Gotta Find a Way!

Monday, 9 June 2003 - Barcelona, Spain

Finding a Way Maze

Presentation Summary

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.

I was here last September calling on the 1000 or so market researchers to Stop! In the name of Love. And now I’m back with you who I’m sure are also looking to find the new way forward.

You are the people who offer us energy when we need it, tempt our appetites, weaken our resolve, indulge our senses, treat us, bring us together. An industry with enormous potential to win loyalty and love.

But an industry battling to keep ahead of commodification. An industry that needs to front up to its responsibilities.

Incremental adjustments will not do it. Your challenges demand transformational change. In New Zealand where I come from, this is how we front up to challenges.

When I joined Saatchi & Saatchi five years ago, we issued ourselves a new challenge. To change from the most famous advertising agency in the world to the hottest ideas company on the planet. Our new dream? To create emotional connections that deliver loyalty beyond reason.

And we are delivering. We were Agency of the Year at Cannes last year, No. 1 in the Global New Business league and declared Best Global Network by both AdWeek and Ad Age in January 2003. The only time the industry has agreed on anything.


Your challenge is of the same order. Your challenge is to transform your brands into Lovemarks.

The great journey from Products to Trademarks, from Trademarks to Brands is over. It is as simple as that.

Brands have become table-stakes stuck on the “e-r” words: crisper, tastier, newer and, the final stake through the heart: cheaper.

Why are brands struggling?

Savvy consumers. People want control over their lives. There’s more choice. Higher expectations. Many more touch-points. This is the new consumer. This is way outside the territory of brands. This is where loyalty beyond reason lies.

What has the power to make that shift? Emotional connections.

Good old-fashioned competition. More and more products launched each year. Less and less attention to go around. If you’re not number one or two, you might as well forget it.

Nowhere to hide. In the Information Age brands are part of the public domain. Hidden agendas, subliminal messages, tricky moves – forget them all. Transparency rules!

Cookie-cutter innovation. Blue snacks and green ones. Twisted and stretched into bizarre shapes. Triangular, rectangular, rhomboid packaging. And each in at least three sizes. Keeping ahead is tough.

Three years ago Saatchi & Saatchi asked the question: what comes after brands?

We found our answer in the performance of some outstanding brands. They had escaped the commodity trap. And evolved into something new. Not just “Super Brands” or “Brands Plus”.

They inspired Saatchi & Saatchi to develop the idea of Lovemarks. The future beyond brands. The new generation.

Lovemarks are a fantastic opportunity to reinvent brands.

  • Lovemarks inspire loyalty beyond reason.
  • Lovemarks connect companies, their people and their brands.
  • Lovemarks are owned by the people who love them, not by companies.
  • Lovemarks can be anything that people deeply care about. Countries, sneakers, local pizza joints, diapers.

Only Lovemarks explain why some brands, organisations, events, experiences enjoy passionate and emotional connections with the people they touch.

You know a Lovemark instantly.

  • Harley Davidson, definitely. Suzuki? I don’t think so.
  • The iPod? Good enough to eat. The Rio S50. Not in this or any other lifetime.
  • Sushi? A fast food phenomenon. Fugu [Tiger puffer fish] never made it out of Japan.
  • Amazon. One of my personal Lovemarks.
  • Barnes & Noble. Just like Amazon – only green!

People get Lovemarks. Or they don’t. And if they don’t, no amount of explanation makes any difference. You got it or you don’t!

The people who get Lovemarks are those with the Is and the Es:

  • I for Ideas, Imagination, Intuition, Insight and Inspiration.
  • E for Emotion, Empathy, Energy, Exploration.

These people are excited by big ideas and want to make them their own.

As Nobel Prize winner Arno Penzias said recently about Lovemarks: “I think of this as an open-ended concept that is growing. Saatchi & Saatchi has an enormous lead but it is a thought process which everybody can engage in. It is just that Saatchi & Saatchi do it best. Lovemarks are a remarkable idea.”

High praise from the man whose research validated the Big Bang Theory!

Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy

Lovemarks are brands infused with Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy. All the stuff that is hardest to calculate and measure wrapped together. All the stuff that matters most to consumers. All the stuff that must matter most to you.

Mystery draws together the stories, metaphors, dreams and symbols that give a relationship its texture. It is a way to connect past, present and futures. Most snacks squeeze out Mystery by pushing too much information. Insisting on too much clarity. If you know everything there is nothing left to learn or wonder about.

Snacks that once were the surprise in a lunch-box or an unexpected indulgence, have left mystery far behind. To be part of the every day may work for the bottom line, but so far Mystery is the loser. You now need to find rich new sources to inspire you and your consumers.

Sensuality enthralls the emotions. Vision, sound, smell, touch, taste. This is how we experience the world. Snacks are all about sensations.

You know this but so does every other food and drink brand. And so do all those category-crashers from baked goods, dried fruit, dairy products, fruit, cereal, beverages. And so does Wal-Mart and other mega retailers. Remember that within a decade Wal-Mart is predicted to become the world’s first trillion dollar business.

The eye-catching stands, the crackle of the pack, the friendly tussle opening it, the smell, taste and texture of snacks. Fantastic. But I see snacks losing ground. You’re victims of your own enthusiasm: too many senses assaulted at one time. It’s like hyperactive kids. Full on and fun, but once in a while you wish they’d slow down so you could give them a hug.

And the warm breath of Intimacy. Empathy, commitment and passion. The intimate connections that today no one takes for granted. The intimate connections that snacks often ignore from their treadmill of offers, discounts and novelties.

This is uncharted territory for you. Intimacy means getting close to consumers, not coming up with a new pack or formula and pushing it in their faces. Understanding what truly matters to them, loving them for what they are and then putting a twist on the familiar so you express all this to them as well.

Love / Respect Axis

To work out how close you are to Lovemarks territory, start here with the Love/ Respect Axis. Fast, intuitive and cheat-proof.


Start here with Low Respect and Low Love – classic commodities. The world of volume discounting. Price wars. Rapid imitation of innovation. Sound familiar?

Move on to Low Respect and High Love. Fads and infatuations. Last month’s gotta-haves. Next month’s has-beens. Around the world snacks have taken this fun route. But you trade novelty for no long-term equity. Consumer attention when you’re lucky, but no emotional connections.

The Love/ Respect Axis offers us a crucial insight. The snacks industry is low on Respect. This is the barrier to overcome before you can transform your brands into Lovemarks.

There is a growing demand for businesses to be responsible for what their products do. In the last five years the obesity epidemic in many countries has set up the food industries as a special target.

And sometimes you don’t help yourselves. When PepsiCo’s President Indra Nooyi said, “The problem is the couch, not the can,” it seemed to me everyone lost.

Last year’s class action against McDonald’s on behalf of over-weight kids didn’t get over the bar. But no time to relax. That was just an opening shot. Ask the tobacco industry. Ask the asbestos industry. Ask Nike.

  • Once your products are in the sights of lobby groups and regulators, there is no let-up.
  • Snacks are perceived as mostly unhealthy. High salt and fat content. Artificial coloring and flavoring. Low nutritional value. And the looming spectre of GM.
  • Snacks are implicated in dramatic shifts in how people eat. Grazing as a life-style. Food as fuel without social connections. Changes that seem inevitable, but no one likes.
  • Snacks are claimed to market too directly to children. Exploit “pester power” and you exploit kids.
  • Your alliances with health organisations are often seen as cynical. Defensive rather than truly concerned.

Lack of respect is corrosive. Once your motives are suspect, everything you do is suspect. You are not engaged in a rational debate. This is all emotion: how people feel about health, not what they do about it. How people feel about their children and how to care for them. How people feel they ought to live, not what they actually do day by day.

Fight back issue by issue and you’ll die the death of a thousand excuses.

Wait for the chemists and molecular biologists to cook up ways consumers can have the same flavour and texture without the fat, and you could wait a long-time.

Instead take on a transforming challenge. Aspire to a Lovemark. You need people with you, not against you and Lovemarks are owned by consumers. By the people who love them.

You must win the respect of consumers and at the same time earn their love.

This will take you straight past High Respect and Low Love where most major brands are stuck, to the peaks of High Respect and High Love. Lovemarks.

Lovemarks don’t come with a formula.

Our client Toyota is coming at Lovemarks from a very different angle. For decades their passion has been Respect – but now they want Love as well.

Senior vice president at Toyota USA Don Esmond crystallized the new challenge: “It’s time to move from the most respected car company in America to the most loved.”

That would put Toyota right here: High Love and High Respect. A Lovemark.

Three Ideas to Inspire Lovemarks

Lovemarks are about attitude and commitment, not process and definition. They are about inspiring ideas, not nailing down the latest hot marketing model.

So three ways to get you started: 1 – The power of emotion; 2 – The power of paradox; 3 – The power of insight.

1. The Power of Emotion

Your industry is founded on emotional responses, but you are not transforming these responses into long-term emotional connections. Into long-term loyalty. You’ve looked at the numbers. They say that around 65 percent of snacks are purchased on impulse. And you are content with that brief spark.

Equating emotion with impulse sells it far short. Impulse demands a stimulus, over and over again. Emotion draws on its own inner sources of energy.

The difference between impulse and emotion is as fundamental as the difference between transactions and relationships. The first is short-term and one dimensional with a clear result decided in advance. The second heads for the long-term across many dimensions with a result that evolves and grows.

It’s time to reorient your business around a new consumer question. What do I feel like? People are deciding what to eat not as they did by the time of day, but by mood. This shift offers a fantastic way to engage with consumers on their terms, not your own. The new challenge is to touch this choice with emotion. I am what I eat.

This same power of emotion explains why entertainment is gaining ground so fast. According to the US Consumer Expenditure survey, the total spend for entertainment per household in the United States increased 20.8 percent over the last decade. People crave entertainment.

The snacks industry is venturing more and more into the development of entertaining products and into entertainment alliances. Check out the packaging in any supermarket around the world for the evidence. But if you squeeze emotion into a box, you will also miss its true potential.

Entertainment appeals to our unconscious, intuitive and creative mind – beyond rationality and rules and far beyond simple impulse. Stories that matter. Mystery and empathy. Deep emotion on the long-term.

2. The Power of Paradox

Start back in the 20th century. Everyone looked to either/ or to find a way through. Make a choice. Then make another choice based on it. Exclude all options that don’t fit. The world of Old Economy or New Economy. Local or global. Fast or slow. Healthy or indulgent.

Either/or turned out to be too narrow, too slow and too process-driven. There was little space for collaboration or opportunity or innovation.

With Lovemarks Saatchi & Saatchi shook the cage and found a way through to the realm of and/ and.

We decided to literally put the ‘and’ back into brand.

Love and Respect. Emotion and Reason. Local and global. Established products and new launches. Profit and share. Supermarkets and kiosks. At the checkout and in the snack aisle and the beer display.

But Lovemarks have taught us that even and/and has limitations. To do justice to each term means balancing one off against the other. Compromising each to get the best possible.

From Toyota we learnt to take and/and to the next level. To paradox. The award-winning Celica campaign lowered the average age of the Celica purchaser by a remarkable eight years.

That’s how you work with two competing ideas. Instead of confusion with the best of neither, you get something better than both. As Toyota does time after time.

  • Toyota takes on the paradox we all face of short-term and long-term expectations. Makes no choice. And does both. Toyota is obsessed with hourly sales. And they are the only car company with a clear vision for 2010.
  • Toyota takes on the paradox of both innovating and reducing costs. Toyota can make 73 improvements to the new Camry that are meaningful to consumers and cut the price 10 percent and increase profit by 20 percent and improve the dealer margin. Leaving competition following in its wake.

In paradox lies much of the energy of Lovemarks. Lovemarks work with two opposing concepts in all their complexity with equal passion. Why? Because human beings are creatures of paradox.

We can head to the gym – with a bagel in hand. We want familiarity – and we demand variety. We want to eat as much as we like – and stay slim. We want to be on the move – and in the comfort of our own homes. We want to purchase on impulse – and insist on value We want Respect – and we need Love. Always.

Lovemarks refuse to make a choice. Demand the best of both. And refuse to compromise on either.

3. The Power of Insight

The snacks industry spends a fortune on market research each year. You track shifts in long series of data. You segment consumers. You measure, you evaluate, you manage risk. As British industrialist John Banham once said, “We are in danger of being exactly wrong rather than approximately right.”

The result? More table-stakes. Most businesses working in the same field have access to the same information as their competitors. You ask the same consumers the same questions using the same processes and analyze it with the same tools. No wonder you end up with the same answers!

To move towards Lovemarks, look in another direction. To the very human quality of curiosity. You need to discover what you don’t know you don’t know. To arrive at true and relevant insights.

To do all this you need to connect with the inner life of the consumer. To learn to see consumers as they truly are. Not as statistical constructs. Not as they used to be. Not as you might like them to be, but as they truly are. Living, feeling beings full of fears and desires, hopes and dreams. As Kris Kristofferson put it: “A walkin’ contradiction/ Partly truth and partly fiction.”

The simple reality is that while the world around us changes constantly, people do not. This is why insights can be so cut-through. They focus us on what really matters to people. They take our attention away from what we can do to what consumers might like us to do.

Product innovation will continue to deliver advantage, but it is tough to protect for long. Superior consumer understanding is your most direct line to sustained success. Indefinitely.

Gathering insights takes many forms. Hanging out in the supermarket just watching. Taking part in a shopping expedition. Joining a family at home one evening. How do real people behave in real time?

To finish with here are four things to get started on when you get back to the office.

  • Connect with the lives of real people. Consumers live rich and complex lives. Each of them have their own view of the world and their place in it. Tap into these dreams and you will earn loyalty beyond reason.
  • Step up to the inspirational job of creating Lovemarks. Need help? Check out my web sites and Join the discussion. Learn to live with love.
  • Open up to Emotion. To touch emotion in others you have to feel it yourself.
  • Commit yourself to be an inspiration to others. Become a force for good, make a difference and inspire others. This is great for your business and great for you.

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