Feeling the Brand Love

Doug Grisaffe
Marketing News
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Key Takeaways
  • Consumers do have love relationships with brands, and this is not a rare or isolated phenomenon.
  • Extensive theoretical and empirical works have passed the peer-review process in top marketing journals to present hard evidence in favor of emotional brand connections. 
  • Pathways that establish brand attachment show deep, underlying consumer psychology that transcends the branded object, itself.

In the December 2013 issue of Marketing News, John Dawes authored a thought-provoking article titled, “Can Consumers Really Have Love Relationships With Brands? (I Think Not).” Dawes encapsulates his thesis as follows: “Everyday experience tells us that there are too many brands, and too little time, to develop relationships, brand love or brand attachment to an extent that’s worth talking about—or strategizing for.” He says that marketers should stop planning their marketing efforts around fostering connections with brand lovers because “if they exist at all, [they] are among a tiny minority.”

I’d like to offer a respectful counterpoint. Consumers do have love relationships with brands, and this is not a rare or isolated phenomenon. To substantiate this claim, first let’s go right to the voice of the customer. The following BMW enthusiast, for example, testifies to an affective bond deeper than mere utilitarian, functional satisfaction with the brand: 

“BMW motorcycles are a world (and a brand) apart. And so much more than a brand. It is a lifestyle, a way of living, a way of defining myself and the world around me. When I am on my R 1150 GS, traveling through the wild and wonderful corners of Africa, this incredible machine becomes my survival kit. And after hundreds of thousands of kilometers, the ‘kit’ becomes ‘comrade,’ and the bond becomes emotional. … The uniqueness of the BMW is that it is a motorcycle for the wild. It turns me, an ordinary man, into an explorer, a pioneer, a Lone Ranger. It makes me more than I am.”

This quote comes from Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands, by Kevin Roberts, Worldwide CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi. Roberts is convinced that consumers can and do have strong attachment/love relationships with brands. Based on his firm’s work with more than 60 of the top 100 worldwide advertisers, and more than half of the top 50 most valuable global brands, Roberts argues that the only hope for the future of branding is to build intense, emotional brand love.  ​​​

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Author Bio:

Doug Grisaffe
Doug Grisaffe is an associate professor of marketing at the University of Texas at Arlington. He is the former chief research methodologist for Walker Information, and he earned his Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University.

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