Brand Love is now a strategy.
No longer should a brand think about their consumers in a strictly functional or logical way. The best brands of today, like Tesla, Apple, Starbucks, Nike, Dove or Airbnb have found a way to capture the imagination of their consumers and take them on a journey of delightful experiences that fosters a deeper emotional and lasting relationship. These brands treat their most cherished consumers with a respect that establishes a trust, that enables consumers to open up to a point where thinking is replaced with feelings, the logic of demand evolves into an emotional state of desire, needs become cravings and repeat purchases progress into rituals that turns into a favorite moment in the day. Consumers transform into the most outspoken and loyal brand fans.
The old logical ways of marketing are not working in today’s world. These brands feel stuck in the past talking about gadgets, features and promotions. They will clearly be ‘friend-zoned’ by consumers, to be purchased only when the brand is on sale. The best brands of the last century were little product inventions that solved small problems consumers did not even realize they had until the product came along. Old-school marketing was dominated by bold logos, catchy jingles, memorable slogans, side-by-side demonstrations, repetitive TV ads, product superiority claims and expensive battles for shelf space at retail stores. Every Marketer focused on entering the consumer’s mind. Marketers of the last century were taught the 4P’s of product, place, price and promotion. It is a useful start, but too product-focused and it misses out on consumer insights, brand promise, emotional benefits and consumer experiences. The Crest brand knew their “Look mom, no cavities” TV ads annoyed everyone, but knew it stuck in the consumer’s brain. No one cared how nice the Tide logo looked, as long as it stood out on a crowed grocery store shelf. The jingle “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is” was repeated often to embed itself in the consumer’s memory bank. The side-by-side dish detergent ad showed spots on the wine glass of a competitor, just to shame consumers into using Cascade. Brands that continue to follow a logical play only, will fail miserably in today’s emotion-driven marketplace.
The best brands of today engage in a strategy that follows a very similar path to the rituals of a courtship. Through the eyes of consumers, brands start as complete strangers and if successful, they move into something similar to a trusted friendship. As the consumer begins to open up, they allow their emotions to take over and without knowing, they begin to love the brand. As the brand weaves itself into the best moments of the consumer’s life, the consumer becomes an outspoken fan, an advocate and one of the many ‘brand lovers’ who cherish the brand. From the strategic mind of the marketer, this follows a very similar pattern to the strategies of a successful courtship.
Consumers must be cherished and ‘won-over’. Today’s consumers are surrounded by a clutter of 5,000 brand messages a day that fight for a glimpse of their attention. That is 1.8 Million per year, or one message every 11 waking seconds. Consumers are constantly distracted—walking, talking, texting, searching, watching, replying—most times at the same time. They glance past most brand messages all day long. Their brain quickly rejects boring, irrelevant or unnecessary messages. Brands must capture the consumer’s imagination right away, with a big idea that is simple, unique, inspiring and creates as much excitement as a first-time encounter.
Consumers are tired of being burned by faulty brand promises. Once lied to, their well-guarded instincts begin to doubt first, test second, and at any point, they will cast aside any brand that does not live up to the original promise that captured them on the first encounter. A brand must be worthy of love. The best brands of today have a soul that exists deep within the culture of the brand organization. The brand’s purpose must be able to explain why the people who work behind the scenes of the brand come to work everyday so energized and ready to over-deliver on the brand’s behalf. This purpose becomes an immovable conviction, with inner motivations, beliefs and values that influences and inspires every employee to want to be part of the brand. This brand conviction must be so strong, the brand would never make a choice that is in direct contradiction with their inner belief system. Consumers start to see, understand and appreciate the level of conviction with the brand. Consumers become willing to open up, they identify with the brand and they trust the brand. The integrity behind the brand helps tighten the consumer’s unshakable bond with the brand.
Brands must listen, observe and start to know the thoughts of their consumer before they even think it. Not only does the brand meet their needs, the brand must heroically beat down the consumer’s ‘enemy’ that torments their life, every day. The brand must show up consistent at every consumer touch-point, whether it is the promise they make, the stories they tell, the innovation designed to surprise consumers, the easy purchase moments or the delightful consumer experiences that make consumers want to tell their friends about. The consumer keeps track in the back of their mind to make sure it all adds up before they commit. Only then, will the consumer trust the brand. Brands have to do the little things that matter, to show they love their consumer. Every time the brand over-delivers on their promise, it adds a little fuel to the romance each and every time. Over time, the brand must weave itself into the most important moments of the consumer’s lives, and become part of the most cherished stories and memories within their heart.
Brands need to foster a passionate and lasting love with their consumers.
How can brand leaders replicate Apple’s brand lovers lined up in the rain to buy the latest iPhone before they even know the phone’s features, the Ferrari fans who paint their faces red every week, even though they know they will likely never drive a Ferrari in their lifetime, the ‘Little Monsters’ who believe they are nearly best friends with Lady Gaga, the 400,000 outspoken Tesla brand advocates who put $1,000 down for a car that does not even exist yet or the devoted fans of In-N-Out Burger who order animal-style burgers off the ‘secret menu’ no one else knows about? Every brand should want this type of passion and power with their consumers.
The more ‘brand love’ created, the more brand power generated
Brand love becomes a source of energy that gives the beloved brand a power over the very consumers who love them. The competition crumbles, as they are unable to replicate the emotional bond consumers have with the beloved brand. Channel retailers become powerless in negotiations with the beloved brand, once they realize their own consumers would switch stores before they will switch brands. Suppliers serve at the mercy of the beloved brand, as the high volumes efficiently drive down production costs, which back the supplier into a corner before they offer up most of those savings just to stay a supplier. The beloved brand has a power over the media, whether it means better placement through paid media, more news coverage through earned media, a mystique over key influencers and more talk value through social media or at the lunch table. The beloved brand even has power over employees, who want to work there, not have to work there. They are fellow brand fans, proud to work extra hard on the brand they love.
The more ‘brand love’ created, the more brand profits realized
Beloved brands achieve higher profit margins. First, they leverage their brand love with consumers to ensure a price premium is never perceived as excessive. Consumers gladly pay $5 for a Starbucks latte, $500 for an iPad or $100,000+ for a Mercedes. Beloved brands use a good/better/best price strategy to trade cherished consumers up to higher price items. Mercedes sees C class drivers who paid $40,000 as future S Class drivers who will pay over $150,000. A well-run beloved brand uses their high volume to drive efficiency and their brand power to pressure suppliers to lower their costs. A beloved brand has a higher response to marketing programs, that means a more efficient marketing investment. The beloved brands use their momentum to drive higher volume growth. They get loyal users to use more, as consumers build the beloved brand into their life’s routines and daily rituals. The beloved brand can enter new categories, as they know their loyal consumers will follow the brand. Finally, there are more creative opportunities for the beloved brand to find more uses or usage occasions for the beloved brand to fit into the consumer’s life.
The more loved a brand is by consumers, the more powerful and profitable that brand will be.
I wish all Marketers understood this formula. I see agencies tell their clients that brands need to be more emotional. Maybe they would win the argument more if they could demonstrate the resulting power and resulting profit that could transform the argument into the language of the clients.
How can you create a passionate and lasting love with your consumers?
To read more on creating brand love, here is the workshop we run for our clients.
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