As Valentine’s Day comes and goes, it’s hard not to think about love. Specifically the romantic kind. Yes, this is something we tend to feel for people — but studies show this is also an emotion we can develop toward a brand.
The beginning of brand love…
This school of thought began with a research paper called “Consumers and their Brands” by Susan Fournier published in 1998. Fournier is now Boston University’s Allen Questrom Professor and Dean.
In 2012, Fournier talked to The Atlantic about the effects her research had and how the paper created a shift in perspective around marketing.
“We learned that the essence of a given brand was not an inherent property of that brand as defined by marketers and reinforced in a 30-second ad,” Fournier reportedly said. “People's life projects, identity tasks, life themes, current concerns, cohorts, etc. provide the lenses through which brands come to have meaning.”
Because of Fournier’s paper and the research it inspired, marketers now have a better understanding of the complex relationships between brands and consumers.
Since her research debuted, Fournier said marketers “have developed a deeper understanding of relationship trust, satisfaction, love, and commitment; models of various types of brand love; a fuller understanding of how brand relationships help express one's identity; the causes and consequences of brand relationships that have ‘gone bad’; and so much more.”
The benefits of brand love…
Enter Tim Halloran, author of Romancing the Brand: How Brands Create Strong, Intimate Relationships with Consumers, published in 2014.
His entire book is about how to get more consumers to fall in love and stay in love with brands.
Halloran said in a lecture about his research that consumers who are in love with a specific brand will find more value in its products and ultimately pay more for them.
Additionally, Halloran claims consumers will be less likely to “cheat” — or use a different product. He argued that if a person is totally into their romantic partner, they’re not noticing anyone else. Similarly, if a consumer is into the brand they’re using, they won’t notice other promotions, advertisements and new iterations of a competing product.
Another perk of a deep relationship with a brand is that consumers will become advocates and evangelists. Halloran likened this to when a person is in love, they want to shout it from the rooftops and tell everyone about it.
He also said people would buy more from brands more often, and help marketers grow their business.
Fostering brand love…
So how do marketers make consumers fall in love with their brand?
Halloran said marketers must know their brand and customer. He then encourages marketers to segment those customers by where they’re at within the relationship to said brand to better serve them.
For example: Are they just meeting your brand? Is there a casual interest? Have they been dating your brand for a while now? Have they made a commitment to your brand? Do they feel like they’re in a relationship rut? Are they breaking up with your brand?
This all boils down to creating a bond, managing the relationship and infusing innovation once consumers are committed.
And Consumer Psychologist Dante Pirouz shared similar sentiments. She said marketers can stand out from competitors by humanizing their brands, or co-creating a more human experience between brands and consumers.
Pirouz explained brands and products become an extension of a consumer’s self identity. If a person loves the brand, that means it has become an integral part of self. When marketers work to help consumers lead better lives and reach personal goals, they’re able to co-create a climate that is beneficial for the buyer and their loyalty to the brand.
“When we invite a brand or product into our lives, we actually have a relationship that starts to mimic a lot of the characteristics of a personal relationship,” she said.
Fostering a deep authentic relationship on an individual level with customers is what Pirouz thinks companies should be doing to better serve their customers.
That’s why it’s important for marketers to remember to foster a deep and meaningful relationship between brands and consumers that love is a two way street.