Brand Love In The New Normal – Myth or Fact!

Brand love is an idea that has its relevance in the marketing fraternity and an outcome that we all want to achieve, he states

I really think of my car as my best friend!

When my college group met a couple of years back, this remark led to a wave of laughter and witty repartees so hard that the table next to ours had to ask us to keep it down. But the marketer in me started connecting the strong emotional bond or a relationship of my friend with the brand, to the years of consistent work by the brand team, which results in 1000’s of positive engagement and experience.

As humans, we always attribute certain qualities that we gain from relationships. In the case of my friend, he gained trust, dependability, support and loyalty from his car. He saw the car as his constant companion, in good and bad times just like a best friend stands with their friends. Remember the 3 Idiot movie! I have learnt and witnessed that we connect with products the same way we connect with people! And just like a crisis brings friends and family together, the pandemic has brought back brand love in full force.

So what does this concept of Brand Love entail? Does it refer to some new-age tactics or some innovative execution that is going to result in Brand Love tomorrow – No it does not. It is a result of clarity on the brand positioning, value, and the brand world, which is consistently exposed to the consumer and with which the consumer is regularly engaged. Over a period of time, with this positive reinforcement of the brand, there comes a stage when the consumer becomes a marketer for the brand and starts propagating it to others with a sense of pride – and that is what I would define as Brand Love, wherein there are 2 operative words – “Propagation of brand by consumer” and “Pride for Consumer ”.

The process of for any well-established brand, the concept of brand love is true, as people are more aware of the brand and loved by many. At the same time, if we consider a new brand, it’s at a completely different stage and time in its journey. Every brand just like a human relationship goes through multiple stages. So, before we deep-dive into the benefits of brand love which is an outcome of multiple emotional experiences resultant of various engagements, let’s understand the stages that a brand goes through:

· Awareness – The First meeting – the brand introduction stage which is the first engagement between the brand and consumer(s) must be a notable one as it will determine the future of the relationship. It is important that the brand establishes a strong connection at the first touchpoint making it special so that the consumer desires to keep coming back for more.

· Engage – Strengthen the connect and develop a relationship – when we meet someone new, establish a connect and find we have many common interests and can become good friends we start engaging with them, calling them over for parties, introducing them to our circle of friends. We are engaging and creating experiences with our new friend. Similarly, to develop a relationship with the consumer, the brand needs to engage consumers in meaningful experiences that will facilitate in forging a strong bond. Over many such engagements the relationship deepens to a point that the consumer feels that this brand is made for me.

· Sustain – Keep the bond alive – Like in any relationship, one must invest and work towards a successful partnership. In the brand world the engagement with consumers should continue to deepen and work towards keeping the spark alive. Sustained engagement with consumers through relevant mediums and influencers will eventually facilitate in helping the consumer to stay loyal. Being liked is easy but being loyal and loved is another matter. Brand loyalty is one of the key elements of brand love which is seen in repeat purchases, which differs for each brand and category.

· Brand Pride – Over the years when brand loyalty is sustained, and the brand goes beyond Functional and Emotional connection and transcends to a level wherein the Brand Purpose is perceived by the consumer and this – leads to Brand Love.

Some might argue that a marketer can fuse some of these steps to reach the stage of Brand love faster – Yes, possible but it would depend on some brand aspect either the functional, emotional payoff of the brand is overwhelmingly superior and distinctive to competition.

Brand love is an idea that has its relevance in the marketing fraternity and an outcome that we all want to achieve. It is a culture that evolves a consumer from liking a brand to becoming brand-loyal converting them into advocates or influencers for one’s brand. These challenging times have changed many practices and maybe this is a good time to court our customers by creating a culture of brand love. As marketers, we should aim to create meaningful relationships with our consumers that is built upon trust, reliability, honesty and support.

Just like that friend of mine who believed that his car is his best friend!

The author is S Prasanna Rai, Vice President, Marketing, Wipro Consumer Care & Lighting

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