Love brands are brands that build a unique relationship with customers, one based on feelings like trust, affection and loyalty. Loyalty that overrides rational, economic reasoning and drives people to pay more for a given product — and to make repeat purchases. But that’s not all: according to Forbes magazine, brands that manage to forge an emotional bond with the public generate three times more word-of-mouth coverage than others, with positive effects on both brand recognition and reputation.
So where exactly did the love-brand concept originate, and how has it evolved over time? Back in 2005, Kevin Roberts, the former CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi – one of the world’s most famous advertising agencies – devised a brand ranking based on the level of respect and love that they engendered in consumers.
In the image above, we have in the top-left quadrant brands, which, regardless of the quality of the products or services they offer and the respect they enjoy, are unable to create an exclusive bond and an emotional connection with their customers. But with good branding, they have the potential to turn themselves into lovemarks. The latter, found in the top-right quadrant, are brands that succeed in winning a special place in the hearts (love) and minds (respect) of customers, becoming irreplaceable as a result.
In the bottom-left quadrant we have commodities, in other words brands that enjoy little respect or love and are chosen based solely on affordability. Lastly, we have fads, brands that are loved by customers but not respected by them, making their success short-lived.
The three essential characteristics of a lovemark
According to Roberts, the key ingredients that turn an ordinary brand into a lovemark are:
- Mystery: a company’s ability to tell its story, outline its vision for the future and explain its guiding values, drawing on myths and cultural icons along the way. But more than storytelling, brands must use story sharing: listening to what the public is saying and involving them in the brand’s story so they become an integral part of it.
- Sensuality: a brand must seduce and thrill customers by stimulating all five senses. Sensory marketing therefore plays a fundamental role in the overall marketing strategy.
- Intimacy: commitment, empathy and passion help to create a strong bond of trust with the customer, comparable to the relationship between two people in love.
Roberts explains that “creating lovemarks is all about the ability to understand consumers’ dreams, to know what they want and when they want it and to create great experiences that make your brand a part of their lives.”
From lovemark to love brand
While the lovemark concept that Roberts came up with in 2005 offers useful insights, we must remember that it’s the product of a completely different historical, economic and social context from today’s. More recent research into buyer behaviour shows the change of the last 10-15 years has significantly altered consumers’ expectations of brands.
The “Love Brands 2022” report, published by Talkwalker in partnership with Hootsuite, ranked the world’s 50 most-loved brands. It’s based on an analysis of 2.6 billion online conversations about 1,500 brands in eight markets and 20 different industries. Each company was rated using the Brand Love Index, which assigned a score for three different drivers: passion, trust and customer satisfaction.
According Talkwalker’s data, climate change, international conflicts, the pandemic, inflation, digital acceleration and other external factors have changed the criteria that people use to choose a brand. In the context of growing political, social and economic uncertainty, each of us has to juggle the desire to satisfy our own personal needs with a more altruistic desire to make the world a better place. Focusing on economic, social and environmental sustainability is therefore crucial for companies who want to build customer relationships based on trust.
Let’s take a look at some interesting examples of love brands and the strategies they have used to earn the respect, love and loyalty of consumers.
Asics: winning partnerships and sponsorships
The sports events sponsored by Asics, which came out top of the 2022 Love Brands Index, generated many positive mentions by the public. The launch of a children’s shoe line in collaboration with Pokémon also received lots of press coverage and a high level of engagement on social media channels, with 22,000 interactions.
With its Ocean Waste initiative, Asics has also shown it is committed to environmental sustainability: plastic waste recovered from waterways in Sri Lanka is recycled and turned into polyester fibres used to make the brand’s clothing.
Nuxe: towards more responsible beauty
French cosmetics brand Nuxe was ranked 4th in the index, thanks to its choice of high-quality ingredients and a policy of maximum transparency about the ingredients used in its products. Its flagship product, Huile Prodigieuse Gold, generates lots of positive reviews and conversations on social media and strengthens consumers love for the brand.
Nuxe funds various projects promoting environmental and economic sustainability, proof of its genuine commitment to the green transition and social equity.
Fjällräven: the importance of customer experience
Fjällräven, the Swedish outdoor clothing and equipment company famous for its Kanken backpacks, improved customer experience using a diversified strategy. The company allows shoppers to customise its backpacks through the “Kanken me” feature on its website, while its Fjällräven Experience platform offers tours and trips for outdoorsy types.
To mark the launch of a clothing and accessories collection for cyclists in collaboration with American bike brand Specialized, Fjällräven also made a series of entertaining videos about cycling that created lots of positive engagement on social media. Winner of the 2020 Sustainable Brand Index, awarded to Sweden’s most sustainable clothing brand, Fjällräven manufactures its clothing from materials that are recycled, organic and cruelty free.
Although the strategies used by these love brands differ, they share a customer-centric approach that focuses on customers’ needs in order to improve their experience and create relationships based on trust and loyalty towards the brand. Furthermore, support for sustainable development initiatives helps to strengthen their credibility and connection with the public.