When Kevin Roberts published “Lovemarks” in 2005, he was, as “Ad Age” wrote “the butt of derision throughout much of the marketing services community.” But, as they also pointed out “all that changed dramatically… when JC Penney awarded the agency it’s $430 million advertising account and publicly indicated that decision had been significantly influenced by… Lovemarks.”
Nifty little return on investment, that.
But we live in a fast-moving time. In 2005, Facebook was barely a year old, Twitter was a year away, and the iPhone was still a glimmer in Steve Jobs’ eye. So, is the book still useful today? Or, more to the point, is it useful to anyone whose name doesn’t end in “Roberts”?
Yes, for a couple of very important reasons.
The first has to do with a class I’ve taught at a couple of universities. I divide the students into mini-agencies, give them a brief and tell them to come up with a campaign by the end of the semester. Simple, right?
In addition to whatever the students have learned over the course of their careers at the university, I also arm them with a copy of “Lovemarks” – which, as you can imagine, raises quite a few eyebrows. This is not the kind of textbook they’ve come to expect from their marketing classes. And that’s the first thing that makes it useful. Simply the way it looks.
If nothing else, “Lovemarks” screams at you that advertising is a creative enterprise. That what we are engaged in here is not just facts and figures. It is different. It is innovative. It is unusual. That we are trying to get people – on both sides of the transaction – to think about things differently.
So the broad graphics, the spreads, the bright colors, the often-times curious use of typography, the saturated imagery, the aggressive photography. All of it serves to remind us – and serves to remind my business-school students – that advertising is an emotional exercise. An emotional exercise that it doesn’t just tell you about; it lives it. It’s committed to it. From the very first page.
Which leads to the second important and valuable aspect of this book. “Lovemarks” clearly identifies the central question you always have to ask yourself when you’re working on an ad, a campaign, a strategy, a whatever. Namely, “Will this make someone fall in love with this brand?”
It’s a question that is beautiful in its simplicity, because it’s razor sharp in its intent. What can we do that will make someone fall in love with what we’re working on? Because that’s really why people are paying us. Or why they should be. What will make people we’ve never met have an affinity for a product or service that goes beyond the rational. Beyond the logical. Just like love does. To the holy grail. To people buying your product because they just can’t not buy it.
Posing the question this way places logic in the proper position relative to emotion. You don’t love someone for logical reasons – though you may try to justify your love with facts afterwards. You love them because you love them, because of how they make you feel. Not because of features or benefits or cost or price. And you don’t really love the products you buy because of those things either.
And framing it this way also gives people who aren’t creative, or who aren’t marketers, a reference point for talking about the work. This is crucial. Because it gives them permission to reach for something greater, something beyond the merely obvious and logical. It encourages them to think about the things they love and examine those emotions, to better understand themselves, their wants and their needs, so they can better appreciate those of their customers.
But perhaps most importantly, it raises the stakes. Because what we do is not about just spending the money in a line item on a spreadsheet, or filling in the blank spaces in a media schedule or even using some new application or software to do something only Hollywood could do five years ago. It’s about connecting deeply with human beings. Or it should be.
Are there places where “Lovemarks” is a little over-the-top? Sure. Are there places where there’s a bit too much self-promotion? Of course. But this is advertising. We wade through “over-the-top” and “self-promotion” a hundred times a day.
Rarely, however, are we as well-rewarded as this when we do.