What is Brand Love?
In everyday conversation, people frequently talk about ‘loving’ products, brands, and activities such as sport, hiking, or drinking whisky. Previous work found that consumers use of the term ‘love’ is more than a colorful figure of speech. There is scientific evidence that many consumers use mental schema and processes, such as love, not only in interpersonal contexts (“I love you!”). They also use them in consumption contexts (“I love Red Bull!”). Thus, prior research has shown several psychological similarities between loved brands and loved people. Examples of interpersonal love are romantic love, parental love, friendship love, unrequited love, etc. There is also “brand love”, a special type of non-interpersonal love.
Brand love is not dichotomous. That means, brand love is not a yes/no construct. In contrast, brand love can also exist in low or moderate levels. Thus, when a consumer does not come close to high levels of intensity of attachment to a brand, he or she might not claim to ‘love’ the brand. However, moving a consumer from a moderate to a somewhat higher level of brand love can produce important improvements in managerial important outcomes (e.g., loyalty, word-of-mouth etc.). As prior research has shown, these effects are much stronger than moving a consumer slightly on a dislike-like continuum. Batra, Ahuvia and Bagozzi (2012) analyzed the conceptual nature of brand love. Their core finding is a complex dimensional structure. Their findings have been published in the Journal of Marketing.
Antecedents and Consequences of Brand Love
It is a widely replicated finding that brand love is strongly related with managerial outcomes. That is, brand love leads to Word-of-Mouth, Loyalty, Willingness to pay higher prices, and so forth. That is only one reason why brand love represents an important and interesting construct for managers and scholars alike. But what makes brands lovable?
One aspect that comes immediately to mind is “Top Quality products”. Well, that’s not wrong, but that’s also not enough. High quality brands are usually brands that people find “good”, or maybe “very good”. This “brand liking” is conceptually related, but different from brand love. In a recent study, we surveyed German consumers about their favorite brands in different product categories. Our main hypothesis was that brand anthropomorphism should be a core driver of brand love. Anthropomorphism describes to what extend a brand is perceived as having human-like qualities.
A brand like a friend: Anthropomorphism leads to Brand Love
Our results are consistent in all product categories and show that anthropomorphism is strongly related to brand love. This effect is particularly strong for the more relationship specific dimensions of brand love and less related to attitude valence (i.g., how “good” a consumer finds a brand). We discussed several theoretical mechanisms that explain the psychology behind this finding.
However, this does not mean that brand quality is unimportant. High quality brands are much more likely to become part of consumers’ relevant set. Also, lack of quality can lead to negative long-term effects on various outcome variables. However, our results clearly support the idea that anthropomorphic brands are much more ‘lovable’.
Here is an overview of strategies to make brands more anthropomorphic: (1) First person (as compared to third person) communication styles. (2) Imitating Human Faces. (3) Fictitious or real human brand names.
- Who loves brands? Personality and Brand Love. A Book chapter published by me and my co-authors.
- Brand Love Central. This is Aaron Ahuvia’s website.
- How to measure brand love? Find good scales here.
- Download the Anthropomorphism and Brand Love Paper here on Research Gate.
Pictures: Own illustrations/ featured picture is based on captcreat/flickr. Thanks!