Love/Respect Axis

I have been issuing a challenge to companies around the world for many years now. It is a game-breaking idea. An idea that has the power to transform business by transforming brands. Lovemarks.

I’m not talking about the soft focus love of soap opera. I’m talking real-life love, with its sleeves rolled up.  Uncompromising love that fronts up to a challenge. The result? People get it immediately. Lovemarks connects with what’s important in life. It feels true.

The Love/Respect Axis:
Whenever I present Lovemarks I start with the Love/Respect Axis. A fast, intuitive reality check for any brand.


Start with Low Respect and Low Love:
Commodities and the stuff that can be differentiated on little but price. Iron and sand, public utilities like drainage and water. Essential materials and services that generate little or zero brand heat.

Move across to Low Respect but High Love:
A real mix fits here, from the “we-love-them-but-we-won’t admit-it”, to the too-cool-to-survive. Fads, brands on the edge. Think Tommy Hilfilger, blockbuster movies, Mills & Boon romance novels, Krispy Kremes. Raffish, unrespectable – but hugely likeable.

The High Respect but Low Love area is where most successful businesses fit, along with their brands:
Solid achievements focused on the “e-r” words. Newer, brighter, stronger, bolder. Rational benefits nailed by comprehensive metrics. The problem with the High Respect / Low Love location? Everything there is just what customers have come to expect. Today everyone has to be here just to survive.

Now turn to this uncharted territory – to the Love dimension of the Love / Respect Axis:

This is where the breakthroughs are. You’ve always needed High Respect, and always will. Now you have to have High Love as well.

The Love / Respect Axis cuts through. It clearly shows Lovemarks as the future beyond branding. Darwin would have got it straight off.

  • Lovemarks are super-evolved brands.
  • Lovemarks inspire loyalty beyond reason.
  • Lovemarks are a game-breaking opportunity to reinvent branding.
  • Lovemarks connect the company, their people and their brands.
  • Lovemarks create the energy of life-time relationships.
  • Lovemarks belong to their customers.
  • Lovemarks are the ultimate premium profit generator.

It’s time to forget “either/or”. It’s “and/and”. It’s heart and mind. Love and respect. Emotion and rationality. Niche marketing and mass marketing. Local and global. Time to put the “and” back into brand.

Lovemarks sit on the shoulders of respect and surge past brands because of their Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy. Who ever talked about this trio at Brand Management School? Let’s look at the essential Lovemark make-up.

First, Mystery. This draws together the stories, metaphors and icons that give a relationship its texture. Complexity, layers, revelations, intuition and excitement.

Second, Sensuality. The way in which the five senses – touch, vision, sound, scent and hearing – stimulate our responses to our environment. The senses are portals to the emotions. In tough times security, familiarity and togetherness become primary needs. How we use the five senses can make a profound difference. Smell is a direct conduit for memory. Music creates mood. Right now design is about subtle curves and swings, not hard edges.

And the third element of a Lovemark is the breath of Intimacy. Commitment, passion and again, security, familiarity and togetherness. Family love. These are the intimate connections that suddenly have priority. No one is taking them for granted.

The Lovemarker
The Lovemarker is our tool for inspiring insights, making discoveries, experiencing the senses and revealing the mysteries. Five minutes into it and you will already be generating your first insight.

We’ve used the key elements of Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy to share some tough love. A dozen Fortune 500 companies and their brands. Procter & Gamble and Tide, Toyota and the Camry, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Cisco, Compaq, Nike, Adidas. We’ve done Italy, Cambridge University, Bill Clinton. In every instance, we found new insights for instant improvements. Love cuts through assumptions and rules.

You can see this when you profile a product, brand or experience for love.  What’s a Lovemark?

  • Harley Davidson, definitely. Suzuki? I don’t think so.
  • Blue jeans? Still a Lovemark – whatever Levi’s do to them. Bermuda shorts? Never a Lovemark – whatever Levi’s do to them.
  • McDonald’s is a clear Lovemark. Subway has got the taste but not the Love.
  • New York firemen? Absolutely. New York restaurant inspectors? Never.
  • The Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai? Got to be. Holiday Inn? Not even in the running.
  • Oprah is a Lovemark. Jerry Springer is a pain in the neck.
  • Coke? Absolutely. Pepsi? It hurts me to say it, but no.
  • Paris is a Lovemark. Pittsburgh doesn’t come near.

We immediately recognize a Lovemark. Here are some highspots from Lovemarks profiles we have done mixed with some new insights.

Storytelling is the nervous system of Lovemarks and of mystery. Lexus knows this. When we asked for some stories they overwhelmed us. About the little girl born in a Lexus named – Isabella Alexus. A guy survives a terrible car crash in his Lexus, and connects it with being around to see his 18-month-old baby grow up.

Connecting your past, present and future is vital for any long-term relationship.

Mythic characters and icons are the smile on the face of a Lovemark. The warm greeting that shows you’re with friends.

Sensuality is a big idea that can change the way we see the world and relate to one another.

Companies that make real stuff have a huge advantage with touch. The intimacy of a minute mobile phone, the curves of a new car. All qualities that echo that most powerful sensation: the human touch.

Sound underpins the personality of every experience and can create mood like nothing else. It’s a portal to the emotions.

For those in the food industry, taste is a shoo-in, but what about the rest of us? I take Apple computers as my guide. They took taste out of the mouth and into the heart with their iMac advertisements. Made their computers in shades of strawberry, grape and blueberry. And the message? YUM!

Of the three key Lovemark characteristics intimacy resonates most in tough times. Intimacy is giving your car a name because you love it. Intimacy is having six bottles of your favorite olive oil because you couldn’t stand the thought of being without it. Intimacy is the guy at your favorite store giving you a tissue to wipe your child’s hands before you even thought to ask. Lovemarks anticipate desires before they become needs.

Intimacy demands empathy. Can’t do without it. Without empathy you can’t do emotion and you can forget becoming a Lovemark. You can forget offering sensational customer service too. To me the spirit of empathy is humor. If you can get a smile, especially when times are tough, you’re truly cooking.

Becoming a Lovemark
So now you know the way, how do you move to action? Here are three ways to jump-start Lovemark relationships.

  1. Unleash emotion
    The first is to put emotions in front of you. Neurology has proved that we are powered by emotion, not by reason. If the emotion centres of our brain are damaged in some way, we don’t just lose the ability to laugh or cry, we lose the ability to make decisions. Our reason must have emotion to drive it. Emotion is a must-have; not a nice-to-have.We all know emotions can inspire and excite us. They can also frighten and threaten us. We feel far more negative emotions than positive ones. It’s survival. Our emotions tell us what’s important – and when we can relax and switch off.
    When you nod to emotion and get on with business as usual, you miss out on a transforming wave of opportunity. An opportunity to truly connect with people. An opportunity to tap into human emotion more deeply than ever before. And an opportunity to dodge commodification and maintain premiums.But emotion is not generic. You actually have to feel it yourselves. My emotion cannot be laid over your business. Emotion has to be found in ourselves, not in a guidebook or a guru.
  2. Win with Priceless Value
    As consumers reframe value in tough times, Lovemarks fill the gaps, bringing hope and joy. Price is what companies put on the tag. Value is what lifts her world, a priceless feeling you deliver. Marketing has been all about the product as hero, but the ground has shifted to consumer as hero. Her biggest question is: “How will you improve my life?”This means understanding and responding to how she feels about her life, what is important to her, the truths about her problems and passions. It means shifting emphasis from selling product to adding experience and pumping excitement.The great brands are “Purpose-inspired; benefit driven,” just like their audience. They involve people in something bigger than themselves, while delivering moments of joy and exhilaration. Procter & Gamble beams it out with “Touching lives, improving life.” It’s a Lovemarks way of thinking, an accelerated switch from price-focused value to priceless value.
  3. Act Local Go Global
    My third jump starter? Don’t get bogged down in thinking. You’ve got to get your thinking straight – that’s table stakes. But it’s all about action. You can think like IBM or just do it like Nike. The action – and the competitive advantage – is in the local. Anyone who wants to go global has to come to grips with the local. Lovemarks evolve from the essence of the local and light up a path to the global. Think Global/Act Local doesn’t get you there. Neither does Act Global/Think Local. Extract the essence of what’s happening in the local and move out of the think phase. Act Local. Go Global.

Fronting up to the Challenge
This is a time of great challenge. But it is also a time of great opportunity. A time to keep our sense of perspective. To remember what is important and unchanging – as well as responding with speed and precision to whatever might come at us.

When we analyzed Lovemarks by Mystery, Sensuality, Intimacy and then by Respect, we did so because these are fundamental human desires. The overwhelming longing for emotional connections, empathy and trust binds us all.

By connecting with the emotions of your customers you have the opportunity to receive their greatest reward. A Lovemark.