Love Works, Actually

This article originally appeared in the Financial Mail, South Africa.

“What’s love got to do with it?” asked Draftfcb’s Rita Doherty in the FM of May 10-15, about what drives consumer purchasing. Is it love or just a roll of the dice for whatever happens to be handy?

One thing Rita and I agree on is that humans are far less rational than we like to think. Saatchi & Saatchi research suggests that the emotional quotient of decision making in buying a car is 63%, for breakfast cereals 75% and magazines 85%.

But I part company with Rita when she cites the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute of Scientific Marketing. Marketing is both science and art. A theory based all on science is missing at least half the equation.

When it comes to success in selling I lean, not on information and intel, but on other “i” words: ideas, imagination and intuition. As business people we never operate from perfect information, so human judgment plays the pivotal role in determining how to frame a sales proposition.

Ehrenberg-Bass argues that we humans throw our purchasing power at whatever we vaguely recognise, whatever is closer or brighter. The theory is that most brand purchases are made by an aimless, indifferent bunch of people – perhaps the group whom Nick Carraway, narrator of The Great Gatsby, called “careless people”.

As a marketer I do not count my winnings as coming from fickle winds – from easy switchers and churning consumers. I am focused on communicating with loyalists because they are the people who repeatedly and instinctively purchase you; who advocate, share and improve you; who don’t treat every trip to the supermarket as a test of the relationship.

As a marketer, I want the lifelong love affair, not an occasional smoulder at the cash register. Fame, fun and fortune are not built on ambivalence and ambiguity. Having a clear and lovable purpose, showing what you stand for, expressing your inspirational dream – this is what brands should be doing.

For the past decade Saatchi has been on an ambitious journey into the human heart. We observed that everything had become a brand, and a state of equilibrium achieved across quality dimensions: in design, manufacturing, distribution, service, price, even promotion. Sameness ruled. We wanted to work with brands that accelerated out of the curve.

We found our answer in Lovemarks: brands that mixed the rational element of respect with the emotional qualities of love; that blended the rational factors of performance, sustainability and reputation with the emotional elements of mystery, sensuality and intimacy.

The idea of Lovemarks turned out to be big enough for a book, written in 2004 by our global CEO, Kevin Roberts. A follow-up will be launched next month at the Cannes Lions Festival, written by former group executive Brian Sheehan. It offers 20 client case stories showing how love works, including brands such as Lexus, Nike, T-Mobile, Toyota, Visa, Cheerios, Pampers and Guinness in Africa.

These are brands that take their marketing seriously, analyse data and draw hypotheses, but also appreciate that being number one in the market involves engaging in relationships with shoppers, clients and consumers. Neurologist Donald Calne says: “Reason leads to conclusions; emotion leads to action.”

I believe marketing people need passionate, committed and inspirational consumers; “maybes” are not the foundation of sustainable business. Slogging it up the middle of the market does not make sense. The action happens in the margins, on the edges, down the sidelines. We are not opposed to algorithms and formulas. They are helpful in many respects. But we believe love matters most. Curtis is Saatchi & Saatchi’s SA group CEO and head of Africa network