Does love have a place in business?

The most important measure of economics is, in fact, emotions, writes Jac Phillips.

This article originally appeared in The Love Issue, our June/July 2016 Marketing magazine.

Issue badge Love IssueIt wasn’t exactly love at first sight, more like, ‘Wow, I like what I see and I need to find out more!’ It was April 2015 and I had just been sent an eDM from Apple informing me about the new release of the Apple Watch. I also own an iPhone, my family own three more and altogether we have four iPads. No Apple TV though… yet!

Call me a brand tragic but, as you well know, I am not alone. In quarter one of 2016, there were 96.1 million Apple products sold globally according to Apple’s annual report – and this doesn’t include the Apple Watch, the sales of which remain a mystery in the report as it’s bundled into a category called ‘other’, which includes the iPod and Apple TV.

So I went ahead and purchased the first edition Apple Watch. I was curious, hopeful, excited and wanted to be among the first to assess if the hype was accurate.

Steve Jobs figured out before many others how to get people to love his brand. Apple could have been a technology brand all about complexity and analytics (like many others in the same era). However, Jobs never lost sight of the fact technology isn’t about numbers, it’s about people. Jobs genuinely recognised the difference between fact and emotion.

He was personally curious about what stirs imaginations, what keeps customers satisfied and what makes them smile. He ensured his company’s priority was to delight customers and, in doing so time after time with every product release (new or an upgrade), the Apple brand continued to create strong connections with the market.

It was fair to say people loved their Apple device, and they ultimately loved the Apple brand and what it stood for: simple, intuitive technology products designed to look cool. Combine this with contemporary advertising and marketing messages personifying a unique brand personality that ‘spoke’ to and connected with consumers on a very deep level and you have an organisation that successfully attained love globally for its brand.

In the past few years I have come to realise love is something we generally don’t discuss in the  business place, but it is in fact a key part of the equation when it comes to branding and building trust with customers.

Related: Here’s Phillips on why social personality traits make better marketers »

Many CEOs, CFOs and product people in business start by determining their company mission or goals, soon followed by how they will measure success quarterly, biannually and annually. These measures usually sound (at a very high level) something like this:

  • number of products sold,
  • number of new customers attained,
  • how effectively expenses are reduced, and
  • ultimately, how much overall profit was created versus the previous period.

Jobs was spot on, however. The most important measure of economics is, in fact, emotions. It has to start with how we want someone to feel about our product, our service, our brand. How does it represent itself in the market? What is its personality and why do we believe the market will create an affinity with our brand?

Advertising guru and all-round advertising legend Kevin Roberts (former global CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi) wanted to know why some brands were inspirational while others struggled. Together with Saatchi & Saatchi back in 2004, he developed the ‘Lovemarks’ concept  and published Lovemarks: the future beyond brands.

Roberts’ belief was that brands could aspire to a higher order by creating more of an emotional relationship with consumers. Sounds easy, right? Isn’t that what all companies set out to do?

At the core of every Lovemark is respect, followed by three critical ingredients: mystery, sensuality and intimacy – which is what Roberts deemed was at the heart of emotional connections.

“A brand starts by giving love,” states Roberts, “demonstrating it loves the people who buy the brand because, when marketers do this, they start to reward their customers every day with brand experiences that have special resonance with those three critical ingredients: mystery, sensuality and intimacy.”

The test to see if your brand may be a Lovemark is if it matches up to all three of the following:

  • Brands tat are Lovemarks connect companies, their people and their brands.
  • Brands that are Lovemarks inspire loyalty beyond reason for brands.
  • Brands that are Lovemarks are owned by the people who love them: customers and staff.

When brands engage consumers’ deepest emotions, instead of just appealing to their intellect, or even basic instincts, they win in the marketplace. They win because their customers don’t just respect them: they really genuinely love them. Here starts the customer love affair.

The Lovemarks concept helps create brands that give purpose and sustenance to the life of business, and to the business of life. And here’s the most interesting fact: Lovemarks are not owned by manufacturers, producers or businesses. They are owned by the people who love them.

So, in essence, the brands that outperform others are the ones that provide empathy, understanding, inspiration, shared values and education, among other emotional benefits. But they must also provide a superior product or service, as well as superior emotional engagement. Pretty heady stuff. Who wouldn’t want to create a brand that outperforms?

But how many of us actually have?

Defining love when it comes to business or brand development specifically? I think it is about action. It’s about creating a meaningful relationship and it means keeping in touch, working with consumers, understanding them, spending time with them. We need to start by answering the one question consumers ask before they purchase: ‘How are you going to improve my life?’

The most important attribute any marketing person, team or department can bring to their brand and business is to really know their market, know their customer segment/s intimately. Own this and you become a very powerful influence in your organisation.

So does love have a place in business? I don’t mean the romantic kind in this instance (though many of us have and will find love in the workplace!) but love for what we do (passion), love for the people we do it with (caring for our team members) and essentially love for the people we do it for (our customers). Ask yourself this, how passionate are you about your brand, product or service? How passionate are you about the strategy? Do you love your customers?

I uncovered some recent research (a longitudinal study from the Wharton School of Business titled ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It?’), which shows people who love their co-workers are more engaged, consistently turn up and perform better.

A good friend of mine, Yamini Naidu recently published a great business book called Power Play (Wiley) and dedicated an entire chapter to love. Yamini describes ‘love power’ as an influence tool being about winning people’s hearts and minds and watching their feet follow.

Perfect segue to finish up: my Apple Watch just alerted me to an interesting tweet and on looking at my customised watch face featuring an intimate family photo I am particularly fond of, I note another message telling me to ‘get up and move’ as I have been sedentary for too long and that’s not good for my health. Yes, it tells me the time too, but as Lovemarks states, the brands that provide understanding, inspiration and education among other emotional benefits are the ones we fall in love with.

I have not put another timepiece on my wrist since April 2015 – not even my very special Armani watch. It seems a little boring… it simply tells me the time. Steve Jobs, you’ve got me again, I think I am in love.

 

Jac Phillips
BY Jac Phillips ON 4 July 2016
Jac Phillips is head of brand and marketing at Bank of Melbourne.
  • dr amy silver

    I love love. I love the idea of helping people feel passion towards their clients/customers, to help people strive to be compelling leaders for their colleagues and cultures regardless of their hierarchical status. What is our point, our purpose, without that thing best described by the word misjudged in business, love.