Beyond Lovemarks: Things/Ideas or People/Relationships?

Johnnie Moore

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

I was chatting with a friend this morning. She commented that in the Lovemarks book, Kevin Roberts talks a great deal about Love but we get very little sense of who are the people he loves (except, of course, himself), and an awful lot about the things he loves.

We learn, for example, of his love for Head & Shoulders shampoo and Steinlager beer. Rob Paterson made a great comment about Head & Shoulders

H & S is merely a portfolio filler that fits somewhere between P & G’s 9 other shampoos!

There is no love here! Only calculation.

The path of Lovemarks is not the path of love

I’m not for one for rigid rules, but on the whole I prefer to reserve love for living creatures. Love for things sounds more like lust to me, or addiction. My friend this morning said she uses a brand of shampoo that she “quite likes”, and I think that seems a pretty appropriate level of loyalty to feel to a thing.

Indeed, when you get into the love of things, you start down a path that is going to end in treating people as objects. Consider this comment, taken from Fast Company’s somewhat fawning review

General Mills, for example, was looking for a way to give Cheerios a boost a couple of years ago. After applying the lovemarks research, “we realized there was an opportunity to take Cheerios to a higher emotional ground, moving it from being part of the kitchen cupboard to part of the family,” says Mike Burns, co-CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, New York. To ramp up the brand’s love quotient, General Mills replaced the bowl on the package with a heart and retooled its advertising to focus less on the product’s functional benefits (oats are good for you) and more on its emotional ones. “It became very much about motherhood and nurturance — that Cheerios is an expression of love and doing the best for your family,” says Burns. “That’s when the brand took off.” Cheerios is now the top cereal brand in the country, and occupies a position that’s the equivalent of beachfront property on the lovemarks graph.

This story captures the kind of shoddy philosophy we are dealing with here. Saatchis take pride in making Cheerios “part of the family”. This notion is either (a)utterly ludicrous or (b)utterly despicable. Maybe both. (Though of course this is also yet another example of Saatchis showing off how clever they are so let’s take it with a pinch of salt.)

This is also a good instance of how brand gurus get fixated with abstractions and hyperventilate. There is little sense of feet on the ground here, or any responsibility for the notion they are championing. Lovemarks are about the abuse of love, not the practice of it.

Lovemarks lure organisations into silly or unpleasant promises they can’t or shouldn’t live up to. The philosophy espoused here is at best a con, and at worst a pretty crappy conclusion to several thousand years of human civilisation.

Surely to god if the makers of Cheerios really wanted to express love (instead of manipulating how other people express it) they would find a more productive use of their time and talents than this.

I also believe Lovemarks can’t even work financially over time. Simply because the more an organisation spouts mantras that defy the reality of stakeholders lives, the less likely it is that they can host the sort of real conversations that actually make lives productive, engaging and satisfying.

In contrast, effective brands don’t deny reality, they embrace it. They don’t legislate for conversations, they provoke them. Many brands I’ve worked for have been shams, where their people are awash with unspoken frustrations with each other. A few have been vibrant, where people seem to share genuine passion and can tolerate or even enjoy conflict and challenge.

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