Marius on Strategy and Communication

What it says on the tin

Love is Not the Answer

Merely being liked by your customers just doesn’t cut it anymore. Brands are obsessed with being loved. They believe people actually love them, and if they don’t, that telling them they do will make them change their mind. Many brands tell us explicitly that people love them; others imply it by showing the extreme lengths to which their customers go in order to acquire the product, or the desperate acts that follow from a failure of acquisition. The common denominators are delusions of grandeur and lazy thinking.

Here are sone reasons why ‘telling your customers they love you’; ’are addicted to you’; ‘can’t live without you’; ‘will do anything to get you’ are seriously flawed strategies – or, rather, strategies for brands without a strategy:

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It’s not really love.

People love people, not brands. Just because people say they like you in research doesn’t mean they love you. Some people may like you more than your competitors, or it may simply be that they dislike you a little less. Researchers eager to impress and marketers and agencies who only talk in headlines, however, convince themselves that the slightest sign of brand preference equates to true love. And that’s great news for everyone, so why be the party-pooper to question it? Fast-forward a few weeks and it’s an established truth, framed on the walls of the corner office and printed in strategy documents.

So what?

Whether people can really love a brand is questionable, but let’s assume it’s possible. Let’s even assume it’s true for the majority of one’s customers. So what? What has that got to do with your strategy? It’s certainly proof that you’re doing something exceptionally well and a desired outcome of a strategy, but what is the rationale for making it the strategy? If people love you, surely you should leverage whatever makes them love you? This paradox highlights the inauthenticity of those claims to be loved. The elite of brands that are arguably loved – like Apple and Nike – have never beaten used this in their communication. It is, on the other hand, a popular strategy for the brands at the bottom of the food-chain, who desperately wants to be loved. While great brands are busy creating genuine value to their customers, average brands succumb to cheap spin.

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It’s just not credible.

I imagine brands study their research with a magnifying glass for evidence to support their claims. But even leaving aside inflated interpretations of preference, just because it’s true doesn’t make it true. Branding is a game of perception, and generic claims made in ads have about as much credibility as a Labor politician. Decades of spin have deteriorated the ethos of advertising as a medium, and people have simply become blind to these unsubstantiated over-the-top messages – no matter how funny the execution.

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It makes you sound like a bit of a dick.

Imagine a person telling you ‘you know you love me’ or ‘you just gotta have me’ or ‘once you get to know me you can’t get enough’ – would you stay or would you get the hell outta there? Why would this be different for brands? If you assume people can love a brand, you should also assume they can hate a brand. And, as is the case with humans, arrogance and narcissism are traits that are likely to land you in the second category.

There’s nothing wrong in reaching for the stars to get to the moon. But reaching for love doesn’t mean you’ll be liked. Instead you risk missing the mark entirely and get lost in space.

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This entry was posted on June 28, 2013 by in Uncategorized.
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