Create Enticing Brands, not “Lovemarks”

By Dr. Dan Herman

Allow me to shorten for you an old but not outdated joke. A new divorcee, first-hand from an advertising professional, asks her new partner, a minute before getting into bed together, to be gentle with her because she is still a virgin. “But you were married…” the man wonders. “Yes” the young woman sighs, “every night he would lie next to me in bed and tell me how wonderful it’s going to be, until both of us would become tired and fall asleep”. That is what Kevin Roberts, the worldwide CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising and the originator of “Lovemarks”, reminds me of.

Roberts received the management of Saatchi & Saatchi in 1997, after a string of management positions, ranging from junior to senior positions, in companies such as Mary Quant, Gillette, Procter & Gamble, Pepsi Cola and Lion Nathan (an Australian beer and wine manufacturer). Upon commencement of his position, he searched for a new vision that will excite both the employees of Saatchi & Saatchi, as well the clients. Two years later he began talking about love and created the concept of Lovemarks – the future beyond the “ordinary” brands. This approach has two advantages. The first being the big promise for advertisers: we will cause the consumer to love your brand. Not just to “desire” or “prefer”, but to “love”. Who doesn’t want that? The second advantage: this concept has an easy to remember simplicity – “Saatchi & Saatchi is the advertising agency that talks about love”. Following the rules of Al Ries, Roberts decided to “own” a word for his company. Love is good. Love is fashionable in these times of getting in touch with your emotions. At the same time, although there was a wave of “emotional brands”, there was no other advertising agency that spoke of love as a leading motto. Bingo! Saatchi & Saatchi has a “differentiation”.

Roberts promises that he knows how to create the kind of brands that people fall in love with and remain loyal to “beyond reason” – (as he puts it). So why does he remind me of a mean joke about advertising professionals? Judging by his books, dozens of published articles and numerous lectures – he has no clue on how it is done. He can speak of brands that people love and describe the characteristics of love of brands, but he has no clue on how it is done. I don’t even think that he knows how it is done and is not telling us. He simply doesn’t know (stay with me and I will explain what I am basing this on). However, he sells this nothing that he has to sell in a spectacular manner. His book is a wonderful visual experience. It is emotional shallowness, not less then conceptual shallowness, but packaged, phrased and designed brilliantly. As to the contents, the technique…. you will learn more about creating loved brands from this article, than from entirely reading Roberts’ books cover to cover.

When the embarrassingly mediocre achievements of Winterthur FC Barcelona, in the basketball Euroleague this year became evident, basketball commentators lashed out at coach, Dusko Ivanovic, claiming that: “They gave you a budget of € 25 Million to build a team… and this is what you managed to do?”. This about sums up my criticisms of Kevin Roberts.

In short: What is Roberts saying?

His fundamental argument is that it is best that your brand will be both respected and loved. In Roberts’ model, these are two intersecting axes, which means that they are independent. In other words, Roberts claims that respect does not influence love and love doesn’t influence respect. It will be difficult to find psychological experts that will agree with this statement, but this does not bother Roberts. Brands that are both respected and loved are “Lovemarks” – a type of super-brands that the consumer is loyal to “beyond reason”. Like Google, Apple, Coca Cola, Nike and Starbucks.

Although Roberts treats consumer researches with total disregard, Saatchi & Saatchi ordered, from the QIQ International Research Institute, the development of a technique for measuring whether your brand is a “Lovemark” or not, by measuring the level of respect and the level of love that consumers feel towards the brand in comparison to those of competitors. It seems (Kevin Roberts says that this insight is nothing short of revolutionary) that consumers say that they purchase brands that they both love and respect more often than brands that they just respect or rely on. Believe it or not, they also express their intention to continue and purchase them in the future.

Today it is not enough to be respected, Roberts says. Respect is only a condition for admission into the competition. The challenge is to be loved. Emotions are the inexhaustible resource. The appeal to emotions, says Roberts, is the way to escape from the fate of the multitude of undifferentiated brands that become commodities.

How can love be evoked? Roberts says that a love for a brand has three characteristics that are supposed to help us create “Lovemarks”: Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy. “Mystery” means stories and fables related to the brand or its components and secret formulas that stimulate the imagination. “Sensuality” means a pleasant sensory experience, in part of the five senses or all of them. “Intimacy” means a sense of belonging or personal identification and empathy, or personal relevance and inspiration.

Roberts confuses words with meanings

In no place does Roberts define or explain what he means when he says “love for the brand”. He assumes that we have an intuitive comprehension of the concept of “love” and that is quite true. However, Roberts revolves the magic word “love” without noticing that people use the same word to talk about totally different feelings in the same general direction. The love of a brand is more similar to the love of ice-cream than the love for a spouse. You will agree I hope that there is some difference between these two emotions, although the same word is used to describe them. This distinction helps us understand what love for a brand means. “Love for ice-cream” is actually an excited anticipation towards the pleasant sensory experience that we feel when we eat ice-cream. And in fact this is what the “love for a brand” is: an excited anticipation for something good that will happen to us when we consume it or use it or even simply own it. There is something very fundamental here that Roberts is disregarding which is related to the benefit that we expect to derive from the brand. We will get back to this shortly. However: if we love a brand because we expect to derive something good out of it – our loyalty is not “beyond reason”, but is rather reasonable.

In Robert’s perception the term “benefit” is a cerebral matter, I have no clue as to why (and by the way, he thinks that everything cerebral is bad). But, the benefit of ice-cream, lets say Ben & Jerry’s, is mainly sensory pleasure. There are brands like Versace, whose benefits are social (help you create the impression that you make). There are brands like Robin Sharma, whose benefit is spiritual … and I could have gone on and on. In every single case, a benefit is always accompanied by pleasant sensations or by positive emotions. What is cerebral in that?

Another distinction that Roberts misses out on is between merely stimulating emotions as opposed to developing emotions for a certain object, like a brand. Any reasonable television movie can stimulate emotions, but they pass without leaving their mark when it is over. But let us look at a television series, a telenovela for example; whose devoted viewers attest their love for. The emotions (and loyalty, clearly understood) for the certain telenovela, the “love” for the certain telenovela, stems from the anticipation for an emotional experience (pleasant to the viewer) that it provides. I hope that you get my point: the arousal of emotions per se, does not develop continuous emotions. The creation of anticipation for something good / pleasant / beneficial – develops continuous emotions. Roberts does not say anything about this, but without this comprehension you cannot build any brand, all the more so a loved brand.

Roberts confuses symptoms and causes

As I have already mentioned, Roberts claims that mystery, sensuality and intimacy are the three characteristics of love for a brand. Meaning, when a consumer feels love for a brand, the consumer feels that the brand somehow ignites his imagination, pleases his senses and arouses a deep relevance in him. But, to say that if we purposefully create mystery, sensuality and intimacy it will result in love for the brand is basically like saying that if we raise someone’s fever and cause him to cough, he will get the flu. In the case of the flu, the reason for the symptoms is the activity of the virus. In the case of a brand, the reason for the symptoms is the benefit that the brand has to offer and its impact on the consumer. The alert activity of the imagination, the sensual experience and the intimacy that the consumer experiences by loving the brand, are all outcomes of the anticipation for something good, for a benefit, or of a pleasurable experience. It is this anticipation that makes a brand enticing to the consumer and thusly successful.

If Roberts were to say, that when creating a differentiated strategic concept for your brand that provides a new benefit to the consumer – you ought to thing of creating mystery, sensuality and intimacy or personal relevance – I would have enthusiastically agreed with him. But he does not say that. The essential need for a brand to be a means or instrument for the consumer to achieve benefit of any sort – is something that Roberts completely ignores. The problem is that without it you will not have a brand that consumers desire.

Roberts claims a mistaken polarity of reason and emotion

Roberts recommends that marketers ignore the thoughts of consumers and address only their feelings (and this is dangerous as consumers will continue to think, whether Roberts likes it or not, and their thoughts will continue to have a function in the purchasing process). Over 15 years of Psychological research that teach us that reason and emotion are far from being opposites. Rather, they are both part of one system. Alas, the connection between the thinking process, the imagination process and emotional processes, are just not familiar to Roberts. He quotes the neurologist Donald Kane that said: reason leads to conclusions and emotions lead to action. These words are engraved in the stone. But note this: conclusions lead to emotions (if a conclusion has any personal relevance)! This Kane did not say and Roberts does not know. The consumer thinks about the things that a candidate says in an election campaign and reaches the conclusion that he will raise taxes that will decrease his available income. This thought is terrifying! Meaning: stimulates emotion. The consumer thinks about the vehicle that accelerates from 0 to 100 in such and such number of seconds. He reaches the conclusion: “I will be the first to jump when the traffic light turns green” and intoxicating feelings of superiority overcome him. If you do not understand the connection between thoughts and emotions – you do not know how to develop love for a brand. Kevin Roberts does not know how.

Roberts quotes researches without comprehending their meaning

Roberts quotes researches done among people whose emotional centers in their brain have been injured and they have lost the ability of preference and making choices. “Only emotion is essential in making choices” Roberts understands from this. “Therefore we must only address emotions”. But this is not what researches teach us. The researches say that emotion is essential for our possibility to feel preference and will. They do not say that the emotion creates preference and will. Emotion is indeed the way in which we experience preference and will, but preference and will are created as a result of beliefs (for example: “such and such will happen if I use brand X”) and as a result of processes of thinking and imagination (“I imagine myself using brand X”) which stimulate our emotions (“what a delight that might be!”).

Roberts quotes many researches in which consumers say that they love certain brands and intend to purchase them in the future. He concludes form this that if love for a brand is stimulated, the consumer will purchase it loyally. He is not alert to the possibility that the use / consumption in the past, the pleasure that reoccurs again and again and even the habit, have contributed to the love the consumer attests to. It is no wonder that Roberts disdains research and data – he has no clue how to use them.

I can understand the attraction

The “Lovemarks” approach promises two very appealing benefits to those who praise it. The first: an irrational, mystical power, over the consumer. The second: Easy lives, without the need to create and to execute a strategy and to achieve an effective differentiation. All you have to do is to arouse emotions, just create mystery, sensuality and intimacy and your consumer will respond in love and loyalty “beyond reason”. What Nonsense!

What is Love?

Beyond criticizing Roberts, I have promised to tell you how it is really done, how to create a loved brand. That is what I am going to do now, at least in the level of a short introduction of a work process that has everything that Lovemarks lacks.

Our starting point is to be clear as to what we mean by “love for a brand”. Love for a brand is actually a strong feeling of anticipation for something good, pleasant or beneficial that we believe with great certainty that we will get from the brand. It is the anticipation for good experiences, pleasant sensations or positive emotions. Consumers love the M&M chocolate candies, or buying at IKEA or driving a BMW or using a Nokia telephone or searching for information in Google, exactly because of the focused and intensive anticipation which they enthusiastically describe as “love”. But we, as professionals, need to understand what is behind the verbal descriptions of consumers, so that we will be able to stimulate such feelings. To stimulate anticipation for benefit, even an intangible one, is a much clearer and approachable task than to “stimulate love”.

How do consumers “fall in love” with a brand?

Structurally, it happens in the same process as people falling in love with people. Let me describe how this happens. We all have beliefs as to what will satisfy our basic needs (physiological and emotional), what will be good for us and will make us happy. In many cases we are not aware of them or are only partially aware. Often they are not phrased in words, but exist in fleeting images and scenarios that we experience by imagination. These beliefs are shaped by the stories of the lives of people surrounding us, movies and television programs we watch and other media sources that we are exposed to, advertisements and mainly by our personal experience. Some of them are beliefs that have accompanied us along many years and some change with fashion and trends. These beliefs are abstract (“If people think that I am successful they will admire me”) and we name them “goals” or “benefits” that we seek. These beliefs mold our pre-disposition to fall in love. Subsequently, other beliefs, which are more concrete and specific, focus our abstract beliefs on certain products or brands (“If I drive a Lexus; people will think that I am successful”). The beliefs of specific type come to life in our imagination and arouse our anticipations, evoking desire and “love for the brand”.

But how are these specific beliefs formed? When a brand succeeds in being perceived by us as a tangible realization of our abstract beliefs regarding what will be good for us (our pre-disposition) – the anticipation that it will be good for us is the result. The brand is thus perceived as an opportunity to achieve the benefit that we have in our imagination. This is also what happens when we are seduced or fall in love with a partner, and this is also where the similarity between love for a brand and love as the basis for a relationship between people, ends. We anticipate that the brand will be good for us and therefore we want it. The commitment that we have towards people and the mutual pact that exists in relationships can never be formed towards a brand.

How do we create the “Click”?

The ingenuity of branding is obviously to first destine, whatever it is that we are selling, to be a unique answer to a pre-disposition of the consumer, and then to convey it in an effective manner so that it will become a belief of the consumer. The pre-disposition is not what the consumer already desires in the present, but rather what may potentially arouse enthusiasm and does not exist yet. That is where the great marketing opportunities lie. The problem is that consumers do not know much about their pre-disposition and therefore they can not tell us what will turn them on in the future when questioned in consumer researches. The process of developing a brand starts with an insight. To reach such an insight we must unearth and interpret the non-conscious set of rules that constitute the pre-disposition of the consumer. There are advanced research tools that help identify this set of rules. They require psychological expertise and advanced interviewing skills and thus they are not commonly used by research institutes (The main tool that I personally use is called ForeSearch). The insight is only the beginning of the process. We use to guide for the creative process by which we devise a new concept for providing the consumer with a benefit that realizes his pre-disposition. This concept is the basis for the brand.

How to influence the intensity of love?

There are two factors that influence the intensity of the consumer’s emotions towards the brand. The first one is a combination of the importance that the consumer attributes to the benefit that the brand offers, meaning the level of impact that he anticipates that it will have on his well-being and happiness, together with (and this is even more important), the rarity of the benefit: how difficult it is for the consumer to achieve the same benefit from other products or brands, that don’t necessarily compete directly. The more the benefit of the brand is perceived as important and rare, so will the emotions be stronger. The second factor is the quality of the supply of the benefit, or: how far can the brand be trusted to supply such benefit in a good and consistent level and in suitable availability in the course of time. Good management can guarantee the second factor. A brilliant strategy is needed for the first factor.

How do we create an important and rare benefit?

This is the arena in which the differences between brilliant strategists and fine marketing and branding professionals, become evident. The importance of the expertise and the personal abilities are essential and we need to admit that there is no formula here, but we can still talk about some guiding rules that help epitomize the personal ability.

The first rule is that you have a greater chance in creating a rare benefit or even an exclusive one (meaning: Differentiation), if you create for your brand a benefit that is “off-core” in your category. The core benefits are all the benefits that consumers are used to expect from a product such as yours and they are perceived as important for such a product (from safety in a car to multimedia features in mobile phones). In all that concerns the core benefits, my recommendation is for a “defense strategy”: don’t let your competitors be better then you. On the other hand, there is no point for you to make efforts in such direction. Any innovation that you introduce into such benefits, your competitors will be quick to imitate, as they also know that these are important benefits to the consumer.

What you are looking for is a benefit important to the consumer, but not connected with your product category so far, and yet intuitively perceived as suitable for it (I call this: Off-Core Differentiation). An example of this is the commitment at the heart of the strategy of The Body Shop chain of stores for the protection of the environment and helping the needy all over the world, as well as the wild humor of the Joe Boxer underwear brand, and the policy of Virgin to use a mischievous and cheeky spirit to break the rules of the game and beat the larger companies, creating fun for the consumer along the way, as well as the support of Vans to non-institutionalized sports of teenagers and the provocativeness of Diesel, and there are many more examples. In this way, successful brands enjoy immunity from imitation by competitors, as what they are doing seems so irrelevant to the category. The second rule is to supply this benefit in a new manner, unique and different from how it is supplied in other product categories.

The benefit can be social or psychological

Any off-core benefit is by definition an “added value” to the benefit stemming from the product itself, as the benefit from the product itself is naturally on-core. The off-core differentiation that you adopt can be based on a benefit that is not tangible or experiential, but interpersonal, social or psychological. When De-Beers launched the brand “Right-Hand Ring” in 2003, they created a new instrument to achieve a social benefit. A woman can wear a “Right-Hand Ring” on her right hand of course, to signal that she is single, as opposed to a ring on your left hand, which signals engagement or marriage or simply a gift form her spouse (kindly note: in Eastern Europe, for example, the hand symbolism is reversed!). De-Beers created a symbol whose meaning is known to everyone through an extended advertising campaign, and as a result women can use it to send a message to their surroundings. The Amex black Centurion card is obviously not only a means for payment that indicates that its owner has unlimited credit. The Centurion has a social value, as it allows its owners to radiate to their surrounding that they are extremely rich. However, the Centurion, which no customer can request, but is only given to clients chosen by Amex, is more than that. On a psychological level more than the social level, the Centurion is a certificate of superiority, of a super-status to whom ordinary norms of regular mortals, do not apply.

How will the consumer “discover” the brand?

It is easier for consumers to fall in love with a brand when they feel that “it comes from within them”, as opposed to it being “sold” to them. The key to this is what I call “Fascinating Marketing” instead of “Satisfying Marketing”. The usual marketing is “Satisfying Marketing” whose main objective is to please the consumer and satisfy him. In contrast, “Fascinating Marketing” promises surprise and excitement, plays hard to get, toys at the consumer and sets conditions and obstacles on the road to the sweet satisfaction. Fascinating Marketing has large arsenal of methods, one of which is the set of principles and tools of Viral Marketing. Here the brand is designed to excite a small group of enthusiasts (instead of trying to be liked on a reasonable level by the majority). These enthusiasts “infect” those around them with desire for the brand, when the process seems pure of sales.

How will you turn your brandinto the best show in town (or in the world)?

A good way to bring the brand’s strategy to life is by using the tools of “drama”, which for over 2,500 years has done a great job of stirring the feelings of people in the theater, in literature, in cinemas, television and more. Furthermore, the success of a brand, which has an intangible value beyond the function of the product itself, depends on the consumer’s willingness to accept something unreal as real, i.e. be in a trance (I call this “The Brand’s Trance”). Drama has been known for centuries to put audiences into a trance where they allow themselves to be swept away by unrealistic plots. I usually begin the development of the creative approach for the brand’s expression, presence and unfolding, with an analysis of the “Drama of the Brand”. Every powerful brand provides the consumer with a benefit that he yearns for, and that is neither easy nor simple to achieve (certainly on the profound and important level of the benefit, not on the surface one). The Drama of the Brand is the confrontation of two forces that occurs when the consumer attempts to achieve the benefit that our brand promises him, even before our brand is available to him. This analysis involves questions such as: what happens to the consumer when he is trying to achieve the benefit in other ways? What attempts and efforts does he make? What is the result? What internal and external difficulties does he encounter? How do they manifest themselves? How does he fail? And then… how does our brand help him in achieving the benefit he is seeking? My experience tells me that such clarification raises all the necessary materials for “dramatizing” the brand in a way that generates inside the consumer this exhilarating feeling of “found it!” the excited anticipation that causes consumers to love brands.


Dr. Dan Herman builds emotionally powerful brands. He also leads training workshops in which he teaches the principles and methods for creating emotionally significant brands, as well as mission focused marathons, in which the participants create such brands in a methodical and guided process.

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Our book recommendation – written by Dr. Dan Herman

Outsmart the MBA Clones: The Alternative Guide to Competitive Strategy, Marketing and Branding

How can you be immensely successful for many years, and yet not be imitated by competitors? Impossible, you say. Not so. Virgin Atlantic, the Body Shop, Apple Computers, and Birkenstock they all achieved this status, and there are ample additional examples. They cracked the secret of successful differentiation that is not imitated and are adored by customers who think that they are incomparable. Dr. Dan Herman calls it an Unfair Competitive Advantage. It’s not at all unethical. Everyone has a fair chance of attaining such an advantage including, every reader of this book.
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