In a world that is obsessed with Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Natural Language processing, where do good old branding fundamentals sit? Are we paying enough attention to Brand Love?
It’s a simple topic that is seasonally overused in presentations but often less understood in the marketing world. Most marketeers today run brand tracks and measure the statement ‘is a brand I love’… but the question they must ask themselves is, how many are really trying to make the brand the most lovable brand? That’s what marketing should focus on…beyond AI and methodologies.
Let’ start with a simple activity. So, when you see a dog or a cat, what emotions do you feel? Some may say it’s cute and many might have a silent awww moment. But why do you feel that way? Why some of us feel relaxed or calm when we scroll through pictures of pets on social media?
That is because they are creatures that are loyal and trusting of humans. And trust contributes to Brand Love for the same biological reasons as interpersonal love. The same chemicals (Oxytocin) associated with love between living beings are affected when people trust organizations and companies. So, Brand Love isn’t different vs. Interpersonal Love.
As I write this article, I reflect on the privilege I have had of working on some of the most loved brands in the CPG industry. Be it Huggies or Cetaphil or the Kenvue (erstwhile J&J) brands like Listerine, Aveeno, Johnsons etc.
To quote one testimonial from Amazon for Huggies – ‘My son is about to turn 3, and we’re starting potty training, so I think I can make an effective review at this point. We’ve used Huggies exclusively since birth and have been 100% satisfied with their ability to perform the job. They aren’t cheap, and it’s going to be great when I don’t have to buy these anymore, but until that day I firmly believe you get what you pay for, and these are worth the extra cost. They will keep in a LOT of bodily fluid before they start to break down, and it’s worth every penny to see the kiddo happy’ – AndrewE.
So here is Andrew who has been using Huggies for the last 3 years and has been satisfied. It shows the trust that he has put on the brand for 3 years, the loyalty as well the advocacy. This testimonial is every marketeer’s dream…this is Nirvana.
And that’s the dictionary definition of Brand Love. It goes beyond typical brand management, creating loyalty beyond reason and a strong emotional connection that consumers have with a particular brand. It’s characterized by feelings of Trust, Loyalty, and a willingness to Advocate for the brand.
And it’s proven that Brand Love indeed pays off. Studies from the likes of Forbes
and McKinsey show that compared to ‘liked’ brands, Brand Loyalty, Willingness to pay a Price Premium and Positive Advocacy or Word of Mouth are significantly higher for ‘Loved’ brands.
86% spend more on a brand they love. Why, you might ask. That’s because, consumers who have a strong emotional connection with the brand are more likely to purchase products or services from that brand even if they are expensive or less convenient than the alternatives. Likewise, Brands that create an emotional connection receive 3x more word-of-mouth than those that don’t.
To give an example from our daily lives, once seeking inspiration from consumers on Brand Love, one respondent revealed – ‘I really think of Diet Coke as my boyfriend’. It’s a brilliant example showcasing the level of intimacy, the emotional connect, and the role the brand would be playing in the consumer’s daily life.
But the question that naturally comes up in mind is, is Brand Love only for brands that have some really cool campaigns? Is Brand Love for everyone? And the answer is a resounding YES.
Whether you are in in the business of selling a product or are in let’s say market research industry, Brand Love is for everyone. As per a survey conducted by Savanta, P&G’s dish washing soap brand ‘Fairy’ features as one of the top 10 most loved brands in the UK. Dish-soap is a very functional category, but ‘Fairy’ is standing shoulder to shoulder to other Beauty and Tech Brands to be in that top 10 list. Likewise, in SEA, AIA is one of the Top 10 loved brands as per a Talkwalker survery.
But a brand doesn’t get loved overnight and we have seen the concept evolve. First, the goal was satisfaction. But satisfaction is tied to expectations and should be cost of entry. Its table stakes. Then, brands started chasing loyalty.
It’s easier to sell to existing customers than to new ones. Subsequently as we saw in the last decade consumers began interacting with brands like they interact with people. It became more difficult to pinpoint why consumers are loyal to certain brands and what that looks like. Traditional satisfaction and loyalty metrics just aren’t enough. Welcome LOYALTY 2.0.
Best represented in the publications from Beloved Brands, Brand Love goes through a journey. In the beginning a new brand that is unknown, must get noticed so consumers see the brand in the crowd. Then the brand builds its positioning in the minds of the consumers. Subsequently, building a trusted following with each happy purchase and tightening bonds with your most loyal brand lovers.
One might think, that’s it, we have cracked it. Admittedly, that is a big deal, but still not enough in today’s complex omnichannel world. Brand Love goes beyond that, and the journey takes us from Loved to Beloved to deliver the most exceptional experiences to inspire your fans to be your brand advocate.
Brand Love can’t be built over night and to build Love you must delight consumers in every possible way. Through the products most importantly but also with the right consumer insights built or generated on the principles of LOVE.
4 principles that marketeers can adopt to drive Brand Love
1. Listen to address
When you think of a chain, no matter how strong of a metal it is made of, but one weak link is enough to break that chain. Likewise, consumers exert more cognitive attention and effort on negative reviews than on positive ones. Negative information is more valuable than positive information when making a judgment. Consumer feedback coming from the customer care or online Ratings & Reviews is usually a great source of identifying addressal opportunities.
2. Identify the Opportunities
Here, let’s look at the Dunning Kruger effect framework. It was first described by psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger. It’s a type of cognitive bias that causes people to feel confident that they have greater knowledge or competence in an area than they actually do.
It explains the intersections between ‘What we know’ and ‘What we don’t know’. As marketeers, majority of times the objective behind any new piece of consumer work is to address ‘What you know that you don’t know’ i.e., trying to fill gaps. But one must go beyond this and look for more possibilities that lead to Discoveries.
To be on the quest of identifying ‘What we don’t know that we don’t know’ i.e., to keep an open mind and listen to what consumers are saying. It’s not just about getting those answers to the questions, it’s more about listening to what consumers are saying, the expressions that consumers have, the occasions during which consumers use your products, and that leads to Discoveries.
3. Brand Values and Purpose
Brand Love sits where passion meets purpose. And passion comes from knowing why you do what you do. Your values or purpose should consume, energize, fuel, and push you. It describes how the world will be different or better because your brand exists.
4. Creating Emotional associations
Brands too often become trapped around being known for good things and being known for things that are different. And start battling each other for differentiation – often rationally. Consumer Insights are little secrets hidden beneath the surface that explains the underlying behaviors, motivations, pain points and emotions of our consumers.
What we need to do is look beneath the surface and need to break out to find an EMOTIONAL territory where the brand becomes something people care about, LOVE and identify themselves
In conclusion, in a world where consumers have seemingly endless options, cultivating Brand Love is essential to stand out and remain relevant. With the increasing competition in the market, it is not enough for brands to have just satisfied customers. Building Brand Love with the help of the LOVE principles will differentiate a brand and keep consumers engaged with its products or services, leading to higher Loyalty, Willingness to pay a price premium and positive Advocacy or word-of-mouth advertising. And ultimately, the more advocates you have, the fewer ads you have to buy.