One of the big ideas in brand management is the creation of brand love. This is where the solutions you sell and the customer relationships and experiences you create result in customers who are passionate and committed to your brand.
But have you stopped to really think through what generates this passion and commitment in the first place?
The only way customers will love your brand is if it delivers value in a way that matters to them. True value resonates with your customers. This means you need to be tough on value in your organisation to prevent it being treated as ‘taken for granted’ or ‘glossy rhetoric’.
Adding value and creating customer value are often snappy sound bites that are very easy for people to buy into.When this happens you could have a serious problem when it comes to establishing what value means for your business. Ask yourself honestly; does everyone in the organisation have an aligned view on what are people talking about when they talk about value in general and customer value in particular?
Get tough on value conversations in your organisation by doing three things.
- Don’t confuse it with satisfaction because that is only about after the purchase. It says a lot about wants and little about real needs.
- Don’t confuse it with quality because that is about technical standards.
- Don’t confuse it with your values because they are about you and not the customer.
Are you sure your team knows the difference?
Organization psychologist Kurt Lewin said there is nothing more practical than a good theory. He said this to make managers realise that an assumption has a direct influence on practice. Mistaken assumptions about ‘what’ value is results in irrelevant marketing implementation.
You can think of defining value in your business as just as important as NASA getting the trajectory calculations right for a space exploration vehicle such as the Mars Curiosity Rover. Even a small miscalculation on launch could have resulted in Curiosity missing big the red planet by thousands of miles.
Let’s say you assume that the primary benefit your customer is seeking is the best price. This might seem reasonable because the customer always mentions the price in conversations. Acting on this assumption could lead you to being way off target. Deeper understanding of the customer through careful unpacking of what is going on in their business world reveals that they value your detailed expertise and network of suppliers which means the relationship they have with you helps them compete in their market more effectively. The real value is in the supplier relationship not in the price.
If you don’t ask tough questions about what people mean by value then there is a very real risk your plans, product developments and campaigns will be off target. Worse still you’ll get locked into a cycle of repetitive problem solving as one thing after another is tried in the elusive hunt for customer value.
Barbara Caroll and Aaron Ahuvia in their article Some antecedents and outcomes of brand love – Market Lett (2006) 17: 79–89 define brand love as “the degree of passionate emotional attachment that a person has for a particular trade name.”. A definition such as this is helpful in focusing attention key brand love attributes.
The challenge for the professional marketer of course lies in creating specific actions that predispose the customer to fall and stay in love with your brand. It’s issues like this that are at the heart of the work my publishing colleagues Simon Kelly of Sheffield Business School UK and Stacey Danheiser of Shake Marketing USA address when they talk of the need to create resonant value propositions and ensure that sales and marketing activities are aligned.
Brand love needs a bit of tough love too.
If you are interested in the academic research into brand love then the following might be of interest:
Fournier, Susan (1998), “Consumers and Their Brands: Developing Relationship Theory in Consumer Research,” Journal of Consumer Research, 24 (4), 343–73.
Albert, Noel, Dwight Merunka, and Pierre Valette-Florence (2008), “When Consumers Love Their Brands: Exploring the Concept and its Dimensions,” Journal of Business Research, 61 (10), 1062–75