Lovemarks: Real Human Connection or Latest Play in the Arms Race of Trickery?

love-respect-axisYesterday afternoon at the World Business Forum, Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi brought the story of Lovemarks to the crowd.

“Lovemarks are brands that inspire loyalty beyond reason. People love them because of what they are, not because of what they do. Their appeal is emotional. Companies may own brands. But Lovemarks are owned by the people who love them.” And Saatchi is in the business of showing companies how to change their products from simple brands into these glorious, sought after, Lovemarks.

As the graph at left (which Roberts admitted to coming up with at two in the morning when he was well into his second bottle of Bordeaux) shows, Lovemarks score high on both love and respect, while brands simply score well on the “respect” factor: you trust them, but you don’t form an emotional attachment to them.

Roberts showed some compelling examples of this lovemark concept in action:

This example demonstrates the creation of an emotional connection to T-Mobile. I was certainly moved by that commercial, and not only because I’m the type to cry during the movie previews. It’s a commercial that’s compelling and entertaining, one you might share with your friends, and definitely one that would make you feel good about being a T-Mobile user.

This next video takes the Lovemark concept a bit further: here, the commercial is designed to be a viral takeoff, that is to say it’s designed to be a Lovemark in and of itself, with the expectation that this emotional connection will carry over to the product (Toyota)

There is no doubt that these are amazing examples of effective marketing, and to be totally transparent, I was excited to share them with you because they are just good youtube content.

But as exciting as Roberts’ premise is, I can’t help but be a bit creeped out by it. It’s one thing to recognize that consumers will be loyal to products that they have an emotional attachment to. Apple is a classic example of a company that designs for the long term loyalty of their customers. The ipod might be a loss leader, but if it gets a customer used to the Apple platform and gets them using itunes, they are that much closer to purchasing a Macbook or iphone. Many companies would do well to focus more on their customers’ attachments to the brands, as it would help them design better products and services.

However, when this concept is applied solely to marketing, as Saatchi does with the companies it works with, I worry that it takes the concept too far. When the only tool for emotional engagement is advertising, all you are really doing is manipulating the customer for the sake of moving product. Advertisers have been doing that for decades, and they continue to get better and better at the art of influencing customers. The more customers become deaf to advertising messages, the more ingenious and insidious those messages get. Is Lovemarks the key to the next wave of meeting customer needs or is it just the next move in a global arms race of marketing trickery?

Jen Boynton

Jen Boynton is editor in chief of TriplePundit and editorial director at 3BL Media. With over 6 million annual readers, TriplePundit is the leading publication on sustainable business and the Triple Bottom Line. Prior to TriplePundit, Jen received an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School. In her work with TriplePundit she's helped clients from SAP to PwC to Fair Trade USA with their sustainability communications messaging. When she's not at work, she volunteers as a CASA -- court appointed special advocate for children in the foster care system. She enjoys losing fights with toddlers and eating toast scraps. She lives with her family in sunny San Diego.

5 responses

  1. I agree with Jen’s point. While I too love a good commercial, for it’s artistic or emotional content,(I like the people flowers in the Prius commercial, it’s beautiful, a creative idea and in sync with their product), I have concern about this type of empasis in business, particularly as it relates to the People P in triple pundit. To focus primarily on this aspect of attracting consumers is risky if not manipulatory and questionable morally. We all know psychological concepts that can ‘sell’things. Group think exists, subliminal messages in advertisingis fortunately have beenmade illegal, but the whole thing has a stink about it, that is worrisome and and seems in opposition to larger social goals.

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