Brand lust is good, but it is brand love that will keep your brand desirable through the years

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Is it better to be loved or desired?

That was the burning question Margot Torres Managing Director of McDonald’s and Emily Abrera former President of McCann Erickson tried to answer at PANA’s General Members Meeting last July 19 entitled, “Brand Lust: Keeping Your Brand Desirable Through the Years”.

For new brands, building awareness is a game of seduction and attraction. However, the more established brands know that the tougher challenge is how to transform the initial fleeting attraction into enduring feelings of connection and love.

Margot and Emily have had been part of some of the most memorable advertisements in the industry like the McDonald’s #LoveKoTo series or the Johnson & Johnson Baby  ads.

According to Margot, the secret to McDonald’s winning grand slam PANA awards are the four Cs: Customer. Conversation. Courage. Consistency. 

Emily also spoke about how values like trust and authenticity play a role in any kind of relationship also apply to the relationships brands have with their consumers. 

Here, Margot and Emily share seven lessons on transforming brand lust or attraction into lasting brand love.

1.    Customer 

“We have to have a customer obsession,” said Margot who emphasized that the starting and ending point for any brand is always the customer. Brands have to know their customer beyond their demographics and buying patterns. Brands have to get into their heads and know what it is that moves them. 

McDonald’s saw the opportunity to connect with its consumers when a Facebook post showing 9-year-old Daniel Cabrera doing his homework by the light of the McDonald’s Golden Arches went viral. It struck a chord in people around the world who were inspired by the young boy’s innocent and sincere determination to study. 

Donations and scholarship assistance came pouring in for Daniel and McDonald’s took it further by reuniting Joyce Torrefranca, the netizen who posted the now famous picture, with Daniel. It showed that anyone can make a positive change in a person’s life.

2. Conversation 

McDonald’s tweaked its #LoveKoTo series on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and invited netizens to join the conversation by showing some love for their parents. The result was social media cards where netizens shared funny and tear-jerking sentiments about their folks using the hashtag #LoveKitaMa and #LoveKitaPa. The online conversation garnered 1.4 million interactions in about 5 days.

3. Courage

Brands must have the courage to innovate and try new things. McDonald’s realized that many Filipinos spend All Soul’s Day at the cemetery to remember their loved ones who have passed away. The event posed both an opportunity and a problem: They still needed to eat but food delivery in the cemetery was a nightmare game of hide and seek. The fast food giant developed the McDelivery PIN that pushed the brand to tie in their app for ordering, store operations and delivery logistics with on the ground merchandising to make it convenient for both consumers and delivery boys to find each other on All Soul’s Day.

4. Consistency

“Consistency is also about commitment,” said Margot. Brands must consistently try to find new ways to engage with their consumer and stay connected. It’s very much like a relationship. You invest in making it better and cultivate ways to enrich that relationship over the years. From a brand perspective, this translates to evaluating past efforts and see what worked and what didn’t and then improving what worked and then repeating it.

5. Stories behind the brand are just as important

Things that are not overtly said about the brand through its advertisements are just as important, shared Emily.

During family gatherings, Emily loves listening to the conversations her millennial grandchildren have.

“Apparel is always a topic of discussion among them: How they are made, what kind of cloth was used. They are awed by craftsmanship and the philosophy behind the design.They don’t seem to be affected by regular ads anymore because they are always glued to their phones and don’t get to watch them.”

This made Emily realize that consumers are are looking for the “brand story.”

“They are looking for a real story behind the brand -- where are they coming from and what is their philosophy. They are searching for brand purpose.”

Defining brand purpose is something that is inherently to the brand but more and more now, it is of extreme importance to young people. 

6. Brands have to make consumers feel good about themselves

“Social circumstance affect how consumers feel about themselves. We live in confusing times,” said Emily. In this environment, brands need to understand the alienation and perceived threats others feel and build a community of acceptance. “I think consumers will love brands for doing that.”

Consumers are also more discerning and will look beyond brand attributes and benefits. People are looking for brands whose reputation and track record show that they can be loved and most importantly, trusted.

“Consumers will look at how you behave as a company. How you treat your employees? Do you pay them well? Those are all part of your brand reputation and that is where brand love exists.”

The continuing challenge will be for brand strategists to imagine ways to amplify their messages beyond traditional advertising. They need to explore digital avenues and mix it in with on-the-ground merchandising to see how to best reach their consumers. “We all have to pivot. Otherwise you will become irrelevant,” said Emily. 

7. Stay authentic 

A brand is a living, breathing thing. There will be missteps along the way. There will be moves, ads and even minor scandals that will make consumers question their relationship with a brand. It happens. Even the most well-thought out campaigns and social media initiatives are not impervious to criticism or oversight.

In those cases, both Emily and Margot emphasized the need to stay authentic to the brand values of honesty and transparency. And sometimes, like with any relationship, it means giving a heartfelt apology and a promise to do better. 

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Bobby SimborioComment