For Mike Teasdale, the notion of brand love is a flawed one, believing it to be nothing more than a habit with some emotion or nostalgia thrown in. In his view, metrics such as salience, performance and quality are far better ways to gauge customer relationships.
It's February. The month of unrequested and often unrequited expressions of love. Saint Valentine would be delighted to know his name lives on but somewhat puzzled by how his martyrdom has spawned a sales opportunity for retailers of cards, confectionery, stuffed toys and red roses ("Let me get this straight: I get beaten to death with clubs then have my head cut off, while you get to make a killing with overpriced sweet and sickly pap. Where's my cut, beyond the one on my neck?")
Historical origins aside, would you send a Valentine card to a brand? No, of course you wouldn't. Yet marketers readily talk of brand love as a desirable performance metric. But is there any sense in the notion of brand love, especially in the era of AI when brands are increasingly appealing to rational bots rather than to emotional humans?
For me, the notion of brand love is flawed. I can like a brand, even like it a lot, but I can't love a brand. At best, so-called brand love is really nothing more than a habit with some emotion or nostalgia thrown in. That's because our relationships with brands are transactional and ultimately selfish. We process subliminally what a brand can do for us. That's not love, because love is ultimately selfless. Love is about what we are prepared to do for someone else. Like emptying the dishwasher or changing the cat litter.
Most people won't sacrifice much for brands (though there was that misguided soul in China who sold one of his kidneys to fund the purchase of an iPhone). Most people don't stick around in a relationship with a brand that is bad for their emotional health. Most people will flit between rival brands based on availability and price. That's not love. I do not flit between rival wives based on availability and price.
No, love in all its stages (from lust to attraction to attachment) is far too complex a concept to apply to brands. Building customer relationships is less about aspiring to some lofty notion of love and more about the daily grind of driving mental and physical availability to encourage repeat behaviour while constantly attracting new customers. So don't give me flowery nonsense about brand love; tell me instead how you are going to make it easier for people to buy your brand. Easier to remember it and easier to find it. Research shows there is a 5:1 payback on brands making things easier: a 20% increase in decision simplicity leads to a 96% increase in customer loyalty. Why do you think Amazon, Netflix and Google recommend stuff to us all the time based on our recent past behaviours?
As well as driving ease of purchase, tell me why you exist as a brand. I'm not talking about that pompous laddered-up social purpose guff that brands often engage in. I'm not interested in how an FMCG brand believes it is saving the planet. No, I'm talking about brands making clear not just what they do and why they are better than the competition, but also why they do it. What makes them tick? Evidence shows that people are prepared to pay a premium for a brand whose purpose is in line with their own beliefs. That's why Apple is such a fab brand while Uber is merely a fab product.
So, next time some adviser or consultant sidles up to you professing the merits of brand love, give them the elbow. Engage instead with people who talk in terms of meaningful brand concepts, like ease of purchase and purpose.
Personally, I have always liked brand performance metrics that fall into three groups. First, some measure of salience (like top-of-mind spontaneous awareness, since it's the ultimate tip-of-the-tongue test). Second, some measure of perceived quality (anything relative to the competition works well, or you can use a staff pride measure if you're a service brand). Third, some measure of brand performance such as price premium or share of wallet; but you can also use a good old-fashioned brand attitude ranking relative to the competition (just be sure to include one on ease of purchase).
If you really want some measure of the strength of the customer relationship, then go for something that taps into brand relevance or self-concept connection to gauge the extent to which people identify with your purpose.
But hold off on stretching into brand love. And whatever you do, stay away from ever asking consumers whether they would send you a Valentine card. They won't. They will just think you're weird. And they'd be right to.