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The Brand Love Curve

In the consumer’s mind, brands sit on a Brand Love Curve, with brands going from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally becoming a Beloved Brand for Life.  At the Beloved stage, demand becomes desire, needs become cravings, thinking is replaced with feelings.  Consumers become outspoken fans.  It’s this connection that helps drive power for your brand: power versus competitors, versus customers, versus suppliers and even versus the same consumers you’re connected with.  The farther along the curve, the more power for the brand.  It’s important that you understand where your brand sits on the Love Curve and begin figuring out how to move it along towards becoming a Beloved Brand.

With each stage of the Brand Love Curve, the consumer will see your brand differently.  The worst case is when consumers have “no opinion” of your brand.  They just don’t care.   It’s like those restaurants you stop at in the middle of no-where that are called “restaurant”.  In those cases, there is no other choice so you may as well just name it restaurant.  But in highly competitive markets, you survive by being liked, but you thrive by being loved.  Be honest with yourself as to what stage you are at, and try to figure out how to be more loved, with a vision of getting to the Beloved Brand stage. 

The most beloved brands are based on an idea that is worth loving. 

It is the idea that connects the Brand with consumers.  And under the Brand Idea are 5 sources of connectivity that help connect the brand with consumers and drive Brand Love, including the brand promise, the strategic choices you make, the brand’s ability to tell their story, the freshness of the product or service and the overall experience and impressions it leaves with you.  Everyone wants to debate what makes a great brand–whether it’s the product, the advertising, the experience or through consumers.  It is not just one or the other–it’s the collective connection of all these things that make a brand beloved.

Generating Love for the Brand
  1. The brand’s promise sets up the positioning, as you focus on a key target with one main benefit you offer.  Brands need to be either better, different or cheaper.  Or else not around for very long.  “Me-too” brands have a short window before being squeezed out.  How relevant, simple and compelling the brand positioning is impacts the potential love for the brand.
  2. The most beloved brands create an experience that over-delivers the promise.  How your culture and organization are set up can make or break that experience.  Hiring the best people, creating service values that employees can deliver against and having processes that eliminate service leakage.  The culture attacks the brand’s weaknesses and fixes them before the competition can attack.  With a Beloved Brand, the culture and brand become one.
  3. Brands also make focused strategic choices that start with identifying where the brand is on the Brand Love Curve going from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and all the way to Beloved status.   Marketing is not just activity, but rather focused activity–based on strategy with an ROI mindset.  Where you are on the curve might help you make strategic and tactical choices such as media, innovation and service levels.
  4. The most beloved brands have a freshness of innovation, staying one-step ahead of the consumers.  The idea of the brand helps acting as an internal beacon to help frame the R&D.  Every new product has to back that idea.  At Apple, every new product must deliver simplicity and at Volvo, it must focus on safety.  .
  5. Beloved brands can tell the brand story through great advertising in paid media, through earned media either in the mainstream press or through social media.  Beloved Brands use each of these media choices to connect with consumers and have a bit of magic to their work.

Using Apple as an example, which is the most valuable brand on the planet, the big idea behind Apple is complexity made simple.  Since every great brand tackles an enemy of the consumer, Apple takes on the frustration and intimidation that consumers have with technology.  The Apple brand promise is we make it easier to love technology, so that you can experience the future no matter who you are.  Apple has done an amazing job in creating products that take the most complicated of technology and deliver it so that anyone can use it.  People criticize Apple for not being that leading edge of technology saying they just copy.  But they don’t get what Apple is about.   Whereas every other geeky computer company starts with the technology and forces consumers to figure it out, Apple takes that same technology and makes it so simple–whether that’s the iPhone  iPad or the Mac which have made technology accessible for anyone.   Apple knows how to tell their story, starting with the launch meeting–last week’s iPad Mini launch was covered for days in the mainstream media.  You could even watch it live on-line.  Apple has made great ads over the years, but they know how to work the media–whether that’s on CNN, technology magazines or through social media such as Twitter and Facebook.  Apple manages the Brand Experience to perfection–starting with the excitement of launches to the helpfulness of the genius bar to the out-of-box start-up of any of the Apple products.  As much excitement as Apple generates, they always seem to over-deliver.  Look how giddy people get over their iPhones and iPads. All these contribute to the Love for the Apple brand and generates a loyal following.

Using the Love to Generate Power

The 12 forces of a Beloved Brand map out how a beloved brand can leverage the power generated from being loved.A Beloved Brand with a loyal group of followers has so much more power–starting with a power over the very consumers that love them.   These consumers feel more than they think–they are e-rational responding to emotional cues in the brand.   They’ll pay a premium, line up in the rain for new products and follow the brand to new categories.   Look at the power Starbucks has with their base of consumers, making their Starbucks moment one of their favorite rituals of the day and how consumers have now added sandwiches and wraps to those rituals.  All day long, Starbucks has a line up of people ready for one of their favorite moments of their day.

Using Porter’s 5 forces, we can see that the love also gives Beloved Brands power over channels, substitutes, new entrants, or suppliers.   People rather switch stores than switch brands.  Apple has even created their own stores, which generate the highest sales per square foot of any retailer.  These brand fans are outspoken against competitors and suppliers will do what it takes to be part of the brand.  In Apple’s case, Intel has given them the lead on new chip technology.

Beloved Brands have a power over employees that want to be part of the brand and the culture of the organization that all these brand fans are proud to project.  People at Starbucks love working there and wear that green apron with a sense of pride.  Brand fans know the culture on day 1 and do what it takes to preserve it.

Beloved Brands have a power over the media whether that’s paid, earned, social or search media.  Apple generates over a billion dollars of free media via the mainstream media and social media.  Competitors complain about Apple getting a positive media bias–they are right, they do.  Even for paid media,beloved brands get better placement, cheaper rates and they’ll be the first call for an Integration or big event such as the Super Bowl or the Olympics.   Nike did such a great job with social media during the London Olympics that people thought they were the main shoe sponsor–when it was Adidas.

Beloved Brands have a power over key influencers whether it’s doctors recommending Lipitor, restaurant critics giving a positive review for the most beloved restaurant in town  or Best Buy sales people selling a Samsung TV.  They each become fans of the brand and build emotion into their recommendation.  They become more outspoken in their views of the brand. And finally beloved the Beloved Brand makes its way into conversation at the lunch table or on someone’s Facebook page.  The brand fans are everywhere, ready to pounce, ready to defend and ready to say “hey, you should buy the iPhone”.  The conversation comes with influence as crowds follow crowds.  This conversation has a second power, which creates a badge value.  People know it will generate a conversation and are so proud to show it off.  After all, they are in the club. All twelve of these forces combine to generate further power for the brand.

Using the Love and Power to generate Profits

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With all the love and power the Beloved Brand has generated for itself, now is the time to translate that into growth, profit and value. The Beloved Brand has an Inelastic Price.  The loyal brand fans pay a 20-30% price premium and the weakened channels cave to give deeper margins.  We will see how inelastic Apple’s price points are with the new iPad Mini.   Consumers are willing to trade up to the best model.  The more engaged employees begin to generate an even better brand experience.  For instance at Starbucks, employees know the names of their most loyal of customers.  Blind taste tests show consumers prefer the cheaper McDonald’s coffee but still pay 4x as much for a Starbucks.  So is it still coffee you’re buying?

A well-run Beloved Brand can use their efficiency to lower their cost structure.  Not only can they use their growth to drive economies of scale, but suppliers will cut their cost just to be on the roster of a Beloved Brand.  They will benefit from the free media through earned, social and search media.  They may even find government offer subsidies to be in the community or partners willing to lower their costs to be part of the brand.  For instance, a real estate owner would likely give lower costs and better locations to McDonald’s than an indifferent brand.

Beloved Brands have momentum they can turn into share gains.   Crowds draw crowds which spreads the base of the loyal consumers.  Putting name Disney on a movie generates a crowd at the door on day 1.  Competitors can’t compete–lower margins means less investment back into the brand.  It’s hard for them to fight the Beloved Brand on the emotional basis leaving them to a niche that’s currently unfulfilled.

Beloved Brands can enter into new categories knowing their loyal consumers will follow  because they buy into the Idea of the Brand.  The idea is no longer tied to the product or service but rather how it makes you feel about yourself.  Nike is all about winning, whether that’s in running shoes, athletic gear or even golf equipment.

The formula for a Beloved Brand is simple: Beloved = Power = Growth = Profit

Below, you will see how the Brand changes at the different stages of the Brand Love Curve:

These four stages are outlined on the following pages:

Here is the Power Point explanation of Beloved Brands

For added stories, click on any of the topics below:

If you or team has any interest in a learning program, please contact me at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com

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