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January 05, 2007

The Lovemarks Affect

Backstory -- In Sept. 2000, Kevin Roberts, CEO Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide, first presented his Lovemarks concept (known then as Trustmarks) in an article for Fast Company magazine. Four years later, Roberts had evolved Trustmarks into Lovemarks and published a branding book called, LOVEMARKS: the future beyond brands. It was met with skepticism from many marketers who felt the Lovemarks idea was an over-blown retread of old ideas repackaged as snake oil secret sauce for ad agencies. In late 2006, Kevin Roberts published a follow-up book titled, THE LOVEMARKS EFFECT: winning in the consumer revolution.

It seems to me … Lovemarks is having a greater affect than effect with marketers. Meaning, it’s affected our thinking more than it has effected our marketing. Some folks love it while other folks loath it. (Hmm … is someone working on a Loathmarks book?)

Those that loath Lovemarks seem to have difficulty in separating the messenger from the message.

The messenger, Kevin Roberts, does come off as a narcissistic, fanciful word spewing caricature of an advertising executive. Ain’t no doubt about it … he thinks very highly of himself. (And I’m sure he would tell you just that if you asked him.)

But this messenger’s core message is very smart and very relevant to marketers today. At the heart of the Lovemarks message is the idea brands evolve to a higher level when they earn respect and love from customers. Roberts uses a fanciful word, Lovemarks, to describe the state of when a brand evolves to the next level.

According to Roberts, when brands earn respect and love from customers, they can forge loyalty beyond reason. And when that happens, brands transcend from being just a brand … into being a Lovemark.

Dismiss the name Lovemarks all you want as being a creatively clumsy word. But, you’d be challenged to dismiss the notion that all brands are not equal with some brands playing on a different, more emotional level. Apple and Gateway are both brands but clearly, Apple plays on a different, more emotional level than does Gateway. Whole Foods Market plays on a much different, more emotional level than does Kroger. (Right?)

While reading THE LOVEMARKS EFFECT, it became blatantly clear to me that Roberts is desperate to make Lovemarks a Lovemark. And according to this Ad Age interview, the future of Saatchi & Saatchi depends on Lovemarks becoming a Lovemark.

Roberts tells how the Lovemarks concept is now Saatchi & Saatchi’s secret sauce. Its their company’s unique point of view on what the Saatchi & Saatchi brand aspires to become. Its what will hopefully make clients loyal beyond reason to Saatchi & Saatchi’s ideas. Its something Saatchi & Saatchi needs to make the company more endearing so clients will form a heart over head relationship with them.

I reckon Roberts hopes the affect of THE LOVEMARKS EFFECT will positively effect Saatchi & Saatchi’s present day and furture day business.

Look for a future posting on Brand Autopsy sharing Money Quotes as well as a few Baloney Quotes from THE LOVEMARKS EFFECT.


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Sure, Lovemarks is food for thought. The concept isn't hard to understand, but it's much harder to build into a product. It's a by-product of hard work from various angles of the company...customer service, user experience, and product design among other factors. As an Ad-agency creative type, he may be in love with the visuals just like we like fine art. But is he qualified on how to make a lovemark? I haven't read the book, so I can't assume or criticize.

Although I do acknowledge the power of great advertising in arousing interest and generating great sales...the aforementioned factors are the strongest influencers to the longevity of Lovemarks.

lovemarks (indeed a clumsy term for a good observation) has to be embedded in the core of a company / brand's offer. The days of bad products or services being able to be disguised behind clever advertising are long gone.

So lovemarks HAVE to start with the product, and it's viable and aspirational to hope for your ad agency to do just that.

But it's going to be damn hard...

There are many examples of transcended brands (Apple, which you cited, being at the forefront) but this comes directly from the fusion of creativity, innovation, heart and soul into the design of their products.

Saatchi will never become a lovemark because it's a business selling a service to other businesses, and they will always put numbers (i.e. their head) before their heart. Would a client of Saatchi's remain as such if they were seeing poor returns on their investment? Hardly.

I don't think brands that primarily do business with other businesses can become true lovemarks. The hope for Saatchi is to develop campaigns that are so refreshing, original, real, open and transparent that the consumers being targeted say "Hey, that's a great ad - it's clever, witty, original and isn't trying to pull the wool over my eyes".

But therein lies the conflict - between the creator of the campaign (Saatchi) and the "owner" of it (their client).

He's got a job to do which involves turning around an advertising agency that was in trouble. And he created a pretty good tool for doing that didn't he? Heck, we're all talking about them!

"According to Roberts, when brands earn respect and love from customers, they can forge loyalty beyond reason. And when that happens, brands transcend from being just a brand … into being a Lovemark."

I haven't read the book, but I find no falsity in the above statement. Now, if Roberts is claiming advertising leads to brand loyalty beyond reason, I can confidently say he is wrong. As you know and have experienced, John, brands grow from the inside/out.

mvellandi ... indeed, a "Lovemark" is an output and not a collection of inputs.

Asi ... yep, a "Lovemark" has more to do with the culture and mission of the company than it has to do with marketing/branding/advertising campaigns. As Spike Jones says, its about Movements, not Campaigns.

David … Roberts does a great job of stoking conversation. And, this conversation of companies needing to build a respected brand just to enter the party versus companies building a beloved brand which become the life of the party is something every marketer should talk about.

Lewis … Roberts takes a broader view of building Lovemarks where advertising plays a role in creating "Mystery, Sensuality, and Intimacy" with customers. But he says RESPECT must come first. To gauge if a company has earned the RESPECT of its customer, he lists 12 tough questions to ask. Such questions include : (#3) Does your brand have a heritage that consumers know and care about? (#8) Does the way consumers perceive your brand match the reality? (#9) Would you recommend your brand to your best friend? (#12) Does your company keep its promises, even if it might hurt the bottom line?

Where I think lots of marketers, including me, get agitated with the Lovemarks message is in how Roberts delivers it. As I wrote in my review for 800-CEO-READ of the first Lovemarks book, there’s thick advertising agency varnish to how the Lovemarks message is presented. It feels like a capabilities pitch deck. And now we know, from the above mentioned Ad Age article, that the Lovemarks books are essentially Saatchi & Saatchi’s capabilities pitch decks.

I really believe that with Lovemark Saatchi and Saatchi shows how irrelevant they have become.. It is about delivering great product experiences.. Create great reputation. Transparancy.. Why would I hire an ad agency for this?

All I can say is that when I emailed Mr. Roberts a comment and a question about his book, I got a nice note back from him on the same day. This says a lot more than most are willing to do.

I contacted him too recently but have yet to receive any reply.

Yes, there is some agency varnish, but why shouldn't there be? While not all the ideas are necessarily original re: emotional branding, I respect him highly for the fact that he has wrapped it all up and called it "Love" marks.

It is easy to talk but not so easy to get up and present a pitch to a client that is all about "Love". You have to cop a lot of smirks and eye-rolling. Even before that you need to change the attitude of the people around you to believe in "Love". And I think calling it by any lesser name (as some may choose to) doesn't do it justice.

I can say out of personal experience that if you have the courage to live the idea of Lovemarks in your life and your work (and it won't happen overnight), you will experience the "Lovemarks" effect. It is certainly not true that B2B relationships cannot become Lovemarks because anyone can be a Lovemark to another.

Sorry if this is too much of a rant, I just feel very strongly about this topic.

As advertisers/marketers, we can greatly influence the brands we work with to create "a world we love to live in".

Very interessting

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