About a week ago, we sat at dinner with our couple Emily & Jason and talked advertising. Yes, right there over the (not so) spicy calamari and the mozzarella pizzette, with a world of possible conversation topics at our fingertips, we settled on the new age of advertising. See, Jason went to school for advertising and I, well I always thought I would grow up to be the next Angela Bower. Clearly :) So this turn in the conversation was inevitable really.
Because me? Well I could talk all things advertising for hours.
And anytime anyone is talking advertising or branding, I’m always going to bring up Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands. Those of you who came to a Spread the Love stop or saw us at WPPI are very familiar with what it means to be a Lovemark by now. But for those of you just joining us :), let met catch you up: a Lovemark is anything that someone or some group of people feel “loyal beyond reason” to. It can be a product, a company, a country, a singer….or yes, even a country singer! As long as people feel that loyalty beyond reason to it, then it’s a Lovemark. Ok. But what does “loyal beyond reason” mean? That kind of sounds like a bad thing. Like people are being irrational for liking something as much as they do. Well, yes and no. Yes in that Lovemarks are typically not rational things. That’s because they are something SO much more powerful. They are emotional. A car timing belt is rational, but the Mini Cooper it belongs too….well, there’s a good chance that was pure emotion. :) And those emotional connections can cause us to do things that, on their face, may not seem rational to the outside world.
Like driving fifteen minutes out of our way every single day (and fifteen minutes back) past three Dunkin Donuts to probably pay double the price for the Starbucks experience. But that’s exactly what we do. Because I am loyal beyond reason to Starbucks. And darn proud of it, too! Because I like the way it makes me feel.
So then Jason quite rightly brought up the question (and I’m paraphrasing here a bit): so how do you market a Lovemark any differently than a brand? Is there really any difference? In both cases aren’t you just trying to get someone to like your product.
And that in itself is the great difference between a brand and a Lovemark.
A brand tries to make everyone happy. It waters itself down more & more to continue to appeal to more & more people. And in turn, it loses everything that made it remarkable in the first place. A brand thinks of its success in terms of all the other brands out there and whether or not it has more than what they have, or can sell it for cheaper than what they do. It looks left, it looks right and asks “what’s everyone else doing?” And then asks, “ok, so how can we do more of that?” A brand compromises. It conforms. Settles. It tells the people what they want to hear just so they can have more on the bottom line. A brand is all Julia Roberts in My Best Friend’s Wedding: “Love me, choose me, let me make you happy.” And in doing so, it condemns itself to a lifetime of ordinary.
A Lovemark on the other hand is authentic. It’s raw. It’s real. It bears its soul for the world to see and then says “Take me or leave, love me or hate me. But this is me, this is who I am.” And I will never compromise that for anyone. Because the people who love me, will love me without fail. And the people who don’t were never going to get it anyway. A Lovemark is Lady Gaga, Smart Cars, Whole Foods, Apple. A Lovemark doesn’t care what anyone else is doing, because a Lovemark only competes with themselves. And because it doesn’t waste any time looking left or looking right (and running the real risk of getting tripped up along the way), it has the power and the trajectory to plough through straight ahead. A Lovemark is like Popeye, “I am what I am.” And in doing so, it makes sure all the brands of the world never even have a chance to keep up.
After that dinner, I started thinking about all of the other companies that Justin & I have a Lovemark relationship with (y’know besides Starbucks, Apple and Mini!) And one immediately came to mind. I have a Lovemark relationship with Gain detergent.
See it’s not a brand relationship. It’s not because of its chemical compound. Or whether or not it’s been scientifically proven that it is actually the best cleaning agent out there. Those are cold, rational decisions. For me, it is purely emotional. I know It does an amazing job and I don’t even need to know what else is out there. Because I know without fail that when I walk into the store there is no question: I am buying that green bottle. Because I like the way it makes me feel. Gain doesn’t waste any time comparing its product apples to apples with other detergents. It doesn’t run ads saying it cleans better than Tide or Clorox or….well, to be honest with you I can’t even think of any other detergent names. That may be very true. But a Lovemark doesn’t waste its time competing with other brands. Because they know there is no competition. The people who love them, will love them without fail.
Instead, what does Gain sell? This is me, this is who I am. It sells the way it makes your clothes smell, and in turn how that makes you feel. Cozy, at home, comfortable, nostalgic. It runs commercials about the husband sniffing the wife’s shirt while she’s out of town because it reminds him of her and he misses her. If you go to the website (and I have!) there are hearts around bottles of detergent and testimonials about what the smell of Gain reminds people of.
“I love Gain because of the memories of my mother using Gain. I can walk down the store aisle, see the Gain products and instantly be reminded of her.”
Gain says take us or leave, love us or hate us…this is who we are. And for me, there is only one detergent and I love them without fail. Therefore, it makes no difference to me whether another brand is cheaper, or on sale that week, or is giving away something free with the purchase. I wouldn’t trade the feeling that Green bottle gives me for any sale or special.
I am loyal beyond reason to a laundry detergent. Not to the actual chemical compounds and properties it contains, but to the way it makes me feel. And that is the difference between marketing a brand and a Lovemark. In the words of Don Draper:
“YOU are the product. You- FEELING something. That’s what sells.” Huh. Maybe it’s not so new-age after all. :)
Homework Assignment: sit down and think about it and answer the really hard question. Are you selling a brand or a Lovemark?