extremely rich. However, the Centurion, which no customer can request, but is only given to clients chosen by Amex, is more than that. On a psychological level more than the social level, the Centurion is a certificate of superiority, of a super-status to whom ordinary norms of regular mortals, do not apply.

How will the consumer “discover” the brand?

It is easier for consumers to fall in love with a brand when they feel that “it comes from within them”, as opposed to it being “sold” to them. The key to this is “Fascinating Marketing” instead of “Satisfying Marketing”. The usual marketing is “Satisfying Marketing” whose main objective is to please the consumer and satisfy him. In contrast, “Fascinating Marketing” promises surprise and excitement, plays hard to get, toys at the consumer and sets conditions and obstacles on the road to the sweet satisfaction. Fascinating Marketing has large arsenal of methods, one of which is the set of principles and tools of Viral Marketing. Here the brand is designed to excite a small group of enthusiasts (instead of trying to be liked on a reasonable level by the majority). These enthusiasts “infect” those around them with desire for the brand, when the process seems pure of sales.

How will you turn your brand into the best show in town ?

A good way to bring the brand’s strategy to life is by using the tools of “drama”, which for over 2,500 years has done a great job of stirring the feelings of people in the theater, in literature, in cinemas, television and more. Furthermore, the success of a brand, which has an intangible value beyond the function of the product itself, depends on the consumer’s willingness to accept something unreal as real, i.e. be in a trance. Drama has been known for centuries to put audiences into a trance where they allow themselves to be swept away by unrealistic plots. I usually begin the development of the creative approach for the brand’s expression, presence and unfolding, with an analysis of the “Drama of the Brand”. Every powerful brand provides the consumer with a benefit that he yearns for, and that is neither easy nor simple to achieve (certainly on the profound and important level of the benefit, not on the surface one). The Drama of the Brand is the confrontation of two forces that occurs when the consumer attempts to achieve the benefit that our brand promises him, even before our brand is available to him. This analysis involves questions such as: what happens to the consumer when he is trying to achieve the benefit in other ways? What attempts and efforts does he make? What is the result? What internal and external difficulties does he encounter? How do they manifest themselves? How does he fail? And then… how does our brand help him in achieving the benefit he is seeking? My experience tells me that such clarification raises all the necessary materials for “dramatizing” the brand in a way that generates inside the consumer this exhilarating feeling of “found it!” the excited anticipation that causes consumers to love brands.

Love marks exist…you just have to refresh and challenge the way you want to create them.

(including some thoughts from Dr. Dan Herman)

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