industry thoughts from Clarteza

04 April
Mag Retelewski

Understanding Brand Love

Understanding Brand Love

In a recent study, Millward Brown and The Jim Stengel Company compiled a list of the 50 fastest-growing brands, both consumer and business, over a ten year period.  Brands were analyzed in terms of both customer relationships as well as financial value.  The common link between the 50 brands, which cut across categories and segments, including both products and services, was that all of the brands were based on ideals.  The study defined an ideal as a higher order purpose or benefit that the company or brand contributes to the world.  More than an attribute, this purpose is the primary driver of the company’s strategies, innovations and marketing tactics.  Zappos, for instance, is in the business of delivering happiness, not selling shoes.  Red Bull doesn’t sell energy drinks; it uplifts the mind and body.  IBM isn’t in the business consulting business; it makes the world smarter.

More and more studies and reports are asserting the value of top selling brands and consumer favorites, such as perennial list-topper Apple, lies not in advertising expenditure dollars, nor product design, nor innovation per se, but rather in broader, more holistic, relationship-based concepts such as ideals and brand love.

Gray: “Emotional connections create more loyalty and sales”

Even in CPG categories, trends in marketing over the last several years have focused on differentiating brands by communicating to consumers at an emotional level, rather than creating advertising executions that highlight features, benefits, performance and price.  The rise of social media platforms has pushed marketers to go beyond emotional connections to creating one-on-one relationships with customers and fostering dialogue and frequent interaction between the brand and the consumer.  However, while individual executions and tweets can engage the consumer on a short-term basis or create short-term brand preference, consumers lose interest in brands’ facebook pages, and the arrival of a new attribute by a competing brand can quickly deplete loyalty built through emotional advertising.

Clear: Brand love creates long-term loyalty and relationships

New research and models show that the best way to create long-term relationships with customers that transcend purchase transactions and lead to lasting loyalty is to harness brand love between your brand and your consumer.  Brand love translates into not only positive word of mouth and loyalty, but increases the willingness to pay a premium and also encourages consumers to forgive brand failures.  The Foxconn scandal, for instance, has drawn significant media attention, but does not appear to have negatively impacted Apple’s projected revenues.

Building on this concept, Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, published a book called Lovemarks in 2005 that posited a new marketing concept that goes beyond brands.  Lovemarks are more than brands.  Brands can be replaced, whereas Lovemarks cannot.  Lovemarks are a relationship, not just something the consumer buys.  They command high marks on performance and respect, but also match to consumer ideals and tap into dreams and personal passions.

Gray: “I need to improve my marketing and advertising ROI

The drive to create brand love is changing the way brands and marketers measure the outcomes of their marketing and advertising strategies and executions.  Claimed loyalty and Net Promoter scores may not fully take into account all of the dimensions of brand love, nor accurately predict the long-term profitability and love for a brand.  Typical marketing and advertising ROI’s may be determined by purchase interest measures, quarterly sales bumps, claimed consumer preference, but these metrics provide only the current status of the brand, not the future status, and don’t take into account the extent to which consumers love the brand, which reduces susceptibility to competitive launches, new advertising campaigns from competitors and provides long-term security.

Clear: I need to improve my brand equity and love ROI

In addition to the difficulty of tying existing metrics to brand love, the wider array of marketing, advertising and media strategies, with different success metrics, and vastly different cost structures also makes it more difficult to measure success and tie it to projected sales by analyzing marketing spend.  Reckitt Benckiser, taking note of these discrepancies, has announced it will change the way it reports advertising expenditures.  Instead of including line-items for marketing spend, Reckitt will instead begin reporting a Brand Equity Index that provides a more holistic picture of return on investment across an array of traditional and non-traditional marketing media, including TV and print, digital and social media, and consumer and professional educational programs.

Gray: “I need to improve consumers’ love of my brand”

The relatively new concept of brand love, brand ideals and Lovemarks means that while marketers are starting to talk the talk, both marketers and researchers still need to learn to walk the walk.  We want brand love, we have to have it, but how do we know if we have it?  Marketers may extrapolate based on periodic publications of third-party studies that proclaim to rank brands based on consumer love, and while these are not inaccurate, they provide marketers and researchers with a point-in-time assessment, but not a model that can uncover the drivers of brand love nor that ability of marketing activities to build greater brand love.

Clear: I need a way to measure brand love

As marketers start trying to build brand love, it will become more imperative to develop consistent models for measuring and predicting brand love.  Not only will marketers and researchers want a way to correlate brand love to sales and profitability, they will also want to understand the impact of different executions across the board in terms of their ability to affect brand love ratings.  Though the concept of brand love is fairly easy to understand, identifying the components that create it, and developing actionable research models to measure against those components proves more difficult.  Recent research from the University of Michigan has led to a conceptual model that claims brand love should be measured on seven core elements:  self-brand integration, passion-driven behaviors, positive emotional connection, long-term relationship, positive overall attitude salience, attitude certainty and confidence, and anticipated separation distress.


We believe, marketers may need market-oriented, rather than purely academic research that goes beyond conceptual frameworks to formulate specific, replicable analytic models and survey tools that will allow them to include brand love as a key outcome measure across consumer-based research studies, from concept testing to advertising testing.  For each component of a brand’s products, marketers will want to understand the impact not just on shelf visibility, purchase interest, trial, repeat purchase and loyalty, but also the impact on brand love.  For instance, how does this pack design not just spark interest on the shelf, support the brand image, reflect consumer attitudes – and more broadly, how does this pack design contribute to brand love?

Marketers, researchers and advertisers will increasingly try to walk the walk to help brand managers understand what the right metrics are, what the right questions are to ask consumers, how to capture the data and how to model the results to provide definitive answers to the impact of marketing efforts on brand love, and in turn, the impact of growing brand love on long-term sales and profitability.


Journal of Marketing: Brand Love

Fastest-Growing Brands are ‘Ideal-Driven’

The Future Beyond Brands: Lovemarks