Beyond Brands

Oct 05, 2004

By Al McClain

In one of the most entertaining industry presentations I’ve seen in 25 years, Kevin Roberts, CEO Worldwide of Saatchi & Saatchi, told a GMA (Grocery Manufacturers of America) gathering recently that brands are a thing of the past, and “lovemarks” are the future. Integrating terrific Saatchi & Saatchi commercials (why is it the best ones always seem to be from outside the U.S.?) with his live remarks, Mr. Roberts kept the audience amused, entertained, and always on their toes.

The gist of his remarks is that brands have become commodified, mainly owing to the power of big retailers like Wal-Mart, the rise of private label and the attention paid to efficiency instead of the consumer. He also believes that emotion drives purchases much more so than reason, yet many big businesses have continually tried to impress consumers with logic — i.e. newer, brighter, stronger, bolder, and cheaper (a deadly word).

Now that consumers are empowered via technology and a plethora of retail shopping choices, it’s up to suppliers and retailers to make more emotional connections with them, even making their products a bit mysterious by not telling consumers everything about their product.

On a grid, with love on the horizontal axis and respect on the vertical axis, the worst place to be is the lower left quadrant, where commodities reside, without love or respect. In the upper left and lower right reside brands and fads respectively, achieving only love or respect. And, of course in the upper right are lovemarks.

Roberts suggests five things you can do now to better understand consumers:

  1. Connect with lives of real people
  2. Start creating your own lovemarks
  3. Open up to emotion — you need to feel it yourself
  4. Fall in love with ideas — forget the information age
  5. Commit yourself to be an inspiration to others — which is great for you and your business

Another thing you can do is go to “The List” of lovemarks, which you can sort A-Z, by category or by popularity: You can also nominate your own lovemark. (Be forewarned — The List is addictive.)

Among traditional brands, here are a few of those with top rankings: #7 Foster’s lager, #8 Apple computers, #10 Guinness, #11 Coca-Cola, #14 Pabst beer (I’m beginning to see a pattern), #15 iPod, and #19 Google. By the way, the #1 overall lovemark is Pope John Paul II, although you wouldn’t know it by some of the comments.

Moderator’s Comment: Which retailers excel at emotionally connecting with their customers? How do they do it?

BONUS: Courtesy of GMA and Kevin Roberts, we’ll be giving away 10 copies of his book “Lovemarks – The Future Beyond Brands,” at random. To enter, send your
name, e-mail address, and mailing address to Winners will be notified by e-mail.

Al McClain- Moderator

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