For Better or for Worse, Love is a Powerful Motivator for Consumers

There are brands that consumers trust and there are brands that consumers love. Love is not easy to achieve. It requires a certain tipping point of positive stimulus in the consumer brain. We are mistaken if we believe a brand can be loved by meeting the personal preferences of its consumers. There is no measure of contribution a brand can make to achieve love by satisfying consumer preferences in relation to self-interest.

That’s because the human emotion of love is not associated with self-interest. Love is more closely associated with selflessness. The old model built on self-interest was never able to fully explain why people would choose to have children, or why they would sacrifice so much for them. Love is an unconscious motivator that moves the human condition past the base motivators of self-interest toward social awareness, or even preference toward others.

In Nobel Prize-winning economist George Akerlof and Rachel Kranton’s hypothesis on Identity Economics, they questioned the original concept of behavioral economics. They found that belonging and values of community are core to human identity. That’s why values are often the most powerful force of influence in consumer behavior, or any behavior for that matter. Indeed, they wrote about the rules for behavior saying modern scholars “agree on the importance of anxiety that a person experiences when she violates her internalized rules.”

That means the consumer brain feel less anxiety over choices about features and benefits than they do when they make choices that might violate their core purpose or values. These core values are tied directly to the most powerful motivator in the consumer brain: love.

Perhaps you think it’s silly for a brand to promise selfless love to its consumers, but consider Subaru. It wasn’t flattering to show a car smashed in a commercial about Subaru. In the commercial titled “I’m Sorry,” after a teenager gets in a car accident, the mom says, “You’re OK? That’s all that matters.”

When Subaru demonstrated safety as a selfless value owned by the brand, they earned the right to say, “Love, it’s what makes a Subaru a Subaru.” They were able to tie crash safety features to emotionally charged values of self-sacrifice that Subaru demonstrated by showing its vehicle smashed.

Values such as love are verified by action. That’s because the evolved consumer brain is acutely perceptive. It possesses an authenticity barometer that will test your values to be sure they are true. Before the consumer brain assigns love to your brand, your brand will need to demonstrate love first.

– Excerpt from: Surfing The Black Wave: Brand Leadership in a Digital Age