Consumers have relationships with their brands, some simple and shallow while others are tremendously deep and personal. There is almost a LOVE CURVE the consumer goes on, moving from INDIFFERENT to LIKING to LOVING and then on to a BRAND FOR LIFE. At a given point, consumers stop thinking and start feeling. It can take years or just minutes. For Brand owners, what’s important is to know where your brand is on the curve and how to move it along to the next stage.
There are significant benefits to moving the brand along the Love Curve. At stage 1, consumers are INDIFFERENT, your brand is basically replaceable and you only get used because “this will do”. You’re not really anyone’s favourite. As they move to stage 2, they LIKE it and make logical, solid functional choices. But at stage 3, consumers LOVE the brand, are outspoken, possessive, unrelenting, and it becomes very personal. Along the way, people stop thinking and start feeling. And consumers enter stage 4 where it’s their BRAND FOR LIFE, where the brand is almost an extension of the consumers themselves. They would never use another brand because they’d almost feel like they are cheating.
Apple is a great example of a modern day beloved brand. They hate Microsoft as much as they love Mac. Try telling a Loyal Mac user that “Windows 7 is really good” you’re certain to start a fight. You might even lose a friend. One of the most beloved brands is Ferrari which Italians from around the world see as a statement of their Italian culture and personal identity. They wear the logo with pride, cheer for Ferrari each week in the F1 and yet they most likely have never driven a Ferrari. They spend zero dollars on Advertising, relying on consumers wearing their brand, cheering for their brand or just dreaming of it. What a place to be as a marketer where your consumers act as brand fans, and standing up for you. Another great example to show the differences is Coffee, where Tim Horton’s is the Beloved Brand.
But what goes up, can also come down and brands can move backwards on the curve. For instance Gap Clothing, Levis or even Olive Garden were all once loved and have slid back to indifferent.
The only true goal of brand building is profit and brand value. Every choice you make that moves your brand along the LOVE CURVE towards being beloved helps you drive long term value into your brand.
THERE ARE SIGNIFICANT BUSINESS BENEFITS TO BEING A BELOVED BRAND:
- Brand is more than just positioning. Brand serves to match up the brand’s external promise with the internal culture and operations that delivers that brand promise. While most brands look for an external positioning, that’s the promise you make to the consumer. It’s equally important to focus on delivering that promise with the Brand serving as a beacon for the culture and operations and helps to steer behaviour, thinking and decisions employees make to support the brand. For many brands, the people and the culture are the “secret sauce” to that brand’s success. It’s like an iceberg where the brand promise is the tip the consumer sees, but below is the culture that needs to be aligned to deliver that promise.
- It’s easier to run a branded business with a line up at the door. Longer lines means fresher product, and that means a better customer experience. A baquette in Paris tastes so much better, not because it’s in Paris, but because the pâtisserie in Paris sells 300 baquettes by 10 am, all fresh out of the oven. The poor baguette in the North American grocery store looks lonely, dry, crusty. Also, people love to follow the crowds, figuring others have already made the decision for you.
- Strong Sales Growth helps The P&L Starts to Work Better: Using Porter’s Model, strong steady sales also means you can control your variable and fixed costs. a) More Buying Power over Suppliers: higher volume means you can go to suppliers with a big order and exert pressure on the costs b) Power Over Customer Channels: you can begin exerting power over the sales channels to your advantage–trimming variable trade with retailers while demanding more in return including more control over pricing. c) Smarter More Efficient Management: manage your inventories, meet customer expectations, control pricing and drive cheaper costs. d) Growth means you start outgrowing any fixed costs. This includes start up costs, sales force, product plants or R&D costs. e) Lower Cost of Capital:More certainty means lower risk and you can re-invest, knowing the ROI will be quicker and stronger.
- The Poor Competition has no chance. Most categories play the zero sum game, where one brands’ gain is the other guys’ loss. Leader brands that build an emotional connection back the competition into the rational zone–facing scrutiny, doubt and skepticism. As a marketer, the more emotional heat you can generate leaves almost nothing left for your competitor. You reach that tipping point, where your gain is their loss. When it’s all about share gain, the beloved brand has a competitive advantage.
- Great Brands have a certain magic to them. Gaining that deep Emotional connection is hard work, but also takes a certain flare or an art form. Gather all the data, be ruthless in your decisions, always focus on ROI, and eliminate risk and you’ll be liked but never loved. You need to use instincts, take chances, use a certain flare and believe that execution matters. If you want your consumer to love your brand, you have to love the work you do. Look at the love Apple projects to it’s consumers through the magic of design, branding and marketing.