As a business owner, there are a lot of things I love about my job—the flexibility, the freedom to choose projects, the opportunity to work with some amazing companies. But there are also plenty of things I hate about it—specifically, anything that involves invoicing, expense-tracking, and accounting.

So, when I first discovered FreshBooks a few years ago, I was intrigued. At the time, my client roster wasn't big enough to need the company's bigger plans, so I started with its free option.

As my business grew, my accounting needs did, too. But I still wasn't big enough for all of the features wrapped into FreshBooks' cheapest paid account. I needed something in between, so I did what a lot of customers might do: I reached out to the company's support team.

Less than 30 minutes later, I got this response:

Fast response: Check.

Friendly, personal tone: Check.

Creative, thoughtful solution to a small customer's even smaller problem: Check.

Because of just one email, I fell in love with everything FreshBooks stood for, and I became a customer for life.

The Unsurprising Benefits of Brand Love

You've probably had a similar experience with one of your favorite brands. Very generally, that sense of "love" can be defined by the ways a particular brand makes you feel more engaged, upbeat, and warmhearted.

Those tangible feelings constitute just one of the psychological pillars that encapsulate brand admiration—a new concept introduced by marketing researchers C. Whan Park, Deborah J. MacInnis, and Andreas B. Eisingerich in their forthcoming book, Brand Admiration: Building a Business People Love.

In that book, the authors share findings from years of research that confirm an interesting—if unsurprising—truth: Brands that manage to evoke senses of warmth, empathy, and gratitude (psychological attributes generally associated with love) create connections with people that can yield very powerful competitive advantages.

Specifically, beloved brands often benefit from...

  • A higher tolerance for mistakes or product failure
  • Faster adoption of new products or services
  • Stronger and more organic customer loyalty and advocacy
  • More engaged, inspired, and fulfilled employees
  • A more diverse and more talented pool of prospective employees

Very simply: when a brand is loved, its relationship with the people who adore it becomes rooted in symbiotic mutualism—a state in which two different parties directly benefit from (and thrive off of) the actions of each other.

Brand Love in Action: Examples of How B2B and B2C Brands Cultivate Love

Inspiring and evoking these feelings of love aren't accidental. Cultivating and fostering love require a purposeful, methodical, and strategic process that builds and develops meaningful relationships over time.

A good—and somewhat unexpected—example of this strategic process in action is Caterpillar's. Over the years, the industrial construction machinery giant has made some interesting and unusual moves that have led to a unique relationship with its independent dealers:

  • Dealers have the unique opportunity to schedule a meeting with Caterpillar's CEO.
  • When dealers agree to sell Caterpillar's products, they sign a short-term agreement with no expiration date, which goes against industry standards and gives dealers greater flexibility.
  • To mitigate the concerns of independent, family-owned dealers who might be concerned about continuity in the face of retirement, Caterpillar organizes conferences and networking events to introduce the children of dealership owners to the Caterpillar brand.

Collectively, those strategic actions go a long way toward building relationships that are deeply rooted in mutual love, trust, and respect (the latter two are also pillars of the brand admiration framework). Caterpillar dealers love how they're treated, and they respond to the brand with a kind of loyalty and commitment unmatched in the industry.

Another great example of a beloved brand is Trader Joe's, the popular California-based grocery chain.

Unlike most grocery stores, Trader Joe's prides itself on an experience that feels more like a food discovery adventure than a traditional grocery shopping trip. Employees roam the aisles to help customers discover new items and share recipe ideas. The business sends out a monthly direct-mail newsletter—the "Fearless Flyer"—that tells the story behind new products in a fun, whimsical way. And the checkout process feels friendly, intimate, and personal—a result, in part, of the company's commitment to paying every employee a living wage.

Those efforts don't go unnoticed by customers. From 2012 to 2015, Trader Joe's was named America's favorite grocery store. And, in 2014, one report found that Trader Joe's sold an average of $1,734 per square foot, a number that dwarfs one of its biggest competitors: Whole Foods, which averages sales of $390 per square foot.

How Can Your Brand Cultivate and Foster Unconditional Love?

So, how can your brand foster the kind of unconditional love that people feel for brands like Caterpillar and Trader Joe's?

Very simply, it starts with identifying the specific brand attributes that define you and which will serve as the fuel for transformative business results. More tangibly, your goal should be to look for opportunities to...

  • Stimulate the senses and the mind: The more you can enhance sensory and cognitive stimulation (as is the case with Trader Joe's), the better your chances are of developing deep feelings of mutual love among stakeholders.
  • Warm the heart: When your brand evokes feelings of warmth, gratitude, and empathy, people respond in kind with feelings of commitment, loyalty, and advocacy (consider the FreshBooks example).

Ultimately, your brand has something that makes...

  • People want to work for it
  • Customers buy from it
  • Partners want to do business with it

Success happens when your entire team is on the same page and when the principles behind brand admiration—including brand love—are infused throughout your organization.

If you'd like to learn more about cultivating brand love, fostering brand admiration, and the framework that Park, MacInnis, and Eisengerich have developed, check out their brand admiration website, full of helpful information and resources to help you assess your company's level of brand admiration.

Articles in this series:

  1. Brand Admiration: Why Some Brands Are Loved Unconditionally (and What You Can Learn From Them)
  2. Brand Admiration and the Power of Love: Build a Brand That People Adore
  3. Is Your Brand Trusted? Here's What Happens When It Is—and Isn't
  4. Brand Admiration and the Value of Respect: How to Build a Revered Brand
  5. Brand Admiration: Three Powerful Bottom-Line Benefits of Being Admired
  6. The Saving Grace of Brand Admiration: 3 Companies, 3 Mistakes, 3 Different Outcomes

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Josh Zywien is a content marketer who writes for MarketingProfs: Made to Order, Original Content Services, which helps clients generate leads, drive site traffic, and build their brands through useful, well designed content.