Brand Love, it changes everything
As Sarah Brightman once sang: "Love, it changes everything". Now, how much weight we should attribute to a singer that has willfully agreed to be strapped to 730 tonnes of rocket fuel and ignited in order to jettison her into space to perform the first concert from the International Space Station is up for debate. What I do agree with, however, is that those four, relatively common words, represent a notion that us Marketers, for the most part, agree with whole-heartedly; Brand Love, it changes everything.
Ahead of the curve?
Scholars say brand love can be represented by a never-ending curve of emotions, stretching from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and culminating as a brand that's Loved. At the Loved stage, demand becomes desire, needs become cravings and rational, cognitive thought is replaced with emotive feelings. The reasons that every marketer, no matter what their product, should seek out the fans who truly love them cannot be understated: a customer that loves your brand, if the remainder of the marketing mix is aligned, is a customer that you'll keep for life, right? Wrong.
How real are our brand relationships?
As evolution struggles to catch up with revolution, our relationships now more closely resemble tinder than Mills & Boon. So, does that mean love and loyalty are dead? Did they ever exist? The only way to answer the question of whether brand love exists now, did then and will in the future is to look to the 'brand lovers' of tomorrow. They're a species the likes of which the world has never seen before. Where 'sick' means the literal and the antithesis simultaneously, yet is constantly evolving alongside countless other examples I'm too 'vintage' to understand. Ladies and Gentlemen, meet 'Generation tinder'.
Generation tinder is a mind-set we all need to think about carefully. It's not just a narrow age group, consumer segment or self-confessed movement for change, however poetic that might sound. Generation tinder puts ease, accessibility and value over loyalty, particularly where that ease is facilitated through technology. Whilst this may be exciting for the tech-savvy startup with a pocket-money budget and a true, challenger brand mentality - it's terrifying to many brands we live and breathe (and love) in our daily lives today.
Friends with benefits?
Some brands benefit from loyal consumer sentiment and a steady, returning customer base that's relatively predictable, a marriage, while others are having to contend with the idea that their customer relationships more closely resemble 'flings' than anything deep and meaningful. For example, while British Airways scores well on loyalty, 75% of people define EasyJet as a "friend with benefits" according to the Human Brands research study. The same research also revealed consumers are having "secret relationships" with brands like McDonald's (60%) too, suggesting they are increasingly indiscriminate, placing ease and availability above brand loyalty. So what does all of this mean to us marketers at a time when Generation tinder is increasing its spending power? Quite simply, all of this demand for instant gratification is proving one of the fundamental truths of about love itself: "You can't make someone love you." A bitter pill to swallow it may be, but fundamental none the less.
Brand love or blackmail?
If brand owners are constantly denied the love of their publics, what are they to do? The answer is simple, have a fling instead. It's permissible, under Generation tinder's new moral code after all. Or, is it that brands have always been mistaking behavioural habit for brand loyalty, and that many 'successful' CRM initiatives were actually based on 'blackmailed behaviour' rather than loyalty? To survive and thrive in this world of changing relationships, brands need to understand where they sit within these relationship typologies, not chase unattainable ideal relationships of love and fidelity.
Love and ease
One final point to consider is the battle behind love and ease. Think about the emotions behind the famous tinder 'right swipe.' People are experiencing excitement, stress, anxiety and joy - at the very least, 4 emotions in seconds. This is intoxicating stuff, and no doubt studies in future years will liken it's effect to that of a class A stimulant or similar, with statistics and data tables to prove it. It's no longer just about ease through technology though, it's about how some brands are helping us solve the problems in our everyday lives, creating addictive, love-like chemical responses in our brains.
What could this mean for our long held notions of differentiation, loyalty and love? Is love dead? Who will win the battle between head and heart? For now, my money's staying firmly in my pocket on this one.