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“Lovemarks” are brands and services that people know and love. In marketing circles, lovemarks are seen as ways to establish what is called “loyalty beyond reason.” However, not all brands can become lovemarks, and sometimes, it makes more sense to tap into a customer’s habitual behavior, rather than clamor for their “love.”

So which is it? Should a brand go for consumers’ love or their habits? Here’s our take.

Loyalty Beyond Reason?

In April of 2004, Kevin Roberts, CEO of ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi, published a book called Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands. About 9 years later, Brian Sheehan, Associate Professor of Advertising at Syracuse University, supplemented Lovemarks’ ideas with real-world case studies and proof in his book, Loveworks.

What were both authors trying to say? That brands need to establish what they called “loyalty beyond reason.” The authors and their books were trying to make a serious point about the importance of emotion in building brand loyalty. Roberts, in his book, claimed that brands are “running out of juice” and that love is needed to rescue brands and make them stand out. In other words, lovemarks are products and services that command both love and respect from their customers.

Sheehan supplements Lovemarks by presenting about 20 real-world examples of how emotional connections help brands come out on top. He cited several world-renowned Lovemark brands – Lenovo, Procter & Gamble, T-Mobile, Toyota, and Visa, among others – and looked at how they are winning in the marketplace.

The idea of lovemarks was a game changer back then; so much so that it won Roberts a US$430 million JC Penney contract for Saatchi & Saatchi. Even now, too many programs simply award points for transactions, and the idea to shift the focus into delivering emotional and experiential loyalty drivers was a smart and essential evolution for the loyalty marketing industry.

Unfortunately, things got out of hand.

No-Brainer Habit Over Irrational Love?

All of a sudden, brands from different industries were clamoring for a “magic pill” to make their customers “love” their product. Problem is, not all products are subject to the “loyalty beyond reason” mindset.

Depending on the product, the amount of customers that will love a brand unconditionally will often be very small. No matter how brands may be tempted to think the opposite, the reality is, most consumers would not describe their loyalty to a brand as “love”, especially when the brand in question is a commodity. Very few people love their toilet paper or their detergent.

This was especially true during the pandemic. With the global supply chain disrupted, consumers were forced to abandon the brands they “loved” for brands that were cheaper and more accessible. In fact, a 2020 McKinsey report revealed that 75% of American shoppers have changed their brand preferences amid the rapid changes of the first year of the pandemic. This included products like paper towels, clothing, cheeses, and even garbage bags.

This is where habit comes in. Consumers often choose products because of their price, performance, style, or location. But most of all, especially when choosing commodities and consumables, they let their habits take over. A consumer’s habitual buying behavior can be as powerful a force as their love for a brand.

A person who’s in the habit of brewing his own coffee might often be tempted to just order one of his favorites from Starbucks. But given the financial constraints of the pandemic, as well as the price of a cup, it would just be cheaper and easier for him to brew his own coffee instead. But for people who’ve made it a habit ordering from Starbucks, getting a cup of joe is as easy as tapping an app.

Balancing Love and Habit

This is not to say that brands should not aim for the love of their customers. Lovemark brands have proven time and again that brands can find loyal ambassadors and champions.

However, brands shouldn’t depend on the masses to “love” their products – instead, we need to see habitual behavior as the powerful force that it is, and reinforce and leverage it to our advantage. This is a balancing act in its own right, but if brands can cultivate both love and habit, then success is not far behind.

This is what Reach’s Loyalty Marketplace enables brands to do. With the Reach platform, brands can reward customers for more than “just buying stuff”.

Consumers also earn rewards by engaging in communities, sharing reviews, sharing opinions with brands, and other non-transactional interactions. This drives a more meaningful connection between brands and customers, creating mutually beneficial partnerships and building trust.

With the Loyalty Marketplace, brands can generate emotional loyalty while reinforcing meaningful interactions as habitual behaviour for customers. Consumers get compensated fairly for their data and insights, and brands get the loyalty they want – a win-win.

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