What is a lovemark – and how do you become a lovemark brand? 

Clare Daley
April 29, 2024
5 min read
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What is a lovemark – and how do you become a lovemark brand? 

Loyalty is a critical element for brand growth.

But what is it that makes consumers loyal to a brand?

And how can you grow your customer relationships from liking your products to loving what you stand for? 

Many consumer brands aim to become a ‘lovemark,’ but this kind of success doesn’t happen overnight. Even if you’re selling a high volume of products, you need a deeper emotional connection to achieve lovemark status. 

Where does the term ‘lovemark’ come from? 

In 2004, Kevin Roberts, CEO of the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, developed the concept of the lovemark. To him, lovemarks are brands that aren’t just respected by their customers – they’re adored by them. 

The lovemark concept is a direct reaction to data-led product marketing. Consumer brands have become incredibly skilled at developing highly refined practices. But you can’t take your brand global through good marketing alone when every other brand has equally sharp marketing tools. 

“Everyone is chewing on the same bone, and let me tell you – there’s no marrow left,” Roberts says in an online essay about lovemarks. 

In Roberts' opinion, what differentiates lovemarks from other brands is their ability to connect with consumers on an emotional level. “Great brands have always been created with love, with inspiration, with emotion,” he shares. Lovemarks are made “by keeping the emotional juice…and dumping all those formulas and processes.”

What makes a lovemark brand? 

The defining feature of a lovemark is the high levels of respect and love it generates. A successful company can sell many products, but that won’t always create an affectionate relationship with customers. 

In contrast, lovemark relationships are loyal and deeply rooted. For example, many Coca-Cola drinkers would rather have a glass of water than a Pepsi. 

They are also often built on shared principles and values. LEGO’s commitment to developing imagination and learning through free play is a great example of this. 

To illustrate the DNA of lovemarks, Roberts has created a love/respect axis. Lovemark brands appear in the top right quadrant. 

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Copyright: Kevin Roberts

How do lovemarks create a loving connection when other successful brands don’t? Roberts believes they have three key characteristics in their identity and marketing: 

  1. Mystery. There’s something special and slightly unknown about the lovemark brand. A good example of this is KFC: who is the Colonel? And what is the secret blend of 11 herbs and spices that they use in their batter coating?

  2. Sensuality. Lovemark brands create products that people want to touch. Part of the joy of eating a KitKat, for example, is peeling off the paper, running your finger along the foil wrapper, and snapping the biscuit fingers in two. You’ve had a sensory experience before tasting a single bite. 
  1. Intimacy. Customers feel a deep connection with lovemark brands and their products. They covet new releases, feel disappointed when products are withdrawn, and have a strong desire to grow their collection. A child might buy one generic doll, for instance, but they’ll often repeat-purchase Barbie dolls.

What are some examples of lovemark brands? 

Everyone has their lovemarks, but certain companies are globally adored. A Savanta study of the UK’s most-loved brands found firms from a range of sectors have an emotional stronghold on consumers, including: 

Food: Cadbury is Britain’s second most-loved brand, while Ben & Jerry’s, Galaxy, Heinz, Lindt, Pringles and Walkers all made the top 100. 

Drink: Coca-Cola is a top-five brand, and Grey Goose, Evian, Moet & Chandon, Pepsi and Tropicana also ranked highly. 

Consumer goods: Apple is another high scorer among UK consumers, while LEGO, Playstation and Le Creuset also performed strongly. 

Beauty products: While personal care brands featured less frequently than other sectors, Dove, Gilette, Nivea and Vaseline were among the companies that made the top 250 on Savanta’s list.

Household products: Andrex, Domestos, Fairy and Lenor were among the most-loved cleaning and household products in Savanta’s rankings, while Calpol made a notable appearance in the top 300. 

Brands don’t need a global footprint to become a lovemark, either. In his LinkedIn article on building a lovemark brand, digital marketer Gary Pérez notes people’s universal loyalty to Inca Kola in his home country of Peru, for example. 

Why is ‘love’ an essential metric for brands to track? 

We’ve already discussed the availability of statistical information in modern marketing, which makes it difficult to prioritise ‘soft’ metrics like consumer sentiment when tracking brand success. 

However, getting consumers to love your brand is what will keep them coming back to buy your products time and time again. It will build trust between you, encouraging them to try new products you develop and recommend you to potential customers. 

Love also motivates consumers to amplify your brand reach through user-generated content – from sharing social media posts to leaving positive reviews. 

How can you become a lovemark brand? 

Turning back to Kevin Roberts, he says: “I believe that we must stop racing after every new possibility on the media map. We must instead fix on the fundamentals of human nature. We must turn our attention to the uncharted territory opened up by the Love dimension of the Love/Respect axis.”

Lovemarks become lovemarks by knowing who they are and who their customers are, focusing on building an authentic relationship between the two. To embark on a similar journey, your brand needs to:

  • Develop a clear set of brand values. You can’t find your kindred spirits until you know what you stand for. Brand values impact everything from your tone of voice to your product development, so creating clear DNA is critical.

  • Define your target audience. If you go after everyone, you risk attracting no one. The most beloved brands know exactly who their customers are and care about giving them what they want. You can probably imagine what the core customer looks like for today’s most successful lovemarks. Think of Harley Davidson, for example. What springs to mind?

  • Put emotional storytelling at the heart of your marketing strategy. Once you’ve developed your values and defined your customer, you need to tell a story that connects the two.

    The key element with emotional storytelling is being authentic and consistent. Consumers are savvy enough to know when you’re pulling at their heartstrings to try and sell a product.

    The most powerful marketing campaigns come from the heart: Dove’s Real Beauty campaign and Nike’s Dream Crazy are great examples. 
  • Keep sight of what makes your brand unique. Many companies that become lovemarks in their home market lose what makes them unique as they expand internationally. 

While adapting your product, packaging and sales collateral for regional audiences is important, localising your brand should not mean diluting its core credentials.

The most successful global brands know how to resonate with consumers in each end market while retaining the essence of their DNA.

For more insights on consumer goods marketing, follow Hooley Brown on LinkedIn

You can also check out our product localisation page for more information on developing your regional presence.  

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