Why Brand Love Is Just Not True Love for Marketers

Just like in our personal relationships , we cannot take brand love and loyalty for granted among our customers. We need to find ways to keep them “enchanted” enough to tell their friends about us, share our incentives and offers to their circles, and stay positive when it comes to conversations about our brand.

The movies I remember most from my childhood all centered around finding that “true love” and living happily ever after, as devoted, loyal spouses that forever tingle at the thought of each other. You know those movies, like “The Princess Diaries,” “Enchanted,” and “Sleepless in Seattle.”

Years later, it became forever clear that “true love” was really just another Hollywood notion to keep people dreaming, and watching more romance movies. Not because true love cannot be found, but because there really is not just one person for every person here on earth. At least, that’s not often the case.

Yet somehow, brands jumped onto the trend of forming brand love with customers, believing they could achieve lifelong loyalty and happily ever after fans. Not.

No, I am not a skeptic that love does not exist and cannot last. But I am a realist when it comes to the ethereal goals of marketers today. The reality of forever and true brand love is right up there with the likelihood that my favorite love flick, “Enchanted” is based on a true story.

Why?

Think about it. Is there a brand you love so so so much that you would never ever stray? And you would take a vow to remain loyal “until death do you part” and even “in sickness and health?” which in the business world is failed expectations, higher prices, faulty products, and such. Not likely.

In every category and in every  market, customers have many options of suitors vying for their attention, time, money, affection, and loyalty. And choosing a brand based on what you valued at a given time in the purchase process or phase of your life is not something you consider as permanent, no matter what the future brings. It’s just a purchase that works then and now, kind of like high school dating works for teenagers, and most often those relationships change over time.

While love for brands is certainly fleeting, it does not mean marketers should not be focused on generating as much affection for as long as we can among every customer we are fortunate enough to have.  It means we need to look at things a little differently.

For example:

  1. Look at the customers’ lifetime value differently. Don’t just focus on securing sales for as long as they are viable in your category. Look at their referral value as that is where their exponential potential comes from.
  2. Engage in referral campaigns not just loyalty campaigns. Reward customers for the value they bring you from new customers, not just their own transactions. This way you are preserving your revenue stream as they slow down and eventually move on.
  3. Pay attention. Monitor offers and incentives offered by other suitors. What new appeal do they have that you don’t offer?  Find ways to offer the same but in your own style.

Just like in our personal relationships , we cannot take brand love and loyalty for granted among our customers. We need to find ways to keep them “enchanted” enough to tell their friends about us, share our incentives and offers to their circles, and stay positive socially online and offline when it comes to conversations about our brand. Reputations last longer than most customers ever will so communications, nurturing, and keeping respect and admiration at the top of each customers’ minds will set us up to secure the next generation of customers.

Take Heart: Send a Brand Valentine!

‘Tis the season for valentines. What makes me smile in my professional life is finding companies that foster an intentional and caring attitude towards their employees all year long. Of course, I am taking for granted that these brands already show an intentional love for their customers all year long. That’s certainly how they have become “Lovemarks” (to borrow Keven Roberts’ term for beloved brands) in their industries: building trust, continually wooing and wowing new and existing customers and exceeding expectations.

‘Tis the season for valentines. Those who know me well know that I am partial to all things heart-shaped … especially when found spontaneously in nature. I am drawn to heart-shaped rocks while hiking, heart-shaped shells on the beach, clouds in creative heart forms and fruits and vegetables that have grown unexpectedly in heart-shaped ways. Yes, these hearts make me smile in my personal life. But what makes me smile even more in my professional life is finding companies that foster an intentional and caring attitude towards their employees all year long.

Of course, I am taking for granted that these brands already show an intentional love for their customers all year long. That’s certainly how they have become “Lovemarks” (to borrow Kevin Roberts’ term for beloved brands) in their industries: building trust, continually wooing and wowing new and existing customers and exceeding expectations.

But I want to focus on a brand-building ethos that often can get neglected as companies pour all their attention in outward facing ways: internal brand love. A brand valentine of sorts! Brand leaders need to be sure that first and foremost their employees feel empowered, respected and celebrated.

Without an ethos that highly values employees’ contributions, there is no foundation for valuing customers or stakeholders. Even the best external brand-building activities will be soulless. You know it when you experience lukewarm (at best) service from a brand ambassador at a retail establishment or at a restaurant or on a plane. There is no real human connection … it is simply a transaction. Conversely, the experience that occurs when brand ambassadors feel highly motivated and engaged with their work comes across as genuine, true and helpful.

Several years ago, Kip Tindell, CEO and cofounder of the Container Store, started National We Love Our Employees Day—a celebration (coinciding with Valentine’s Day) to show appreciation for all that its employees do for the company, their colleagues, customers, vendors and communities. This is not a publicity-driven effort. It stems from Tindell’s deep-seated belief that employees are the heart of its business and how employees are treated are how customers will be treated. (Read Tindell’s inspiring book, “Uncontainable,” for a deep dive into this stellar brand.)

And, just last year, Tindell continued to celebrate this ethos by creating The Container Store’s Employee First Fund. Here’s how it is described on the website:

The Fund provides grants to employees experiencing unforeseen emergencies like a major medical situation, a catastrophic event, or other grave challenges that they are not financially prepared to deal with. This fund will support our company’s commitment to an employee-first culture, ensuring all employees are well taken care of, safe, secure and warm. It’s a culture that is driven by our seven Foundation Principles® and results in an environment where the lives of everyone connected to our business are enriched and brimming with opportunity—where everyone can thrive—starting with our employees FIRST!

So, take heart! In this season of love, why not take some inspiration from Tindell and find a creative way show (and tell!) your employees just how much they matter to your brand!