Dance, Dance, Dance

Wednesday, 25 October 2000 - Bermuda

Bermuda Pink Beaches

Presentation Summary

An address to the American Magazine Conference 2000. Connecting emotionally with consumers must be the number one job of agency creatives and magazine editors. Whether the headlines are fast cars, hot gossip or hard news – emotion is what keeps readers coming back for more.

It’s a relief to come to Bermuda to talk magazines. Eighteen months ago I spoke to the World Magazine Congress in Hamburg. It was altogether a much heavier affair, no tennis, no Buster Poindexter, no pink skies. I responded by giving a hardcore speech about context, interfaces and the great nexus between bits and atoms.

Connecting with Consumers

In Bermuda I’m in a lighter mood. You’ve asked me to talk about connecting with consumers; so “you and me we’re going to dance, dance, dance.”

Alan Webber liberated my thinking about connecting with consumers in conversations for Fast Company. The subject was brand management, and the entry point was the trust relationship between producers and consumers.

This got really boring really quickly, so we moved from trust to lust…as you do…much more fertile ground for discussing how advertisers gain a foothold in the attention economy. Then even lust palled, as it does, and we moved onto how you create lifetime love affairs between people and products.

I see love mounting an unstoppable assault on the very foundations of brand marketing and brand management.

Brands have been hijacked by consultants and research vampires. From being the Holy Grail of marketing, brands have become commodities. They’re bland. They’re boring. They’re obsessed with exactly the wrong things.

Management is a suffocating practice that is all about doing things right. It’s rigid, hierarchical and process-driven. It’s been left behind by leadership in most theory.

Leadership, however, is another confused artefact of last century. It’s all about doing the right things. Leaders need followers, but who aspires to be a follower? We aspire to be free.

Inspiration is where the game is being played today, it’s about playing in the zone, it’s about giving your people the confidence, freedom and framework to be the best they can be.

Let me show you how it works using what I call the Love / Respect Axis.

The Love Respect Axis

High Respect, High Love

The high respect quadrant is where most brands sit. The good news is they work hard to deliver functional excellence, quality performance, clear benefits and solid information. The bad news is that this is just what consumers expect. It’s head driven and going nowhere. Brands have become just another formula of the mediocre and the uninspired. The high respect quadrant is simply about staying in the game. It’s table stakes. Nothing more.

It’s this corner of the axis, the High Love Quadrant, that is important. It builds on Respect of course, but this is where we find emotional connections that create long-term value. This is the ground where the future will be won and lost.

Most brands will lose the premium battle and struggle on with declining margins and indifferent customers. Their reward for smothering people with information? The death of a thousand yawns.

The winners? They believe that the greatest connections in life are built on Love. They have a chance to take their brands to the next level, to become what we’ve called a ‘Lovemark’.

I see the progression looking like this:

  • From products to trademarks to brands to Lovemarks
  • From information to relationships
  • From the rational to the emotional.

Something is missing from the current marketing repertoire. Analytical and fixated on detail, most marketing strategy is so anxious to get it right, that it’s clueless about what needs to be right. This is where Lovemarks step up.

Great marketing is about emotion and empathy, seduction and dreams. It’s exactly the same for great magazines. Whether the headlines are fast cars, hot gossip or hard news, emotion is what keeps readers coming back for more.

Information is everywhere today. It’s a commodity and not where the competition is.

Your spirit, your emotional core, is the element that makes the most important connections. This is the stuff you need, to be successful in the coming decades. The new ‘right stuff’.

Six Truths About Love

I have six truths about love that begin to shape this new ‘right stuff’.

  • My first truth is a warning. Human beings need Love. Without it we die. Solitary people without love are five times more likely to die early. Match this with plummeting birth rates in many western countries and major increases in the number of people living alone, and you’ve got to say that the world needs a lot more loving in it.
  • The second truth is a definition. Love means more than liking a lot. It’s not “affection, and then some.” It’s a profound sense of attachment, intimacy, concern, trust and commitment…coupled of course, with excitement and freedom.
  • The third truth is about who we love. We all know about romantic lovers, but there’s the love between couples who have been married for years, within families, with close friends – all loving relationships.
  • The fourth truth relates to the emotions around Love. Love is about responding, about delicate, intuitive sensing and empathy. This is Santana’s line “We’re gonna dance, dance, dance.”
  • The fifth truth reminds us that Love takes time. The skill of responding to the emotional rhythms of Love takes an investment of years. It’s a life-long deal.
  • Finally, the most profound truth. Love cannot be extracted, commanded, demanded or wheedled. It can only be given. Like power, you only get love by giving it. By being honest.

Lovemarks is a work-in-progress. It needs feeding as well as robust challenge.

It’s certainly enriched by everyone who chases it. Our site has overflowed with affirmations from the business community about their wish for emotion-based relationships with their customers.

An insight we’ve gained is that Lovemarks are sought by the ‘Davids’.

The ‘Goliaths’ are obvious. I’m speaking to Procter & Gamble, Adidas and Toyota about them now.

But the small guys too are all over it. I’ve had micro-breweries, pizza makers, car audio makers and sports teams all seized by the potential of ‘Lovemarks’.

These ‘Davids’ share passion. They LOVE what they do. They are permanently infatuated.

Mystery, Sensuality, Intimacy

What makes a Lovemark so much more than a brand is mystery, sensuality and intimacy.

First: mystery. I see a Lovemark expressed in great stories and metaphors. Lovemarks are infused with secret ingredients and iconic characters. They skilfully combine past, present and future. They have that sustaining ability to tap into our dreams and aspirations.

A Lovemark has sensuality. It invokes a combination of the senses – sight, sound, scent, taste and touch. Especially touch. Touch is often pushed from our consciousness in our highly mediated world, but don’t believe it for a minute. We call our emotions: “feelings.” When we care, we say something “touches” us. We often handle problems “with kid gloves.” And when friends drift away we say we have “lost touch.”

This is how we experience the world and it is at this level that Lovemarks can exert their power.

The I-Mac plays to all the senses. Have you ever seen someone, when confronted with an I-Mac for the first time, not want to touch it? And how did they invoke taste? Remember the billboard that simply said: “Yum.”

Magazines are a supremely sensuous medium. A feast for the visual senses.

You think with your fingers: Surface or Wallpaper? Do the pages rustle like the Guardian Weekly or peel like Vogue? And over the smell of ink and paper, is that the new Hugo Boss fragrance? The seduction of small sensory indulgences. I have delighted over the last decade in the explosion of creativity in magazines. Innovative formats, different scales, things to open and a whole new sense of weight and occasion.

A Lovemark has to score high on both mystery and sensuality. The third signature of a Lovemark is the audience feel they have an intimate connection with it. They own it. The current buzz about community, loyalty and relationships fits right here. So does our personal search for identity.

I admit to being mind-boggled as well as excited at the explosion in new titles, including all the online ones. And I despair when my favourite magazine shouts “biggest issue ever!” I can’t cope!

The question becomes, how do we have an intimate connection with what is, after all, printed in the hundreds of thousands?

Golden Age of the Editor

This is where you come in. I said in Hamburg that this is the golden age of the editor. In this opaque era of sensory overload and ‘digital-do-it-yourself’, the special breed of people who create magazines are in the precious role.

You are the gamebreakers, the orchestrators, the filterers, the activists, the inspirational players – and the Lovemakers.

Hats off to Ilse Crawford, the editor of UK’s BARE magazine. Two editions in, she’s wrapped ‘being’ and ‘wellbeing’ in mystery and sensuality and has totally and intimately connected with me.

There is a natural synergy between ‘Lovemarks’ and what you do.

I see your primary role as editors being to love your audiences, to make personal, compelling, emotional and intimate connections with them, and to elevate your titles to Lovemarks. Turn it on, and turn it up.

We’ve got a device on that you can run products, experiences, themes, whatever, through… and see which ones stack up as ‘Lovemarks’.

We put President Clinton through last week. He didn’t score high on respect but he sure did on mystery, sensuality and intimacy. We’ve just put a bunch of products through and shortly we’ll be publishing case studies of certified Lovemarks such as Red Bull, Harley Davidson, Lego, Burton Snowboards and the Zippo lighter.

For this conference we’ve added a selection of magazines to the Lovemarker, so get in there and make new enemies by saying who you think has or hasn’t got Lovemark status.

My favourite Lovemark is the ultimate in magazine customisation. This may be a new title for you: Swerve. It has a very exclusive audience of one: me.

I’m always on the front cover. It’s put together by an editor who knows me, loves me and wants to turn me onto new stuff. Swerve is a digest in the best sense of the word, sampling 40 titles an issue. Its extreme niche gives it the potential to be huge. Really. I can just see it: Oprah! Martha! Jane! Kevin!

We’re open to a US publishing deal!!

Lovemarks are an invitation to a dance for magazines and advertisers to step into, the one that will connect us with our audience, sweep them off their feet and draw them into life-long love affairs.

Stepping Out Together

We have to step out together. The most switched-on magazines we work with at Saatchi & Saatchi offer us insights into their audience and ideas about connecting with them. ‘Oil of Olay’ for example took two pages in BARE.

I’m not talking about circulation figures. I’m not interested in eyeballs. I want hearts, minds, guts, nerve ends. Give us insights, not analysis. Tell me what your audience is feeling. What they love. What they fear. Give me attitude, not behaviour.

And give me your editors, not your suits. I want to see the conversation take place between editors and our creative people. They’re as passionate as you are. Magazine editors and agency creative directors are the nub of the connection with the audience.

Great advertising connects just like a great magazine. It inspires, delights and surprises. In our dance together we must soar above the mundane, the everyday, the prosaic. We must perform with spirit and grace. And we must do it now. Thank you.

You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet


An address to students and staff at the University of Limerick. Success in the real world of business is supported by the quality of your education. It is decided by what you learn when you dig into yourself. How to become a leading inspirational player in tomorrow’s world? Six ideas that go to the next level of human possibility. Ideas that will shape the vision of business over the next two or three decades. Ideas that prove – you ain’t see nothing yet.

Spirit Dance


An address to the Waikato Management School Sustainable Enterprise Symposium. Opening thoughts, ideas, inspirations and directions. Here’s an early presentation linking personal passions, professional practice, local imperatives and academic affiliations.

Edge of the World


A careers presentation to the Waikato Management School in Hamilton, NZ. What we do in life echoes through eternity. Business is a gladiatorial career choice. It is the engine of human progress. For power to touch and transform lives, no career track comes close. Kevin Roberts takes school-leavers and families on a journey through and beyond Waikato Management School. From Dream to Reality. From Edge to Centre.

Freedom Train


An address to the Tuck Academy of Management Symposium: ‘Why Smart Executives Fail’. Smart executives have a new job – turning their organization into a Lovemark. A Saatchi & Saatchi case-study on transformative leadership. This presentation explores the power of language and tells the story of Saatchi & Saatchi’s turn around. Through freedom and inspiration, ‘nothing is impossible’.

Brand New Day


An address to the Women in Business Inaugural Conference, Judge Institute of Management (Judge Business School), University of Cambridge. Business has global credentials to make the world a better place. By creating self-esteem through jobs, choices, opportunities and challenges. By focusing the power of ideas on innovating for the greater good.

Gotta Find a Way!


An address to the 10th International Snackex Conference. Curiosity is a human quality that can deliver true and relevant insights on the road to discovering Lovemarks, and it can be as simple as talking to real people in real time. Europe’s snack industry leaders get some food for thought on escaping the commodity trap.

Love’s Transformation


An address to the Unie der Belgische Adverteerders. Emotion is the primary motivator and ultimate game breaker. By building on Respect and igniting Love, Lovemarks are a call to action. Belgian advertisers go inside mystery, sensuality and intimacy to develop an understanding of the brands people love.

Rising Sun


An address to the Netherlands Association of Advertisers. Emotion is the rising sun in branding. Ideas, conviction and passion can lead to massive opportunities. Amsterdam Ad-folk get a week’s worth of ideas for connecting in the new reality.

Paint It Black


An address to the Color Marketing Group Annual Conference. The man in black takes his paint brush to the rainbow at the Color Marketing Group’s Fall International Conference. A new spectrum coloring where we are and where we have to get to. Paint brands beige. Paint emotion purple. Paint love gold. Paint Lovemarks red. Paint colour white. Paint the edge silver. Take a step back. Black attack!

2010 – Near Future Visions


An address to the Cambridge Alumni in Management / Judge Business School. The intersection between the public and private sphere is game-breaking territory. The optimistic power of ideas can change the world for the better. Through opportunities, business has the power to deliver self-esteem. We need to develop attitude, use the market, negotiate and invite love back into business.