The following is a guest post by Laurence Vincent author of Brand Real: How Smart Companies Live Their Brand Promise and Inspire Fierce Customer Loyalty about rekindling the love between a brand and its customers.
I wear many hats in my line of work. Sometimes I’m a doctor who diagnoses client problems and writes prescriptions. At other times, I’m a professor, charged with simplifying complex material so that it can be understood by a large audience. But the role I play most often is marriage counselor. I find myself helping clients rekindle the love that brought them together in the first place. On my couch sits the brand on one side of the couch, and the legion of customers it serves on the other. My job is to get them sitting close to each other again. Like any marriage counselor, I have to contend with misguided signals, unsympathetic conversations, and in some cases, downright abuse. No matter the circumstance, the marriage between brand and consumer is in jeopardy because both parties are asking, “where is the love?”
A recent study in the Journal of Marketing explored the concept of “brand love.” One aspect of the study reinforces my marriage counselor metaphor. The authors found that there is a distinct difference between a feeling of love for a brand (an emotional state) and an act of loving a brand (a behavioral pattern). Advertisers can make consumers feel “in love” through evocative storytelling, but it’s quite another matter to stimulate the loving behavior that leads to sales and profitability. This is the kind of love that should most interest brand managers. The study described this dimension of love as a willingness to invest resources, a passionate desire to use, and a habit-forming behavior that is connected to past experiences with a brand.
In Brand Real, I argued that real brands focus on brand attachment instead of brand affect. Affect measures how much people feel “in love with” a brand, while attachment measures how much a person sees a brand as an indispensable part of their life. To generate the powerful bond of attachment with their consumers, real brands focus their activities on three key areas:
- They invest in being indispensable. Like a good spouse, they never take their relationship with the consumer for granted. They strive for excellence, and study what their customers really need.
- They choose wisely. Real brands make purposeful sacrifices in order to sustain their relationship with their customers. They sometimes forego entire markets in order to be the best they can be for the market that loves them.
- They are trusted because they are consistent. Real brands are beloved for the same reason most marital spouses are beloved: because they provide a sense of safety. We don’t care much about safety when we’re flirting and dating, but when we “settle down,” and stop “playing the field,” marriage provides us with stability through shared commitment. Real brands commit to their customers, and in return they are loved.
Laurence Vincent has developed strategies for some of the world’s most beloved brands, including Disney, MasterCard, Microsoft, the NFL, Sony Playstation, Four Seasons, and vitaminwater. He is head of The Brand Studio at United Talent Agency and lives in Los Angeles. His first book, Legendary Brands was published in 2001 and translated into 7 languages. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin. You can read his blog for other articles on branding.