Unbound Edition. Meaningful conversations about brand, from Davis Brand Capital.

A Brand New Love

Brand love can and should happen year round – not just in the month of February. From first interest to treasured relationship, people really do fall in love with brands. In this issue of the Brand Brief, we explore how companies develop and maintain meaningful, emotional connections with consumers. Weigh in on the conversation with us, and share your thoughts on Twitter. #brandlove


What’s Brand Love Got To Do With It?

Brands that know who they are can build good relationships with others. It sounds simple, but it takes work. A clear brand position, an unbreakable brand promise and consistent brand messages are the basics for making brand love work. Taken together, they create authenticity – the heart of any good relationship.

Leading with messages promoting functional brand benefits is the equivalent of a pick-up line – easy and perhaps effective, but not enough for something that will last. Brands that take into account the emotional needs of their prospects and customers – taking the time to get to know them personally – can engage in more meaningful communication and stronger relationships.

The #WUHomeCooked Campaign by Western Union focused on a clear message about their services while building trust and rapport with customers. Taking the time to listen to their customer segments, the company built a campaign that would resonate, sharing personal stories about how the brand earned love in real life.

Consumers want brands that will enrich or improve their lives. Successful brands will connect these happy consumers with each other and with their friends, building a community of brand activists. Taking the next step in a relationship with the consumer is important, and it is just as critical that brands redefine what a loyal relationship looks like in order to remain relevant as priorities shift. After all, sometimes love is all about changing and growing together over time.


Can’t Buy Me Brand Love

How brand love impacted the U.S. economy in February, as revealed in final Valentine sales’ reports, served as a good reflection of overall consumer confidence. Although economists look to this holiday metric as a relevant barometer, it is consumer confidence in brands that we find especially relevant when thinking about brand love.

Increasingly, that confidence gets expressed across social media, where putting consumers’ needs and desires first results in a love that spreads among circles of influence. Ultimately, it is once again the millennial dollar at stake, as they have about $200 billion in direct purchasing power and account for $500 billion more in indirect spending through influencing their parents.

Although certainly luxury brands like Cartier and Tiffany & Co play a traditional role in the love game, the word “luxury” itself is taking on new meanings in the economy of the future. Luxury used to be a category of brands primarily in fashion, jewelry and automobiles. Now, it also includes fresh and pricey farm-to-table foods and craft beers, as well as unique travel experiences. For example, will we witness consumers spending more on chocolate brands that reflect the love of high standards in sourcing and/or quality of the product? Or will other luxury auto brands follow Mercedes and recognize the importance of the shifts taking place in the economy, making certain they are connecting emotionally and intellectually with consumers to ensure a place in their luxe budgets?

As the economy continues to “work its way back to you, love,” brand love and luxury expense need not be equated.  Private-label products are now overwhelmingly adored too, according to a Nielsen report on consumer sentiment for store brands. And, at Target, both the Archer Farms and Up and Up brands leverage the current mindset of consumers who are willing to trade up and trade down, depending on the perceived brand value.

Similarly, new categories of brands – such as those in the  sharing economy –  have disrupted mature industries, such as hotels and automotive, providing consumers with convenient and cost-efficient access to resources without the financial burdens of ownership. Despite the economic success of brands in this space – Uber, Zipcar and Rent The Runway, for example – it is important to monitor the lower emotional connection with consumers sharing brands may have. They are, after all, “transactional” at the end of day. Brands that continue to thrive in this economy based on superior utility, savings or efficiency, however, will recognize that their success also depends on consumer trust.

Airbnb, has successfully been able to address this risk by putting the needs of the consumer first and then making it personal even while shared. It creates a personal connection between guest and host, something that is often missing from travel experiences. Reflected in the recent launch of their quarterly print magazine, Pineapple, the brand committed “to explore our fundamental values: sharing, community and belonging,” and to “inspire and motivate exploration, not just within the cities featured, but within any space a reader finds themselves.” 


Brand Love Will Keep Us Together

The love of the millennial consumer is something that brands focus on a lot – or should be focusing on a lot. As a generation that can be unpredictable when it comes to brand loyalty, the trends and insights of this consumer group are also reflected in cultural shifts that impact brands today.

The experiences that millennials now expect as a part of the luxury economy, are also an important way to gain the love of this generation. It is through unique experiences and innovative products that brands will capture the attention of younger generations.

Brands like Warby Parker, built on disruptive innovation, appeal to multiple motivations of consumers. In addition to leveraging their innovative approach to online retail, the brand appeals to the altruistic and equally stylish consumer with their “buy one, give one” model. Warby Parker’s significant success right from the start combined these cultural notions of innovation, social benefit and affordable fashion to connect with the consumer, who then turned around and wanted to share the company’s mission with their friends and family.

On the global front, brands like Shell Oil, leveraging necessity and convenience to engage with consumers, has helped a product that many consumers love to hate feel a bit better.

The promises that brands make to their consumers are kept by internal operations, driven by the culture of the brand itself. When employees are equally in love with the brand as their consumers, they deliver on the brand promise in ways that are more valuable than a commercial during last weekend’s Oscars.

Take Zappos.com as a perfect example of a corporate culture that impacts the love consumers have for the brand. As a company built on values that CEO Tony Hsieh calls the “three C’s” –  clothing, customer service and company culture – Zappos has become a case study in how to leverage internal culture for positive brand love. In fact, his wildly successful book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose is now the definitive case of a “company with a cause – that helps people, organizations and businesses apply the different frameworks of happiness to their lives.”

The relationships brands have with today’s consumers in a culture that relies so heavily on convenience and accessibility makes us think of how some try to “brand” their personal relationships. Are managers of brands today connected with how consumers rate their passion for the brand?


Brand Love Is In The Air

Leading with simple emotion has long been a tactic that brands use to provoke engagement with the consumer. We witness this quite powerfully during significant events like the Olympics or times of year where emotions are high, like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

Late last year Revlon announced a global rebrand that focused on the announcement that #loveison. Lorenzo Delpani, President and CEO, shared that “the idea for LOVE IS ON grew from our quest to find a universally inspiring emotion. Love is by far the most powerful and most positive. It is very important for us to evoke positivity with our new brand cause.” Implemented across multiple channels and in multiple global markets, the creative execution of the new brand inspired consumers to fall in love with Revlon all over again.

Kraft hopes that consumers will rediscover their childhood love of Jell-O with a new ad campaign centered on that very emotion. J-E-L-L-O-V-E is a part of Kraft’s investment in creative executions that reflect the brand’s overall investment in getting closer to consumers. In addition to new advertisements and commercials, Jell-O intends the expressions of love to reflect additional meaningful changes to their ingredients, flavor profiles and product partnerships.

And what about McDonald’s controversial new commercials during the Super Bowl, emphasizing the lovin’ moments between families as enabled by the fast food giant? While the approach intended to emphasize positivity and a promise to put the customer first, many found it a cynical hijacking of genuine love.

Gap recently launched a short video series on Instagram, to promote its spring collection. The 12-part love story inspired by spring and the emotions of the season, integrates the brand into a narrative of connection. As illustrated by Gap and many others, Instagram has quickly become a large part of the creative and social strategies of many brands. It is Instagram’s own relationship with the fashion industry at large, however, that was elevated as a beautiful example of art meeting innovation.

Quite possibly the most powerful ad during the recent Academy Awards broadcast was Dove’s  #SpeakBeautiful campaign. It challenges 5 million negative Tweets sent out in 2014 about beauty and body image with the positive notion that it just takes one positive Tweet to start a trend.

How sweet it is to be loved by the consumer. Brands and consumers can be power couples and how the creative expressions of a brand extend the promise of this love matters.


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