JUST OUT: Telecoms – Global Reputation Report 2024 – download it here

What’s love got to do with it?

1. The dilution of love on social media

Then when I noticed companies everywhere asking people to like them on Facebook, I realized that this ‘social feature’ is also accommodating and encouraging companies’ naïve time-old quest for love.

Working as a brand consultant I’ve come across more and more companies over the years trying to co-opt the power of love. From automakers to cosmetics firms, from the food & beverage sector (yes, the usual suspect and suspect) and all the way to the telecommunications industry (see below), companies everywhere increasingly urge us to love them, ourselves or each other.

A couple of years ago a “100 most loved companies” ranking appeared, and more recently a customized tool was developed to help companies measure love more accurately. So what’s going on?

Well, it’s been proven time and again that companies need to build an emotional attachment to their brands in order to sustain preference and loyalty.

Numerous studies in recent years, including medical and academic research, have established that emotion rather than reason is the primary driver of buying behavior and brand preference. Indeed, I’ll be the first one to preach the importance of an emotional bond with customers, employees and other relevant stakeholders.

But is love that emotion? I doubt that. If anything, evidence suggests that these days consumers are falling out of love with brands.

2. Emotional attachment to brands

3. Goodwill versus love

So what kind of an emotional relationship should companies strive to have with the world? In my opinion, the relevant elements at play are feelings such as trust, respect, satisfaction, curiosity, and inspiration.

I refer to it as goodwill rather than love. People tend to love people, not companies. They can also love objects and ideas, but they’re beyond the point of wanting to have a loving relationship with a commercial entity – even if that entity is their employer, and even if it produces beautiful smartphones.

This is not to say that companies should avoid building emotional relationships with their stakeholders; it just means they should keep it a bit more real and down-to-earth.

In order to do that, I believe there are 3 key things businesses of all kinds need to do (beyond the obvious of course, which is to offer great products and services):

1. Stand for something

An idea, a belief, a value – something that’s greater than just making money. People (other than investors perhaps) have a hard time relating to sheer profit-making, though they accept that it’s an inherent part of doing business.

2. Be fair and honest

With your employees, customers, suppliers and anyone else that either matters to your business or is affected by it. Don’t cheat and don’t lie. This is not about being more Catholic than the Pope – it’s about being a decent human being.

3. Have an open dialogue with those around you

Listen to their needs and concerns, and consider these in your decisions and actions. A dialogue differs from a monologue – it’s engagement rather than communication.

The above will not make everyone love you, but it just might make the relevant people have a positive opinion of you, and that would make them more likely to want to support your business.

Clearly, there’s nothing wrong with engaging consumers on Facebook and gathering likes and followers as part of community-building efforts. But let’s not confuse this with love: you’ll never be anyone’s substitute for love, friendship, or religion, nor should you, so you may as well stop trying.

Follow Caliber