Marketing is broken, at least marketing as we know it. A non-marketeer dredges up the ugly and the beautiful in the marketing world.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Why Lovemarks Offends Us

There's a lot of hate out there for Lovemarks, the "beyond branding" marketing schtick. For the unaware, the postulate is that you can create "loyalty beyond reason", not just brand affinity. Apple is a common example - the mindset of a Lovemark consumer is demonstrated in this iProduct parody ad. Hugh, Johnnie Moore, three authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto, and The Head Lemur have all panned it well.

The Cluetrain guys dissect it a bit, but most of us have a complete and emotional anti-Lovemark response to the idea, the desire to rip it to shreds. While they pitch a "lovemark" as a brand or experience with high love, and high respect, the response to their lovemark brand, in clueful circles, it low love, low respect. According to their own love/respect axis, that makes them a "Product". Sounds about right.

Lovemarks isn't complete bunk. As an exercise in reflecting on the popularity of some brands - for Apple, Ikea, I would say Nintendo, and many more, it's an interesting thought exercise, and not an awful analysis. The vitriolic response comes because this ad agency has created and hyped the idea, and pretends they can recreate, even manufacture it. Most of us probably have some brand that we have an irrational attachment to, and see the same behavior in people we know. The thing is, these brand relationships weren't developed overnight, they weren't manufactured by an ad agency, and it's insulting to the brands we do love and respect to suggest that some "creative team" can cook up a Lovemark in a matter of weeks and months.

People loved Google because it was simple, but they respect it because while every other search engine turned into a massive banner ad for pop culture, Google kept its lovely expanse of white space. For most any "lovemark" brand I can think of, people came to love it because of a product that blew them away, and respected it because the company didn't sell its soul - it didn't hand everything over to focus groups and ad agencies. The companies continued to make products that flowed from the identity of that company, consistent with the product that people first grew to love.

Brand love happens quickly, but respect takes time, and consistency of message and product. The moment the customer feels sold out, or that their love is being taken advantage of, the game's over. The winners in the lovemarks game retain respect because the brand is transparent - the company and it's products are consistent and inseparable. That's the problem with trying to create lovemarks - the whole game is about exploiting someone's love of a brand, even manufacturing love and respect through an ad agency. There's too much information out there - if your company conflicts with your branding, people will find out, and you'll lose their respect.


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