Five years ago Dr Byron Sharp, Professor of Marketing Science at the University of South Australia, published the book 'How Brands Grow'. The controversial book directly challenges The Pareto principle, also known as the 80-20 rule, which states that 80% of a company's profits come from 20% of its customers. The reason the book is so disputed among marketers, is that it goes against something we all believe to be a powerful factor when it comes to growing brands -- brand love.
Last week, the APG hosted a Noisy Thinking event to debate the importance of brand love. We heard cases put forward from:
Jane Lingham - Director - BBC Brand (For)
Mark Murray - Head of Global Consumer Planning -- Diageo (Against)
Kirsty Fuller - Co-Founder & Co-CEO -- Flamingo (For)
Laurence Green - Founding Partner -- 101 (Against)
Why we believe in brand love
As consumers (and people), we look for emotional connections and we search to define who we are through the things and people that we love. Love for a brand can have huge positive impact in the following ways:
Jane Lingham of the BBC put it simply: "it's much easier to persuade someone to do something when they like (or love) you".
Sustainability and future proofing
A brand with a loyal following will find it much easier to ride out the hard times than one without. Consumers will be more forgiving of your mistakes as a brand if you mean something to them. Brand love is future proofing.
Example: Tesco struggle through hard times without loyal advocates to stand by them.
Meaning and differentiation
A brand cannot be meaningless and ignore the people who could become its advocates. Whether you choose to encourage brand love or not, people will have perceptions and interpretations of your brand anyway, you might as well make them positive. Brand love can be a meaningful differentiator, it creates value beyond the transaction.
Example: Apple recorded as most loved brand alongside record revenues, Hendrix, Innocent.
Why brand love is irrelevant
Penetration over loyalty
Sharp believes that in order for a brand to grow, it should not focus on creating love for the brand among those who are already buying it, but on reaching new audiences. Mark Murray of Diageo suggests, "talking to the people who already love you is a waste of time".
Brand love isn't tangible
Laurence Green of 101 encourages us as marketers to use Sharp's data, to learn how advertising actually works to be more respected within businesses.
The right balance
Sharp argues that very few people actually love brands anymore and that "we must indulge the behaviours of the largely indifferent" to grow as brands. He believes that yes, brands should continue to get noticed by doing something emotional, but successful brand will use this to reach new people -- brand love is an outcome of this, not an objective.
Example: Cadbury's Gorilla advertising campaign
Implications for digital
I would argue that digital means brands can continue to grow their loyal brand advocates and build brand love, while also penetrating new audiences.
In a world where people trust other people over brands and anyone can create/publish content, I believe it's well within the interest of companies to strive to have people love their brand, because they in turn will spread that love in a natural, trusted and authentic way.
The people who are loyal are important but they aren't everything, neither should they be forgotten, using them to reach new people is the key to success.