Thursday, May 19, 2016

Marketing Lies That Need to Die No.3: You Love Our Brand

You. Love. Brand. You Love Brand. You Love Brand.
 You Love. You Love Brand. Oh You Love Brand.
You Love. You Love Brand. You Love.
Sometimes the natural ebb and flow of the English language irritates me. From how the words Chav and Hipster have gone from specific descriptors to generic class insults, and how musical genres like emo and goth get messed with until they end up being no accurate guide whatsoever to the music you are listening to - it happens a lot.

In the world of advertising and marketing, indeed most writing and opinion in general, the word 'love' has become one of those words that has such a wide ranging and mixed use, that it should almost be banned from use in any context outside personal relationships...

Two things reminded me of this. Firstly a conversation with my partner yesterday, where she described how she dislikes the way the word is overused by people - usually for regular completely silly overstatements: "I love this skirt! I love this coffee!"

Secondly, a discussion on twitter between @tomkelshaw and @mariusdonnestad about the word, and a study which showed only 4% of Aussie men 'love' their beer brand. The study, from the excellent (but hard to spell) Ehrenberg-Bass Institute comes to the correct conclusion that expecting a customer to love a brand is way way too optimistic. Frankly it's a naive way of thinking that completely forgets how ordinary people interact with brands, and a key reason for that is the huge variation of what the word love can actually mean.

I think it's time we replaced the word love with two or three more descriptive words that better describe what is being talked about. For example: I cannot abide the use of the meaningless word 'consumer', and always try to replace it with a more human word - even just 'customer/non-customer' is far better.

For a start, if a marketer talks about 'loving a brand' as if it were some kind of deep human connection, like a sweet sweet romance in bloom... they are probably in the middle of talking utter bollocks, and you should walk out of the room immediately. People simply do NOT associate with brands in this way., and even brands that people really really like will find that their relationship with the customer is far more changeable and polygamous than accurately befits the term love.

I think people CAN feel something towards this for individual products, but even then, that is extremely rare. Probably still only a relationship that promotes loyalty, and as Byron Sharp of Ehrenberg Bass has also stated, even loyal customers only buy you around 50% of the time. 

After all, it's BEER. Sure men do like beer a whole lot more than most other categories, but (despite
Brewdog may be my favourite beer brand,
but that doesn't stop me drinking other beers.
However that also doesn't mean I won't
recommend you try one.
mostly being owned by 2 conglomerates) there are some many thousands of beer brands out there, most of which taste exactly the same (and in some cases ARE exactly the same) it's highly unlikely that anyone would 'love' one. It might be your favourite. You might post-rationally argue that it's the BEST beer, that it tastes better than all the others. You might even use the word 'love' as an expression, much to my partner's disdain... But do you really truly LOVE it?

If I bought you a different beer would you turn it down, and forsake all other beers in absolute loyalty? No. If you went to the shop and another similar beer was half price, would you turn your nose up and pay twice the price for it? No.

I much prefer a word like 'Treasured', which suggests a decent attachment, and a positive feeling towards the product, but avoids the unnecessary connotations of the word love. That said, even that word may be too strong for what we really feel towards brands.

I suppose you could certainly be a 'fan' of a brand. Recommending it to others, and maintaining at least a notional loyalty where other factors are equal. I would definitely say I'm a fan of some brands. Pukka Pies, Sennheiser, M-Audio, Brewdog, Nintendo, Apple, Innocent. But see what I did there. I (without meaning to) mentioned two directly competing brands in the same category. Just like bands, I can be a fan of one, but it doesn't mean I don't listen to others, go to their gigs or buy their t-shirts.

Indeed there are some brands that I am a fan of whilst rarely actually purchasing their products. Like Carlton Draught, which I only buy at stadiums where I have no other choice (Because I prefer ale like beer, not because it's a terrible product) - I still like the brand, and talk in positive terms about them because of their brand tone and creative works that build a positive connection. Rather like Innocent, which I am a big fan of, despite rarely drinking fruit juice or smoothies, not to mention that I am 10,000 miles away from a shop that sells it. Coke has over 100 years of American history behind it, yet I doubt many Americans actually love it or would turn down a Pepsi in your home - and those who did would do so out of emotional connection to the associations rather a love of the brand anyway...

Sorry Air Wick. You might be a
perfectly decent and pleasant
smelling air freshener brand -
but I will never love you, nor any
of your competitors.
As the survey points out. If guys can't love a beer brand, a social staple and regularly consumed product - how on earth is it likely that they will love your air freshener, toilet roll, or insurance comparison service brand?

So to sum up this ramble. Whilst people may sometimes say they 'love' a brand, that doesn't mean we should ever suggest to clients or ourselves that they truly love it. They are just a fan, or maybe they treasure the product. Whichever it is, we need better and more accurate words, because if we can't be clear about what relationship customers have with brands, how can brands be expected to trust us to develop that relationship?

Note: (for all those Saatchi folks out there) This isn't intended to be a condemnation of Lovemarks. For me, that is more a positioning than scientific behavioural theory anyway - and whilst I think some of the ideas in it are flawed, I don't dislike the idea of trying to connect and build positive relationships with brands in a stronger way than most marketers do, particularly as we know that, according to stats at least, 'loyalty beyond reason' doesn't really exist - it just mixes the idea of loyalty with the idea of emotional and irrational behaviour. Besides which. It certainly hasn't stopped Saatchi agencies producing some great planning ideas and creative work... :)

Additional Note: That said... I did see Byron Sharp give a talk where Kevin Roberts admitted he made Lovemarks up over a glass of wine. :)

No comments: