Is Your Brand a Lovemark??


Much time and money is invested in branding organizations and products. Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, wrote Lovemarks, the Future Beyond Brands to challenge the notion that successful branding is the last step in the interaction with consumers.

Roberts states that commerce first involved the trading of “indistinguishable” products, which then changed to dealing with trademarks, and then to identifying with brands: “…brand disciplines could bring together the legal protection of patents and trademarks with the stuff that has meaning for consumers: consistency, quality performance, and value.” When Roberts was at Saatchi & Saatchi, his team took the next bold step. Beyond brands, he figured, was one more step in the relationship with a consumer: LOVE built on a foundation of RESPECT. The concept of a “lovemark” was introduced and is represented in the framework below.

Roberts defines LOVE: “We are not talking affection plus. Love is about a profound sense of attachment”, and RESPECT: “respect looks to performance, reputation, and trust as its organizing principles”.

A brand can move along the love and respect continuums and become a lovemark if it embodies three truths:

  1. Lovemarks connect companies, their people, and their brands;

  2. Lovemarks inspire Loyalty Beyond Reason through the creation of products and experiences that create long-term, emotional connections with consumers; and

  3. Lovemarks are owned by the people who love them (ownership beyond the traditional sense – lovemarks are owned by consumers, not companies).

Lovemarks are by definition personal to each consumer, so there are no definitive lovemarks, but the author points to Disney, Apple, Virgin Airlines, and Starbucks as some of the brands that he feels demonstrate the above qualities.

The following are “rules of the road” for companies who wish their brands to become lovemarks:

  • Be passionate – the emotion must start with the organization;

  • Involve customers – they are the owners of the lovemark. The object is to turn purchasers into Inspirational Consumers;

  • Celebrate loyalty – recognition and respect is part of the relationship;

  • Find, tell, and retell great stories – Roberts states that these stories can become legendary and “mythical tales”;

  • Accept responsibility: this is required if loyalty is to be “beyond reason”.

Roberts ends the book with a chapter called “What the World Needs Now” where he provides a business imperative. Companies must create jobs and fill those jobs with creative people who are focused on “innovating for the greater good.” Companies that can articulate through mission, culture, and vision how they fit into creating greater good are likely to be most successful in attracting and retaining passionate employees who create the right mix of respect and love, with the ultimate goal of creating lovemarks. Innovative companies embrace the triple bottom line concepts of people, planet, profits – a holistic view of itself as a global citizen. As Roberts states, companies that “limit their benchmarks to rational and financial outcomes will go nowhere slowly.”

As startup companies set their path toward branding, thinking about the lovemarks concept can help leverage their product or service from their strategic planning beginnings.

Reference: Kevin Roberts. Lovemarks, The Future Beyond Brands. Powerhouse Books, New York, 2005.

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