September 28, 2010

Pancake Session: Lovemarks & Gain Detergent

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?

  1. Stephanie Ngo

    i love you guys. :)

    -steph (zooey d.)

  2. Lauren Wakefield

    Amazing post. You just took everything I feel about branding/lovemarking and put it into perfect words. And I’m proud to say I am lovemarked by AIM toothpaste. Don’t ask. :)

  3. sarah w

    Shut the door!! I so needed this today….I will always remain true to who I am.

    Awesome post!!

  4. Ed Congdon

    Brilliant! Your timing could not be better, as I am meeting with a potential wedding client tonight. Really need to think about how I present myself to them.

    Lovemarking is sort of like cheering for the Packers or the Cubs in their worst of times. For me, I guess that would mean things like Crest or Dial or Towncraft sweaters. Go figure…

  5. linda kuo

    Great post! But I think you can have both. Being passionate about what you do is the lovemark. Your style, is your brand. There is enough to go around for everybody. Believe in your brand and lovemark and your audience will find you!

  6. Angela

    AMAZING blog. I love you, your work, your words and your enthusiasm. You ROCK!

  7. MM

    @Linda: I actually don’t think that’s what divides a brand and lovemark. I think a lovemark is both passion and style. As well as an experience. A brand is a color, a logo and treating what you do like just a product. So I think "having both" is by striving to be a lovemark.

  8. Angela

    PS: "Shut the door!" comment below = adorable!!!

  9. Alison

    I am totally on the Gain wagon with you Mary. There are a few things that I don’t nickel and dime to death- two of them are my LL Bean sheets and my gain detergent. I have been spending a lot of time thinking about just this as I am making moves to become more focused on who/what/how I shoot. I make an emotional investment in my clients and hope they will make that same investment in me. It has started happening beyond what I expected and I am now trying to build around that to solidify my lovemark. It is daunting for a marketing newbie such as myself, but so worth the risks! Thank you again!

  10. Kelly

    I canNOT believe you wrote this about Gain! I love love love Gain, and a few years back, they changed the Original scent. I was not happy. I wrote them a letter. Even though the change was really slight and probably not noticeable to the average customer. My husband thought I was crazy – but that is loyalty beyond reason.

  11. Kelly

    P.S. Great post – my husband has been building his own business for the last year and is doing more thinking about how to market himself – I will definitely point him in the direction of this post!

  12. Jil

    as a J&M bride, i can attest to this being an incredibly important aspect of why we "picked" them (i think fate had a little something to do with). we felt like we knew them; that it wouldnt be a team of strangers showing up on our wedding day. and this was incredibly important to us. sure, we loved the look and the feel exuding from their images, but we also loved the people behind those images. so instead of meeting them for the 1st time on our wedding day, we felt like we were hanging out with old friends.

  13. Kristin

    I love this post. Like… absolutely love this post. You have just put words to something I have felt about our business for the past 2yrs. I love this post almost as much as I love you guys (which is way beyond reason btw ;)

  14. Chelsea McGowan

    Right now, we’re kind of ignoring our brand, and selling ourselves. In January, when our online presence matches ourselves, we will finally have a lovemark. We have that "loyalty beyond reason"… I’m excited to see our clients be able to attach it to a graphic concept. :)

  15. Patti

    Now I may be a little bit partial, but I think that my favourite man in the world has a great "Lovemark" going on. He is real. People love him for who he is and what he stands for. He is in his first year of business, but he will do well by his clients because he is real. I am sure if he reads this he will be a little red, but I felt it should be said. J&M thank you for being real!

  16. Amy Clifton

    I picked up Lovemarks after STL, and it is such a great book and concept. I’m working on a blog series about my own Lovemarks….the brands, places, artists, stuff that I am loyal to without reason! Of course I’m also working on building ACP to be a Lovemark….one day at a time….slowly but surely. Thanks J&M!

  17. Ashton

    You guys should try the New Gain Dish Washing Soap, it is out of this world amazing. I LOVE IT. I wash my hands with it simply because it smells so wonderful! :)

  18. Christa

    I don’t know if I should laugh or cry, your timing is unreal!!!! I was going to email you tonight about this very thing….talking about Lovemarks as your next pancake session. I check out your blog first and here we go a whole post dedicated just to that! Thanks so much for clarifying exactly what I need to do to be ME and not just another branded photographer :)

  19. Sophia Harcourt

    Ok so off homework assignment topic…but I LOVE Gain. And I’m with Ashton about the diswashing soap, just bought some a few days ago. Just waiting on the body wash;). Back to topic….I am trying to sell myself as Lovemark but feeling more like a watermark. But you Mary have gotten me to start communicating more through my little blog. I share my personal life more than anything and the images I create to share it but I figure that must count for something. I actually got "freshly pressed" on wordpress.com recently (sounds dirty but it is not, ;) ). Thanks for your inspirations and insights.

  20. denise karis

    I’m late on commenting but I still wanted to add or ask or just throw this in: does someone necessarily have to LIKE or "love" a lovemark in order for it to BE a lovemark even? You’d think there would have to be a following however doesnt that kind of defeat the purpose? Can I be a lovemark simply because I say I am – simply because I am running forward -undaunted -without looking right or left or behind to even see if anyone is following? Does it have to be both? Both someone somewhere feels devotion to it AND its running forward doing its own thang? Lovemarks make me think! I’m an "All" fan….maybe we can’t be friends afterall :P

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