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Branding: All You Need Is Love

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How many times have you heard someone say something like, "I love Nordstrom; their customer service is second to none." Or, "I love Virgin Atlantic, I wouldn't fly any other airline." People who know me have become accustomed to hearing, at least once a week (if not once a day), "I looooooooooooove Starbucks!"

We use the word love a lot when it comes to our favorite brands.

Love. Love. Love.

Jennifer Rice of Mantra Brand Communications conducted an interesting "love" experiment. She typed "I love [brand]" into Google and noted the number of items Google returned. She did this for many well-known brands to see how much we really love them. High on the "love list" were Apple, Google, Target and IKEA.

Interestingly, that correlates with the results of the InterBrand Reader's Choice Awards for the brands with the most impact in 2004. Apple was number one. Also in the top 10 were Target, Google and IKEA.


Unless you have been living in a remote forest, cut off from all people and communications, you are quite aware of the connection between branding and emotion. Countless books and articles have been written about it in the past few years. It's clear that people make decisions in life based on emotion. And decisions about the brands with which we choose to associate are incredibly emotional. People never say they love commodities. Ever hear anyone say, "I love pork bellies" or "I love grain"?

Many years ago, when I was working at IBM, we participated in a study that sought to determine the ideal brand attributes that would tip the scales in favor of one middleware vendor over another. We were surprised at the results. Traditionally conservative IT B2B decision makers consistently identified emotional brand attributes as determining factors.

Sure the products need to be reliable and secure. Those rational brand attributes are the table stakes that get you into the game and ensure you are considered. But for those vendors that met the rational criteria, the emotional connections were pivotal.

It probably shouldn't have come as a surprise. After all, we are human. And even the most rational person (whether he or she admits it or not) is influenced by emotion.

In his book, Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi, argues even more strongly for the connection between emotion and the success of certain brands. He illustrates how some brands just command greater loyalty. He calls them "Lovemarks" and describes them as brands that inspire loyalty beyond reason. Interestingly, the four brands I mentioned earlier were also among the top Lovemarks (Apple: 3 Google: 12, IKEA: 39 and Target: 54). There's lots of lovin' going on with these companies:

Love: v. A deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and solicitude toward a person, such as that arising from kinship, recognition of attractive qualities, or a sense of underlying oneness.

To Advance Your Career, Be Loved

All this talk about emotions and successful brands is music to the ears of career-minded professionals who want to get ahead. If it's the emotional brand attributes that are so critical to loyalty, then who better to build this type of loyalty than human beings? We certainly have an edge over products, companies and cities. We too must inspire loyalty beyond reason if we want to be in control of our careers.

In his blog, Marketing Guru Seth Godin wrote:

What chance is there that your totally average resume, describing a totally average academic and work career is going to get you most jobs? "Hey Bill! Check out this average guy with an average academic background and really exceptionally average work experience! Maybe he's cheap!!" Do you hire people that way? Do you choose products that way? People are buying only one thing from you: the way [you] make them feel. So how do you make people feel?

Don't get me wrong. Being loved is not about pleasing everyone. As a professional, you need to make decisions that are going to be unpopular with some people. And strong brands take a stand; they don't try to be all things to all people.

But developing emotional connections with your constituencies will ensure that people respect you even if they don't agree with everything you do. Success today means putting more of who you are into what you do. It's not a luxury, it's a mandate that you be yourself.

All You Need Is Love

Well, in fact, you need more than love. When building your personal brand, just like with the IT middleware study I referenced earlier, you need to have a sturdy brand foundation of rational brand attributes. Those attributes illustrate your competence and make you credible. Even the most lovable among us won't get too far without being able to demonstrate results.

But when building your personal brand, emotion is an essential component that will help you create greater loyalty among your various constituencies. You can see it all around you. You know people in your company who just exude attractive qualities that get people using the L word when they describe them. The most winning brands succeed by exuding a solid combination of genuine rational and emotional brand attributes.

Tim Sanders, the author of The Likeability Factor, says that there are four personality traits that contribute to a person's likeability: friendliness, relevance (do you connect on interests or needs?), empathy and realness (authenticity).

Being loved means creating an emotional bond through the recognition of your attractive qualities—those that are authentic to you ("realness," as Tim Sanders describes it), appealing to your target audience (relevance) and differentiating from your peers.

The Interbrand study of the brands with the greatest impact that I referenced earlier also identified Oprah, Martha and the Donald as impactful brands. There's certainly a lot of emotion when it comes to these megabrands.

And look at Tom Peters. He's brilliant in understanding the role of emotions in building connections. Everything he does comes with his large dose of emotion—enthusiasm, passion and energy. The words in his books almost leap off the pages. His PowerPoint slides are bold and provocative. His public speeches are rocket fuel. His corporate symbol, after all, is an exclamation point! And that totally describes who he is. He is a master at using his authentic brand attributes to build emotional connections, and hence loyalty, among his followers.

How Much Do I Love Thee?

That's the question your manager is really asking when deciding on the size of your bonus or whether she wants to put you on the layoff list. You need to face it: It's all about love.

This is as refreshing as it is true. It means that as a "careerist" you can build loyalty beyond reason with your employer, peers and managers and among all those people who need to know about you so that you can reach your career goals. To do this, you must be keenly aware of your brand attributes, how others perceive you. What is your combination of rational and emotional brand attributes?

You have the power to be a megabrand (think Seth Godin, Malcolm Gladwell, Tom Peters).The "trick" is to maximize your emotional connections and consistently exude your brand attributes to build your reputation and inspire loyalty beyond reason.

While you're thinking about how you can use your brand attributes to create the greatest amount of love, I am going to enjoy my "triple tall, non-fat, no-whip, extra hot mocha" from one of the brands that I love.

One Last Thing

Here are five tips for inspiring loyalty beyond reason:

  1. Take inventory of your personal brand attributes (rational and emotional). You can perform a complementary self-assessment here: www.reachcc.com/360personalprofiler

  2. Get external input on your brand attributes. This will help you validate your self-assessment and provide insights into how you are currently perceived.

  3. Decide which attributes (that are authentic to you) are relevant and compelling to your target audience and are differentiating from your peers.

  4. Live in the inquiry. Ask yourself how you can inject more of these brand attributes into everything you do—every report you author, every email you write, every telephone conversation you have.

  5. Assess. Ask for feedback. Measure results. Are you being perceived more consistently? Are you more fulfilled? Are you more successful?


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William Arruda is a personal branding pioneer, the founder and CEO of Reach Personal Branding, and the author of Ditch. Dare. Do! 3D Personal Branding for Executives.

Twitter: @williamarruda

LinkedIn: William Arruda

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