The best brands evoke the emotions of their customers by tapping into their hearts and minds.
Brand Love describes how brands appeal to the emotions of their consumers and why everybody benefits when brands earn the love of their customers. The author explains what marketers need to do to make consumers fall for their brands. The book builds on in-depth brand interviews and insights from companies such as Huda Beauty, LEGO and Toyota. She also shares what she has learned through client work and her observations in multicultural settings. Offering insight into the use of emotional and rational drivers, she introduces her model, "The Eight Brand Love Stages," which is designed to inspire brand loyalty and advocacy. With emotional elements such as humanization, personalization and trust alongside rational elements like relevance, differentiation and innovation, the author highlights the best ways to create or reinforce brand love to help your organization remain profitable and a source of inspiration, even during challenging times.
Whether you're a marketer for a big or small brand, Brand Love will show you how to capture the hearts of your customers.
But can people truly fall in love with a brand? The excerpt below begins to answer that question.
What is brand love?
As a brand leader and marketer, I love using the lens of both to help me understand the link between brands and consumers as it relates to brand love. With this understanding comes emotional connection. With emotional connection comes engagement. And with engagement and the right level of trust comes loyalty that helps your business grow. Who doesn’t want that?
My first job out of college in 2009 was with a Detroit- and Los Angeles-based artist relations and management firm and its independent record label we later created, where my role was to help guide artists and ventures from inception to growth. While spearheading global marketing and operations management efforts for five years, I worked closely with the team to market and manage Grammy-winning artists and their brands internationally. At the core, each one of these artists was their own brand—a personal brand that people connected with on an emotional level. Our artists understood that their success involved more than just writing or producing music that was well crafted while pulling all-nighters in the studio. It was about thinking deeply about who you are as a person, what you believe, and how you want to impact the world with your music and brand. Inevitably, once you achieve a certain level of success as an entertainer, it becomes difficult to detach your brand from your personal image. People simply see these artists as this very same person 24/7. Because of this, they have to serve as role models and feel a strong sense of responsibility whether they like it or not.
Seeing fans become obsessed with our artists from across the globe, tweeting them in Japanese, and patiently waiting for their arrival to do another jazz show in Tokyo, inspired me. I joined the next tour in Japan to represent the management firm and oversee press and marketing efforts onsite. The Japanese tweet turned into fans arriving early at the show, buying multiple pieces of available merchandise and music, taking pictures throughout the entire show, and singing along to every song in English, even when they didn’t speak the language. As if that wasn’t enough, they waited eagerly outside the green room to connect with the artists after the show. Throughout my time at the firm, I had witnessed lots of admiration for many of our artists from fans globally and had heard crazy stories, but all were unmatched to the level of brand obsession I came across in this part of the world. It was special and genuine. You know when you walk into a room full of people and you can just sense the good vibes and energy? The music wasn’t the only thing that was mesmerizing—it was the all-encompassing experience of the audience, culture, food, and yes, even the staff who were into it. With every interaction, the artists delivered something that the fans loved, whether it was accessibility, gratitude, humor, or simply their talent. By traveling the world and therefore having such a detailed understanding of their audience, which is different from country to country, the artists knew exactly how to adjust their presence, message, and story for their brand to resonate authentically and emotionally from culture to culture. Every single time.
Emotions play a critical role in how we operate in our daily lives. Sometimes we’re drawn to people or products for reasons beyond explanation; our gut feeling just tells us, “This is it.” I can’t count the number of times people have told me to trust that feeling—that intuition. It’s this gut feeling that I’ve learned to trust over the years, both at work and in my personal life. Sometimes it can even feel out of character to gravitate toward certain brands or products based on who we think we are or want to be. Moments like this may be rare in our customer journey but they shouldn’t be discounted because there’s meaning behind everything we are attracted to.
To be successful though, we should consider both our feelings and our mind, allowing our rational and emotional sides to guide us. The goal is to find a harmonic balance. Is the loyalty we seek in our personal lives any different than the loyalty we seek as consumers with brands?
If you want to connect with someone on a deeper level, you might reveal something personal about yourself. Typically, this vulnerability is reciprocated. This is often because there is mutual trust and affinity between two parties when there’s a connection. Ideally, we want to be emotive and give people a reason to connect and share. Ultimately, we connect with people that we like and trust. We fall in love with brands in a very similar fashion. This is a concept called brand love. While conducting interviews with brand leaders for this book, several of them asked, “How do you define brand love?” Emotional marketing is nothing new, of course. The connection between marketing and psychology goes back decades, and brand love is a growing marketing strategy among agencies, consultancies, and brand marketers. At the time of writing and working on this book, there still isn’t a widely recognized definition so I decided to offer my own at the start of this book. In fact, when you search “brand love” on Google you will receive more than 3.5 billion results. The results on the first page of searches show a pattern of language that pops up such as “emotional connection,” “loyalty and advocacy,” “meaningful customer bonds,” or “long-term relationship between customers and brands.” All of these snippets of brand love are true. So, what does the concept of brand love entail?
Brand love is an emotionally strong, long-term consumer-brand connection that leads to loyalty and advocacy.
Why does B2C get all the love? What about B2B?
I want you to know that building a brand that people care about deeply doesn’t require a big budget. And telling a good, powerful story that resonates doesn’t either. Sometimes we’re fooled to believe you need to have all this money or be one of the big companies to create impact, but I’ve experienced the opposite to be true early on in my career. In fact, I believe this is what has allowed me to become more creative over the years. Small budgets demand more creativity and flexibility in utilizing existing resources. In similar ways, it also doesn’t matter if you’re B2C or B2B. The idea of emotional marketing can and should be applied in both segments.
In the marketing and brand practice, brand love continues to gain more popularity as a marketing strategy in the B2C segment. But what about B2B? I want to make sure to address both B2C and B2B early in this book because it’s a question that continues to emerge every time I speak on the topic of brand love publicly. Last time I was speaking at a marketing conference, someone came up to me afterwards and asked how this could be applied to the work he does for an automotive supplier. He explained that he only deals with other businesses and has no interaction with customers directly but thinks this concept or strategy needs to be included in his work, too. Well, that’s right. We can’t assume that B2B is purely rational business. Other businesses can be customers, and these businesses are run by people too; people who make decisions and have emotions. It’s easy to forget the B2B segment when a lot of research and examples in the marketplace focus on B2C. What’s important to remember is that regardless of B2C or B2B, people and their interactions with one another matter. In the same way that B2C brands can connect with their customers by creating emotional bonds, so can B2B brands. Both go beyond rational factors, beyond reason.
According to a 2021 study from Porsche Consulting called “The Secret of Love”: “Although B2B buying is often treated as an activity influenced solely by logical factors such as product features or cost-benefit analyses, in reality the process is driven by the same complex mix of gut feeling, emotions, and reason that drives all human decisions.”1 I’m sure others would argue that sometimes, especially in business, certain decisions are purely logical and rational and that including any sort of emotion isn’t a good idea. This can relate to a more internal work environment but when we’re dealing with customers, even as it relates to B2B, emotions should be considered in the same way. Why? We’re still dealing with people here, remember? That’s why. We’re still nurturing relationships that in some ways are accompanied by emotions. In addition to building this emotional bond between a business and another business, it’s also possible to highlight this connection by showcasing the positive feelings your customers, that is other businesses, have for you. When a brand is loved, it can impact a consumer’s willingness to pay less attention to price, promote the brand through word of mouth, and overall show more loyalty as a consumer. That is, as long as a brand is worth investing in and people feel like they’re getting value in exchange for their money. Management guru Tom Peters said it right: “In an increasingly crowded marketplace, fools will compete on price. Winners will find a way to create lasting value in the customer’s mind.”2
1. Reproduced with permission of Porsche Consulting ©2021. “The Secret of Love.”
2. Reproduced with permission of Tom Peters Company. Appears in Joachimsthaler, E and Aaker, D A (2012).
This extract is from Brand Love by Lydia Michael ©2023 and is reproduced and adapted with permission from Kogan Page Ltd. Discover what marketers need to do to evoke the emotions of their customers and create long-lasting consumer-brand relationships in Brand Love at www.koganpage.com/brand-love.