Love is more than a word. It is also more than a one-dimensional emotion. There are many different types of love—a mother’s love for her child, a husband’s love for his wife, a chef’s love for cooking, Roger Federer’s love for Tennis, Warren Buffett’s love for investing, B.B. King’s love for the blues, and John Muir’s love for nature, to name a few.
What about the business world? Does love exist there? Is there such a thing as Brand Love? Is it possible for love to exist between customers and the brands they possess and use? Love for a Harley, for a Gibson guitar, for a replica of an Adidas football used in the FIFA World Cup, for a Hallmark keepsake ornament, for one’s Nespresso machine, for an ABC TV reality show?
Since the mid-to-late 1980’s, both practitioners and academics have been vocal about the role that love plays in the development and nurturing of customer-brand relationships. Advertising and design professionals have also been active in exploring the role of brand love in designing new creatives and new products/services.
If around this your inner voice has started nudging you, “Nice, but show me the money, ” have no fear. There’s plenty to show. Over the past two decades several studies have shown Brand Love to be associated with:
Positive word of mouth (WOM)
Less price sensitivity/a higher willingness to pay premium prices
A greater tendency to forgive brand failures.
Not only are the business outcomes listed above impressive, they are also a clear demonstration of the wisdom, or if you prefer—ROI, of investing in the cultivation of brand love.
How? What are some effective ways of building brand love?
Two recommendations I read recently in a Journal of Marketing article resonated loudly, because they are commonsensical, and because they have a natural connection with customer communities.
1. Facilitate passion-driven behaviors
2. Create positive emotional connections
Customer communities are hotbeds for facilitating passion-driven behaviors. Take a few brands with some of the highest scores on Brand Love—Harley Davidson, Hallmark, Mountain Dew, ABC Studios, Marmite, Nike, Susan G. Komen for the cure, and many more. All these brands have very successfully harnessed the power of customer communities by first sowing the seeds of passion-driven behaviors, like riding, running, collecting, rebelling, etc., and subsequently harvesting them to build and sustain deep long-term customer connections and relationships.
Which provides a nice segue to the second strategy for building brand love, creating positive connections. Creating positive emotional connections with the brand goes beyond a loosey goosey feel-good attitude. It is stronger; it falls more in the realm of attachment, a strong bond, and a declaration that this brand is right for me. Customer communities have a competitive edge in this respect. Because they can focus equally effectively on both the individual and on social networks, they offer fertile environments for companies to create a sense of kinship, transmit the vision of senior management, communicate brand culture and values, and most importantly demonstrate that the brand, company, and management are serious about walking the talk, acting on the voice of the customer (VOC). And nothing builds positive emotional connections better than authentic behavior.
So unlike in the Tina Turner hit, What’s Love Got To Do With It, at least in the world of customer-brand relationships, the answer is—everything. Brand Love helps brands create uncontested spaces of preference and loyalty that prevents customers from running into competitors’ arms. And isn’t that what most brands desire that their customers love them. Exclusively.