Valentine’s Day is upon us and you can’t go anywhere without being accosted with awful marketing slogans or tacky helium hearts. Even for brands who have nothing to do with love 364 days of the year, February 14th is the one day they’ll use love in in order to push their brand.
Brands aligning themselves with love is nothing new, but it does seem to have a new resonance in today’s digital world – with people using the internet for everything from grocery shopping to finding love. Are ‘brand love’ and ‘true love’ that different? And what can we learn from this concept that can help us in the world of Market Research?
Many of us have spent nights scrolling through dating apps, swiping left or right in an attempt to master the digital minefield of love. But what inspires us to make the hallowed right swipe? Obviously – first impressions count – and it’s important for people to fit an aesthetic that you like. But in addition to the 6 profile photos (carefully curated to only show you standing next to your less attractive mates), it’s no accident that apps like Tinder now show you who your ‘connections’ are – allowing you to see just how many degrees of separation there are between you and your potential next ex-boyfriend/girlfriend. People need to know that a person is their ‘type’, that they will fit into their lives and share the same hobbies and aspirations as them, before they will even commit to a non-committal swipe right.
Brands face the same pressure; consumers are inundated with information and ads, how does a brand get that first look, or get you to take a second look? Brand endorsements are no new thing – from companies sponsoring TV shows to align themselves with a certain lifestyle, to the more recent advent of Instagram ‘influencers’. Brands align themselves with people/things that in turn align them to a lifestyle – the lifestyle of their consumer. You then buy into the brand because of the aspirational lifestyle that is presented to you.
So, much like you might buy into a guy because he’s friends with a friend you used to look up to, you may find yourself entering into relationships with brands based on the people who (are paid to say they) use them.
Online dating is a minefield. When you meet on an app that allows you to date hundreds of people simultaneously, how do you know when something is ‘on’? After how many dates can you expect to be ‘exclusive’ or even Facebook official? Should you delete Tinder? Have they deleted Tinder? Do 2 dates a week count as commitment?
Much like people claim that dating apps have ruined love, marketers often believe that brand loyalty is a thing of the past thanks to the new technology enabled generation becoming increasingly impatient and quick to move on and hop on to the latest trend. There are ‘too many fish in the sea’ in both respects. Why would anyone choose to settle down, when they could be missing out on so much?
There is a lot of truth in this. Brand loyalty is elusive, and in some spheres it no longer appears to exist. And how do you know that you’re ‘committed’ to a brand? Sure, you might say that you ‘love’ Diet Coke, but if it isn’t in store, would you just buy a Pepsi Max, or actively go elsewhere to seek your beloved brand?
So: what can we learn?
We talk about romantic love in certain ways and brands have adopted that language. Many brand health or equity surveys include questions like, ‘how much do you love or hate this brand,?’ ‘how relevant is this brand to you,” how connected do you feel to this brand”
Yet, these are primarily attitudes and feelings. Anyone who’s ever been in a relationship knows it’s daily actions and commitments that make things work over time. So, the real measure of brand love and actual love is if you’re willing to make that commitment. For this comparison, deleting Tinder and introducing your new partner to your parents is the equivalent of shopping at a certain shop because you know they have your chosen brand of dish soap, and opting to leave the store empty handed if they’ve ran out.
We develop relationships with brands similarly to how we develop relationships with people – from the way we meet to how the relationship endures. Sometimes we move slowly, carefully and in a logical progression; sometimes we plunge ahead barely thinking about what we are doing as in the love at first sight experience. Some are steady and loyal; some are fickle, never committing; some commit and then cheat.
To say in a survey that you love a brand is one thing but what is your behaviour like – would you cheat on your favourite brands?
Technology is changing many aspects of modern life – from how we find love to how we find brands. In Market Research, we need to adapt to these changes in consumer’s lifestyles, harnessing technology to create new methods of research that delve deeper than before.
The next time you pick up your toothpaste, dishwashing detergent, peanut butter, shampoo, deodorant, diapers, pet food, you name the category, consider your relationship with that brand. Are you committed? Are you a cheater?
Tell us what your relationship status is with different brands (or categories).