Brands & Lovemarks building

(Originally posted on August 11, 2006)

Kevin Roberts is an extremely smart guy. After all, you don’t get to be CEO Worldwide of Saatchi & Saatchi just because you work 12 hours a day (question #12) or look cute. (smile) Through his writings, Kevin has taught me so much about branding and Lovemarks (Kevin’s invention).

So after a recent consultation session with a local startup, it got me thinking about the essential elements for “branding” or better, creating a Lovemark for this company’s product. So I figure I may as well share a bit of my thoughts on the topic of brands and Lovemarks here.

As I have no way of beating the guru, I will simply use Kevin’s own words to share with you a bit of what I am thinking on brands and Lovemarks.

Brands are out of juices … They can’t stand out in the marketplace and they are struggling to connect with people. Here are six reasons why.

1. Brands are worn out from overuse
Michael Eisner of Disney has called the word brand ‘over-used, sterile, and unimaginative.’ He’s right. As the brand manual grows heavier and more detailed you know you’re in trouble. Making sure the flowers in reception conform to the brand guidelines just shows you are looking in the wrong direction. Consumers are who you should be paying attention to. What matters to them. Otherwise, you’re hiding, and you’re in trouble.

2 . Brands are no longer mysterious
There is a new anti-brand sensibility. There is much more consumer awareness, more consumers who understand how brands work and, more importantly, how they are intended to work on them! For most brands there is nowhere left to hide. The information age means that brands are part of the public domain. Hidden agendas, subliminal messages, tricky moves—forget it. For most brands it is a new age of consumer savvy; at the extremes it’s the attacks of Naomi Klein and the anti-global gang.

3. Brands can’t understand the new consumer
The new consumer is better informed, more critical, less loyal, and harder to read. The white suburban housewife who for decades seemed to buy all the soap powder no longer exists. She has been joined by a new population of multi-generational, multi-ethnic, multi-national consumers.

4. Brands struggle with good old-fashioned competition
The more brands we invent the less we notice them as individuals. If you’re not Number One or Two, you might as well forget it. It’s like kids in a family. You might remember the names of three kids, even five. But ten? And the greater the number of brands, the thinner the resources promoting them. You get a treadmill of novelty, production value, incremental change, tactical promotions, and events.

5 . Brands have been captured by formula
I lose patience with the wanna-be-science of brands. The definitions, charts, diagrams, and tables. There are too many people following the same rule book. When everybody tries to beat differentiation in the same way nobody gets anywhere. You get row upon row of what I call ‘brandroids.’ Formulas can’t deal with human emotion. Formulas have no imagination or empathy.

6. Brands have been smothered by creeping conservatism
The story of brands has gone from daring and inspiration to caution and aversion to risk. Once the darling of the bold and the brave, brands are relying on the accumulation of past experiences rather than the potential of future ones. Headstones are replacing stepping stones. If the antics of Richard Branson cause a riot (and they do), how bland and boring has everyone else become?”

And here is what Kevin says about Lovemarks,

” The Lovemarks of this new century will be the brands and businesses that create genuine emotional connections with the communities and networks they live in. This means getting up close and personal. And no one is going to let you get close enough to touch them unless they respect what you do and who you are.

Love needs Respect right from the start. Without it, Love will not last. It will fade like all passions and infatuations. Respect is what you need when you are in for the long haul.

Respect is one of the founding principles of Lovemarks.”

You can download the above preview of Kevin’s book Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands or buy it.


8 Responses to Brands & Lovemarks building

  1. mikesabat says:

    I think that you left out:

    Brands have been marginalized by their owners. This happens when the owner reaches to far in order to “not lose customers.” In the end they lose their brand. I posted about this, please check it out.

  2. kempton says:

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for your comment. I think Kevin’s points #1 & 3-6 address some of the issues of marginalization of the brands.

    What I have to respectfully disagree is the thesis of your Aug 18th blog, “Building a Brand = Losing Customers”.

    As an example, you wrote, “My advice to build your brand is to take the 10-20% of your customers that are the biggest pain in the ass (classified by market demographics) and get rid of them, surgically.  Stop offering the benefit that they buy for.  These customers aren’t loyal anyway and they are killing your brand.”

    Please forgive me in advance as I am going to respectfully disagree with you on the above. For me, the pain level has to be really high to give up 10-20% of my customers.

    In a sense, I view the complaining customers as my very valuable customers. Why? Because they care enough to complain. They are helping me to make a better widget, provide better services, etc. They, the complaining customers, are paradoxically my valuable customers. In contrast. The customers that don’t call, don’t complain are the one that will never come back.


  3. mikesabat says:

    Hey Kempton,

    I appreciate your comment. I am going to have to respectfully disagree with your respectful disagreement. I think it is very important to listen to your customers on issues like customer service, price and even product, but not so much when it comes to your brand. A brand has to choose sides. It is much harder to be the _____ for everyone.

    Take the Porsche example. Porsche’s brand always stood for (to me anyway) the young, rich, playboy, jetsetter’s sports car. Introducing a minivan, although it may increase revenue in the short term, hurts their brand. This Porsche customer, that was calling for a minivan, is the 10% your brand needs to ignore.

    What if Guiness, a brand steeped in tradition with very devoute customers, introduced an ultra-light beer to compete with Mic Ultra. Again, they would gain some customers, but the brand no longer has its mystique, its tradition and in the long run it puts the devotion of the core customers at risk.


  4. jlambie says:

    Marketing strategy: the 4 Ps and market segment – long time no talk. :)

    Branding can go as general (i.e. reaching as wide the segment as possible) as you want if you get the profit in volume, or highly specialized if the profit per unit is high. Afterall isn’t it the total profit in an expected period that meets the company’s goal that counts?

    I tend to see enterprise (big) companies going for the “cut those painful customers” strategy as they are “expensive” to maintain (i.e. perhaps the company needs to spend more to support these accounts, or gain less in servicing them). For example, I opened my account with this bank ’bout 20 years ago. Those days they had no monthly service charge whatsoever. I am sure they want to convert me to their newer type of account which offers more flexibility or banking services so they can charge me more with whatever reason. Will I switch? Probably not. Will I complain? Possibly. Will they offer me better service when I complain? Probably not. Will I leave this bank? Probably not. Am I loyal? I’m not sure!

  5. kempton says:

    Hi Mike,

    I think we don’t have disagreement on the idea of Porsche getting into the minivan/family car market or the brand Guiness getting into the ultra-light beer market may be damaging to the brand.


  6. kempton says:

    Dear jlambie,

    Thanks for your comments and questions.

    Yeah, the 4 Ps and market segment. The reason I quoted Kevin Roberts was I saw in him a good commentary on the general brand fatigue people are experiencing. When Michael Eisner (former exec of Disney) called the word brand ‘over-used, sterile, and unimaginative’, I pay attention. And I listed those six reasons to stimulate thinking of the issue.

    You gave an interesting observation on the relationship with your bank. May be you should switch or complain?! :)

    For me, I also am growing tired of my cheap long-distance provider, my pain is not enough (like your case) to switch yet. But the operative word is “yet”. When I am pissed off enough and when Skype service is stable and reliable enough, I may just switch to Skype or someother VoIP technology. Which I bet my cheap long-distance provider is using already.


  7. […] On a different note, I was advising a startup company a few weeks ago and I told them I saw potential of turning the company into a “Lovemark” and not just a brand. What I didn’t realize was that JC Penny is now paying a cool US$430 million for that same advice also. Of course, for US$430 million, JC Penny gets Kevin Roberts and his team at Saatchi & Saatchi. For a small fraction of that fee, the companies that I advise will get me instead. :) For more info about brands and Lovemarks, please refer to my previous entry “Brands & Lovemarks building” on August 19th, 2006. […]

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