A Time for Love

Friday, 20 March 2009 - Zurich, Switzerland

Time Clock Love Kevin Roberts

Presentation Summary

In this presentation at the IAA Forum in Zürich, Kevin Roberts speaks of the challenges facing advertisers everywhere in this frosty economic climate. He also delivers a call to action for marketers to push their brands into Lovemarks territory, in order to survive and thrive.

Once upon a time, life was abundant. But the fairy tale is over. Castles have crumbled. Financiers are the new monsters, directly or by association.

The world has changed – forever. There’s little money around – anywhere. Emotions are on a rollercoaster of fear, insecurity and vulnerability.

How you respond as marketers is Darwinian. The job is to win “ugly,” to survive and thrive:

  • Expect the unexpected , and revel in that.
  • Control the controllables.
  • Focus on what’s core. Eliminate ruthlessly.
  • Stamp Nothing is Impossible on your forehead.
  • Act fast and decisively. Fail fast, learn fast, fix fast .

In Tennis, be Spanish not Swiss-German. In football, be German-Swiss not Brazilian…

Push pause on the beautiful game, or be steamrolled by someone uglier than you!! Quite the challenge.

Consumers seized power from manufacturers and retailers half a decade ago. The Consumer is Boss, and she knows it.

She’s like Napoleon Bonaparte: “I can no longer obey; I have tasted command, and I cannot give it up!”

She loves “cheap,” but knows that price is on the tag and value is something different. Our choice is: go into an evil death spiral or deliver premiums that consumers themselves defend.

It’s keep up with consumers and connect, or perish. They are redefining value daily by:

  1. Reevaluating old ways of choosing and using.
  2. Seeking out the opposites: Indulgence AND health; Novelty AND familiarity; shopping more AND spending less.
  3. Connecting online like never before: for deals and recommendations.

The job ahead is to connect more effectively, more deeply, more emotionally. Donald Calne: reason leads to conclusions; emotion leads to action.

Advertising is an action business, so act.

There’s bad behaviour everywhere. That’s why Love will be at a premium. During meltdowns, the role of emotion is heightened. It’s a leap to attraction.

  1. From Interrupt to Engage
  2. From Inform to Inspire
  3. From Reactive to Interactive
  4. From Return on Investment to Return on Involvement
  5. From Price to Priceless.

When everything is less, give them more – more than a product, more than a service, and more than a brand. We call this Lovemarks.

The tougher it gets, the stronger emotional bonds become. Think Swiss chocolate, loved locally and worshipped globally. In rough times, Love soars.

  • Brands are built on Respect. Lovemarks are created out of Love and Respect.
  • Brands are owned by managers, marketers and shareholders. Lovemarks are owned by the people who love them.
  • Brands create Loyalty for a reason. Lovemarks create Loyalty Beyond Reason.
  • Great brands are irreplaceable. Lovemarks are irresistible.

The Love / Respect Axis maps the territory.


Low Respect. Low Love. Commodities without differentiation. US Airlines, US banks.

Zeitgeist: “It’s not really what I want, but it’s cheap.”

High Love. Low Respect. The creative zone of “NEW” and “NOW.” Some fads break through to Lovemarks. Swatch has swung in and out.

Zeitgeist: “This is fun, but do I really need it.”

High Respect. Low Love. “e-r” words: faster, bigger… cheaper.

Zeitgeist: “This is value, but I could live without it if I had to.” Swiss trains deserve respect. Can you love perfection.

High Love and High Respect. Lovemarks – authentic, simple and loved.

Zeitgeist: “I’ll make sacrifices before I give this up.”

Lovemarks are real.

Lovemarks has three secrets that resonate in recession.

Mystery – In tough times people are looking for the reassurance of the familiar and discovery of the unknown. People want stories, not “important messages”.

Sensuality – Sight, sound, smell, touch and taste are portals to the emotions. In recession, small comforts and indulgences are king.

Intimacy is the small touch, the perfect gesture that takes Loyalty Beyond Reason. Empathy, commitment and passion.

Let’s send Lovemarks to work in the recession, to reveal new ways to recognize and create value.

Caution Courage
Short term Long term
Rational Emotional
Deliver Delight
Transact Connect
Calculation Empathy
Cut Commit

Here are 5 ways to create priceless Lovemarks value, each driven by the power of ideas.


Warren Buffett says “the great moves are usually greeted by yawns.” When you can’t see your future, it’s under your nose.

We forget that authentic human truths have to be constantly rediscovered. Surprise consumers with the obvious through curiosity and empathy. Curiosity to find out what consumers want, and empathy to understand how to give it to them.

  • Prius with the button start ignition – added value with experience not process.
  • Virgin Airlines offered meals when we felt like having them, not on the airline’s schedule.
  • Netflix delivered DVDs to the door rather than making customers come to them. Don’t research feelings, explore them. If you want to understand how a lion hunts, don’t go to the zoo…

“Our job is not to reframe value for consumers; it is to understand and tap into how they’re reframing it for themselves. The Consumer is Boss.” Marc Pritchard


As consumers search for value, our own values matter more. Your values define what is core to you and what is not, and that emotion travels.

Our Lovemarks surveys give clients simple methodologies that show how emotionally-connected consumers are with their brands.

The simple truth of all the metrics is the direct relationship between loving products and selling them.

  • Walmart got it right, combining price commitment with a better living promise.
  • Google gave people control from day one, for free – and its users gave Google a billion dollar revenue stream.
  • The Obama campaign never wavered from “Yes We Can.”


Consumers love to compare value, especially when their lifestyle is under pressure. It’s an opportunity to shift choice through higher order comparisons.

  • P&G invited consumers to compare their new product Tide Total Care with dry cleaning.
  • Tata Nano compared their launch not with another car, but a scooter. The world’s cheapest new car.
  • Flexjet reframed its private jets from a luxury item for rich people to a valuable business tool, from cost to investment.

It’s a jump shift, leaders lead, followers follow…


The digital revolution is transforming marketing, entertainment, communications. And they all play out on screens.

The value is in the touch, never the technology. The power of the 30 second spot in the living room corner is undimmed. Now it has exploded into a galaxy of creative opportunities.

We call this SISOMO – Sight, Sound and Motion on screen. It captures the possibilities. I wrote a book to show it.

Sisomo is not about the enabler – tools and technologies. It’s the connector, the fastest, most exciting way to get emotional power.

The big value questions are:

  1. Is it an idea?
  2. Do you want to watch it again?
  3. Would you send it to your best friend?


“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the common place, the slaves of the ordinary.”
– Cecil Beaton

Lovemarks thrive in the rough because they take the the long view. With love in the bank, they absorb the hits. Loyalty Beyond Reason is stored in people’s hearts not folded away in their wallets.

The long view is by definition the hard road, the higher risk, but the rewards are all the greater.

Toyota have gained market share during each of the three major economic downturns of the past 20 years:

  1. By continuing to launch new products
  2. By investing in strong brand and marketing activities
  3. By going hard on rational value and priceless emotional value.

Toyota is working on a bioplastic car made of seaweed. The Kelp car could be in showrooms within 15 years.

Three things to do tomorrow:

  1. Emotionalize everything you do, and the world will come to you.
  2. Talk to Pedro Simko, CMO S&S EMEA, and get started with research on your Lovemarks journey.
  3. Remember that the Role of Business is to make the world a better place… for everyone…

Sustainable value is created by wrapping life in emotion. All you need is, love.

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