Triple Bottom Line

Brand Love for Purpose Driven Brands

December 28, 2022 Taylor Martin / Aaron Ahuvia
Triple Bottom Line
Brand Love for Purpose Driven Brands
Show Notes Transcript

Dr. Aaron Ahuvia is the world’s leading expert on brand love. He's a professor, author, keynote speaker, consultant to big brands, and has been on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Aaron is here to guide us through where brand love comes from, how to create it, harness it, and manage it. But with great power comes great responsibility. Incredibly insightful interview from the doctor that understands how consumers can love your brand.  https://thethingswelove.com

Triple Bottom Line |Episode 47 |Dr. Aaron Ahuvia|

[Upbeat theme music plays] 
Female Voice Over 
[00:03] Welcome to the Triple Bottom Line, where we reveal how today’s business leaders are reaching a new level of success with a people-planet-profit approach. And here is your host, Taylor Martin!

Taylor Martin 
[00:17] Hello, welcome, everyone. We have Dr. Aaron Ahuvia here today to talk to us about Brand Love. He’s the world’s leading expert on Brand Love. He’s also a professor at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. He’s conducted the first scientific studies of Brand Love some 30 years ago and remains the leading researcher in this area. The topic of Brand Love is also a growing interest. It has around 14,000 studies listed on Google Scholar now. Stanford just ranked him in the Top 2% of all scientists worldwide, not just Brand Love. He’s been a guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show. He’s also given speeches and consulted for just a broad range of large corporations from Google to L’Oréal to Procter & Gamble to Audi to Herman Miller. The list goes on and on and on. He launched a new book this year titled The Things We Love: How Our Passions Connect Us and Make Us Who We Are. In this book, Aaron explains the psychology behind Brand Love. It has been named by Amazon as one of the best 20 business books of 2022. You can understand how excited I am to have him on the show today. Aaron, so much to talk about, but first, I want to know why – or what first prompted you to focus on Brand Love?

Dr. Aaron Ahuvia
[01:39] Taylor, thank you so much for having me. I’ve been really looking forward to doing this conversation with you, especially given the general topic of your podcast is something I’m really passionate about. This is something I’ve been looking forward to. All right. There is, I think, a little bit of a funny back story to this. I was in the PhD program in marketing at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Business. They have a professor there who’s a very famous marketing professor, a guy named Philip Kotler. I was taking his course. He was going on about how everything is marketing. Even dating is marketing, like when you’re dating, you’re marketing yourself to the person that you’re dating. I was single at the time and dating was way more interesting to me than real marketing. I asked him if I could do my term paper on dating as marketing. He’s a very broadminded guy. He said of course, not only that, he put me in touch with a professor Mara Adelman who had a bunch of data on dating services. This was just before the internet came in. Dating services went from being almost nonexistent thing in the US to starting to be a little bit of a big business.

She had data. We wrote a bunch of really major papers on dating services. That’s how I ended up on the Oprah Winfrey Show. I used to do workshops for people writing singles ads, like hey, he’s got a PhD in marketing. He’s going to tell you how to write a singles ad. This is how I worked my way through graduate school. That was all great. In order to do that work, I needed to study the psychology of romantic love. I found that fascinating. I spent about two years reading in great detail in this literature. Time came for my dissertation. I knew if I went out on the job market as the dating services guy, I was not going to get a good job. I needed something else. I thought, well, I’ve already spent two years reading about love. People say all the time, oh, I love my car or whatever it is. Do they really? Is that just exaggeration or do they really love that? If so, what does that kind of love – what is it and what does it have to do with the other kinds of love that we normally think of? That became my dissertation topic. I was very lucky. People had certainly mentioned the fact that people seem to fall in love with products before, but nobody had really sat down and researched it seriously before. That kicked off a bunch of research. I ended up writing a paper that introduced the term Brand Love a little bit later with Barbara Carroll. It’s just been a fascinating area to work in.

Taylor Martin
[04:27] When people are thinking Brand Love, they’re probably thinking what’s the difference between thinking a brand is really, really good? What’s the difference between loving a brand and just thinking it’s really great?

Dr. Aaron Ahuvia
[04:37] Brand Love does usually start off that way. One of the differences between Brand Love and romantic love or love of your kids, they actually do these amazing studies. They put people in brain scanning machines and they have them think about brands they love and people they love. They look at what parts of the brain are activated. One of the differences is, when you’re thinking about brands you love, the part of your brain that does judgment is much more active. You’re much more judgmental about brands and products than you are about your kids. You’re sometimes judgmental about your kids and your romantic partners, too, but you’re a lot more judgmental with products and brands. There is a lot of judgment. Is this good quality? Is it good? You can see this, too, if you say, “Oh, love that haircut,” all you really mean with that kind of a use is, hey, nice haircut. I judge that to be a really good haircut. That’s essentially what you’re saying. It starts off there and you’ve got to have a really good quality product that has some excellent features. However, where it gets interesting is that it doesn’t end there. There’s a lot brands, like for me, Mercedes is a brand that I judge to be a very high-quality brand. I don’t own a Mercedes. I don’t love Mercedes. There’s obviously something else going on beyond the fact that you’re judging it to be high quality that’s involved in love. That’s where it really starts to get juicy.

Taylor Martin
[06:05] It’s about the judgment. It’s the judgment that creates the passion?

Dr. Aaron Ahuvia
[06:09] It’s the judgment first and then it’s a judgment plus a bunch of other stuff. It’s the bunch of other stuff that gets, I think, more interesting than just the judgment.

Taylor Martin
[06:21] The judgment takes you down the rabbit hole.

Dr. Aaron Ahuvia
[06:23] Yeah, it gets you going. It gets you going a lot of the time. Then once you started there, then you have to develop emotional connections to it. Then there comes in a lot of passionate feelings. How that stuff happens, that sort of emotional involvement, because judgment, you make a lot of positive judgments about things or negative judgments. It doesn’t necessarily bring on an emotional connection. The part of Brand Love that really works for companies is that combination of the cognitive rational judgment that this is a good thing with the emotional loyalty and passion that motivates the action and gets people – when you love a brand, if you’re on the internet and you see someone has written something negative about that brand, people that love that brand, they jump to the defense of that band. They go out there and they talk about how all those other people are crazy. You don’t know what you’re talking about, etc. As a company, you really want that. That’s very valuable to you. People don’t do that just because they judge the brand to be high quality. They do that because they see that brand that they love as part of their own identity. When somebody has insulted that brand, they feel that they have been personally insulted. They’ve been personally insulted, that gives them the emotional motivation to go out there and respond. That’s the kind of thing that we’re talking about with Brand Love that makes it so valuable to companies.

Taylor Martin
[08:02] Let’s dig into the research that you had in your book. In your book, you explained how love evolved in animals and why that makes Brand Love such a powerful marketing strategy. Can you elaborate on how that works?

Dr. Aaron Ahuvia
[08:14] Sure, so there are sort of two phases here. Phase 1 is for all animals. There’s some animals, like most fish, that lay a lot of eggs, but they don’t – once they’re done laying and fertilizing the eggs, they’re done. They don’t feed their kids. They don’t protect their kids. They don’t raise their kids. That’s one type of reproductive strategy. There’s other animals that have far fewer children but feed them and raise them and take care of them. At some point in evolutionary history, and scientists don’t really know exactly when so I’ll say about 500 million years ago as a guess, you had a bunch of these animals that had the strategy of having a whole lot of kids. Some of them developed this behavior of being able to care for their kids and feed their kids. This, of course, is a huge reproductive advantage, especially if you’re in certain situations. That developed – they needed a psychological – these animals created in their brains a psychological mechanism that led to these behaviors. It led to protecting the kids and feeding the kids and caring for the kids and whatnot. Also, in a lot of these situations, the male and female would both cooperate with each other to get the food that the family needed and to do everything that the kids needed. This also was an evolutionary advantage.

What love is is it is the modern version of this very ancient psychological system. It does three basic things. It brings the male and female together. It creates attraction between the male and the female. That translates now into attraction to the product or the brand, this incredible attraction that people feel to things that they love. The second thing it does is it gets the parents to make a sacrifice for the kids so they take food that they could eat themselves and they give it to the kids. Similarly, it makes people willing to make a sacrifice for the brand. They’re willing to pay more for it. If it’s not in the store when they first walk into the store, they’re willing to walk to a different store, etc. The third thing that it does is some animals mature very quickly but others can take years. Humans have the longest time to mature of any animal species. Love has to hold that male and female parents together long enough to raise the kids. It creates this long-term relationship. That is something that is very valuable to marketers. We want a long-term loyalty from our customers. These three core things, the attraction to the product, the willingness to pay a premium for the product, and the loyal relationship over a long period of time with the brand and the product, these are incredibly valuable. They come right out of the core of what love is. Love is that motivational system that creates those behaviors. If you could tap into that, that’s super powerful.

Taylor Martin
[11:28] When you’re saying this, I’m like, yeah, I’m in marketing. I understand. I get it, but I have to tell you, when you first started talking about this, like when you did that paper way back in the day when you were telling people this, what was the response? Were they like you’re crazy? What is that about? Was it eye opening for people?

Dr. Aaron Ahuvia
[11:45] It was so split. There were some people who got it and were like this is great. There were other people who were like, but we already have the idea that people prefer one brand to the other. Why do we need love? My answer to that was, well, it doesn’t really matter whether we need it or not. It’s an evolved part of the human brain. It’s there. We can deal with it or not. We can ignore it or we can pay attention to it. We don’t get to choose whether it’s happening or not. I’ll give you an analogous example. This isn’t about love. This is about hunger but this is just a fascinating little story. If you give people, you get them to really – find people who love sports cars and get them psyched up about it and then you show them a sports car, they will literally salivate in their mouth when they see that sports car. Why is that happening? If you see food and you’re going to eat the food, the salivatory response makes an enormous amount of sense. It’s much easier to chew if you’ve got a wet mouth. It’s got enzymes in the saliva that start to digest the food, very reasonable thing to do.

You’re not going to eat the car. It doesn’t make any sense for the car, but think about your poor brain. Your brain evolved over hundreds of millions of years. It evolved in a world where there was food but there weren’t cars. Now it sees this car and it has no choice but to say, all right, well, I don’t have any – I’ve got nothing for a car. I’m going to have to pick whatever comes closest. A car is kind of like food because it’s this object that’s out there in the world and I want it. I’m going to take this psychological system that was evolved for food and I’m going to apply it to a car. Along the way, you start salivating because that’s part of this whole process. Love is the same kind of phenomena, just like system that evolved for food gets applied to a car, the system love that was evolved for families and raising children and finding mates also gets applied to cars in some situations. That’s just crazy powerful stuff. That’s Phase 1. There’s also sort of a Phase 2 in human evolution. I can get to that if you want as well.

Taylor Martin
[14:29] Sure, yeah.

Dr. Aaron Ahuvia
[14:30] All right. In many, many animals, I was fascinated doing this research to learn how many animals really have something very similar to human love. It’s not unique to people at all. It covers the things I just mentioned before, the attraction between the mates, the willing to make a sacrifice, the long-term relationship, but that is all within either mates or genetic relatives. It’s all about directly passing on your genes. In humans and perhaps a few other species, we have a very small number of species and maybe only humans, we have a very different kind of friendship where we make friends with people who aren’t our genetic relatives and these are mutual bilateral relationships. Love is what makes those possible. In America, we don’t always talk about loving our friends. I think there’s a little bit of homophobia going on with that. It’s like guys go like, oh, that sounds weird, but yeah, you love your friends. Psychologically, love is what creates this friendship. What makes love is what makes the friendship possible because you need a relationship where people are going to really be willing to make sacrifices for each other. You need to know that, if I make a sacrifice for you, if the situation would be reversed, you’re going to make a sacrifice for me. This goes both ways. The love in the relationship gives both people confidence that this relationship is going to be mutual and allows them to work together as a team over the long term.

Sometimes it’s in just a one-on-one relationship but very often it’s in a team. If you’re a coach of a sports team, one of the first things you do is you try and get the teammates to love each other because that is going to create a much more effective team. Humans, our evolutionary success is very much about our ability to work together as small teams and do things collaboratively together, like hunting or all the other things we did. Love allows that team to work together effectively. What that means in a business sense then is that when you’re soliciting love from a customer, you’re entering into this kind of relationship with them, which needs to be mutual. Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t make money. People have business friendships all the time. People make money in business relationships and that’s great, but if it’s a real friendship – I’ve heard this phrase real friends and deal friends. If it’s just deal friends, then whether things are really going to be reciprocal is not so clear, but if it’s real friends, even in a business friendship, you’re going to make money with this person and from this person but you’re not going to exploit the person. You’re not going to take advantage of the person. You’re going to look out for your interest but you’re also going to look out for their interest. You expect them to do the same. That’s what makes that relationship profitable for both of you and really beneficial for both of you.

That’s one of the ways – this podcast is, of course, the Triple Bottom Line podcast. I know that there’s a broad listener base. Some of your listeners are with companies that are very mission-driven where that’s really at the core of what they do. Other listeners are at companies that are more traditional companies but want to have a mission-driven aspect to what they do. One of the advantages of having at least a mission-driven aspect is it makes these long-term collaborations, this relationship love, more possible because you’re able to legitimately say to yourself and that other person, we’re going to make money together but I’m not going to throw you to the wolves the first time the opportunity comes up to make an extra 10% by taking advantage of you.

Taylor Martin
[19:03] Yeah, I think the relationship, I was just waiting for us to get into that, delve into that because relationships are tricky, even with personal people, people to people relationships. Relationships with brands are no different, I think, from that because if you are delivering on your promise with your brand and people love your brand and everything, well, if you slip up and screw up and then they feel like they’ve been jaded by the brand, then you have a whole other – it’s like the opposite of what you just had.

Dr. Aaron Ahuvia
[19:35] Yeah, it depends on who the consumer is and what happened. Let’s assume you’ve got an emotionally healthy consumer to begin with, which is not always the case, unfortunately, but you’ve got an emotionally healthy consumer. The first time you screw up, they’re going to be forgiving because they love the brand and people are very forgiving in these relationships. You get a little bit more slack, or a lot more slack sometimes, than you would otherwise. However, if you screw up enough, then they not only won’t forgive you but it moves in the other direction. Then the feeling is like, oh, this person was cheating on me, essentially. It’s not just that they were a bad product. There’s a lot of bad products out there, but they were bad people. They were out to get me. They were morally bad people who were not trustworthy. That creates hatred of those people. That can be a real problem. That can happen if it’s just a quality mistake. If it’s the kind of mistake where the person feels cheated, it’s not just that the product broke, but you did something that they felt was dishonest, you can get to that hatred a lot faster than if it’s just a quality thing.

Then there’s also the situation where you’re dealing with customers who aren’t so emotionally healthy. This is based on a good deal of research. Customers who tend to feel that, in general – I won’t go through all the science, but there’s something called attachment theory that some of the listeners may be familiar with about how your relationships with your parents affect your romantic relationships as adults. People who as adults have developed this model that other people are out to get me, other people aren’t honest, they are very quick to assume that the products and brands and the companies they deal with aren’t honest. There’s a little bit of evidence to suggest that that might be true, they can get very mad and then they can go on a rampage, which can be very, very dangerous for the company. Often these people will do dishonest things. They’ll go online and claim that they’ve bought all sorts of products from this company that they haven’t bought simply so they can give them one-star reviews over and over again to bring down their averages. They’ll do a lot of sort of very angry malicious stuff. At a practical level, I don’t know what there is that a company can do about this. You can’t quite, before we start selling products to a customer, give them an emotional maturity test, but at least if you’re a listener, you’re out there and you’re like, yeah, we’ve got some customers who are just out there vandalizing us. What happened? A lot of the times at least you can know what’s going on, that there are people who are bringing to the relationship trauma and emotional problems from earlier in their lives that aren’t necessarily about what’s going on with you directly.

Taylor Martin
[22:57] Yeah, they have their own personal baggage. I’m going to circle back to something you said earlier about products. I’ve heard that it’s said that people can’t love things. You can only love people. What is your response to that?

Dr. Aaron Ahuvia
[23:13] This is going to sound like a contradiction but I will explain. That statement is completely true and that statement is completely false. Let me go into that. Your brain is built to especially focus on people. Your brain evolved to give a lot of priority and attention to your relationships with people because while the human brain was really evolving, the thing that mattered most to your survival and your production was your relationships with other people. A lot of times, people think, oh, today my relationship with my boss is super important and that’s going to affect my success, but back in evolutionary times it was all about whether I got eaten by a saber-toothed tiger. That’s not really true. Back in evolutionary times, there were a lot dangers. Saber-toothed tiger was one of them, but you know what killed a lot more people than saber-toothed tigers? Other people did. It’s always been the case that your life success or failure has really been driven by your relationships with the people around you. As a result, there’s been a lot of evolutionary pressure on our brains to develop mechanisms for managing effectively our relationships with other people.

Your brain actually goes so far as in some cases to have different physical parts of the brain for thinking about people that are different from the parts that think about objects. If you see a Roomba, one of those little robot vacuums, vacuuming the floor, your brain will think about that in one part of the brain. If you see a human being vacuuming a floor, you’ll think about that in a physically different part of your brain. Love is one of these psychological mechanisms that evolved in the context of human relationships and it’s really tied to human relationships. When people say you can’t love anything that isn’t a person, there really is a lot of truth to that because your brain does separate out people from non-people and love is about people. That said, we do actually love all kinds of things. It’s very common for people to love things. How can that be? It’s always what I call a case of mistaken identity. There’s three main ways that this happens, but your brain is always, at some nonconscious level, treating that object as if it was a person. Your brain is making that object or brand an honorary person for a little bit and thinking about them in human ways. That’s how love happens. It’s one of the reasons that Brand Love is so powerful and also why it’s not always appropriate for every brand because not every brand is going to get thought of in human ways that way, but that’s sort of the secret to it is, A, have a very high-quality product, and B, get people to start thinking about your brand in human ways.

Taylor Martin
[26:47] Thinking about how your brand is affecting people in human ways or emotional ties to it or all of the above?

Dr. Aaron Ahuvia
[26:54] All of the above, but there’s three main ways that this happens. There’s three main roots for getting people to think about your brand as human. The first, which is the easiest to understand but the least common, is to have a product or a brand that’s anthropomorphic, which means it looks or sounds or talks like a human being. It’s like Siri on your phone. You talk to your phone, it talks back to you, that’s anthropomorphic. Usually, cars, the front of the car, is designed to look like a human face. When that happens, your brain can start processing or thinking about that thing as if it’s human because it literally thinks it’s human and you have this sort of relationship with it, even though consciously you, of course, know it’s not human, but unconsciously, your brain is treating it in that way. That’s really fascinating and powerful but it's not the most common reason.

The second and much more common reason is that you think the brand or the product, your brain treats it as if it’s a person because you’ve associated it very closely with a person. This could be that you have a personal relationship with someone from the company, maybe a salesperson or a service person from the company. You’ve got this person there. You’re dealing with it and you love the company. It’s very easy to understand how that works. Sometimes it happens because there’s a spokesperson in the media for the company and you have a relationship in your mind with that person and you associate the brand with them. Often it happens, because for example, there’s a group of friends, and one of the things that unites you as friends is that you’re all fans of a certain brand. That brand becomes associated with those other people.

Interestingly, people are much more loyal to brands when they have that association to another person. If you and your friend are friends in part because you both love this particular brand or it could be a band or a sports team that you love or whatever it is that’s uniting you, people are much more loyal in that situation than they are when they’re by themselves and love this brand. Because when you cheat on a brand when it’s just you, it's just like you’re cheating on a brand and who really cares? You don’t actually owe the brand anything. If it’s you and your friends, then you feel like you’re cheating on your friends. That’s a lot more powerful. That’s the second kind of situation is that you associate the brand with other people in some way.

The most common, and I’ll explain why here, too, in a little bit if you want, the most powerful is when you come to see the brand as part of your own identity, part of your extended self, and then you start thinking about it as human because you’re a human and it’s part of you and so your brain gives it the human treatment.

Taylor Martin
[30:07] Yeah, my first inclination goes to you’re talking about my cellphone, my mobile phone. That’s an extension of me.

Dr. Aaron Ahuvia
[30:14] Yeah, absolutely. That’s going to get to be even more an extension of you. Right now, it’s an extension of you in part because other people see you use it. You use it publicly. You use it in many aspects of your life. You have this relationship and then you talk to it, but you also store things on your phone. It’s an extension of your memory. It’s literally part of – mine is part of my brain. My memory is partly in my brain and my memory is partly in that phone. There is developing technology now where people are going to have methods of scanning brain activity. This is probably going to sound kind of gross and scary but I really expect that people are going to do this. You need to drill in under the skull to really get this to work right. People are going to have holes drilled in their skulls, I kid you not, and sensors implanted probably between the skull and the brain. They’re going to be sensing brain activity and this is going to be going directly into your phone or whatever it might be. It’s going to become an extension of your mind the same way your body is an extension of your mind. If you think about your body, that’s me. My body is me, of course. Why is it you? One of the reasons is I can control my hand just by thinking about it. You’re going to be able to control your phone just by thinking about it in the same way. It’s going to become as much a part of your body as your hand is.

Taylor Martin
[31:51] That’s biohacking, grinding biohacking. That’s what I’m hearing right there. I’m not into that. I love biohacking, but grinding biohacking I’m just not a subscriber to it. I just think it’s kind of icky.

Dr. Aaron Ahuvia
[32:05] I think most people are going to have that “that sounds horrifying” response now. History is full of things that sounded horrifying at one time and are now entirely taken for granted. I’m old enough to remember when answering machines were introduced. This will sound insane to most listeners now but there were a lot of people who really felt that having an answering machine on your phone was terribly rude because you were expecting a person to talk to a machine and how dehumanizing was it. There was a lot of resistance to answering machines for that kind of a reason. Now if you don’t have voicemail set up on your phone, people think you’re rude for not having that. Nobody thinks anything of talking to machines. People talk to machines all day long. Why does that matter? There’s many such examples.

Taylor Martin
[33:02] Yeah, I’m down with that. I want to ask you a question. How is Brand Love relevant for most brands, even particularly relevant for triple bottom line brands or purpose-driven brands?

Dr. Aaron Ahuvia
[33:14] Yeah, let me start by saying it’s not relevant for all brands. It’s really powerful. Given how powerful it is, you could imagine every brand manager out there would be saying, “Well, that sounds great. How do I get a piece of that?” You have to remember that in order to get a piece – to get in the Brand Love game, you need to be doing things that get your consumers to see your product, at least at a nonconscious level, to start thinking about it the way they think about people. That’s a heavy lift. There’s going to be a lot of times when that doesn’t really make sense for a brand. Especially if you’re selling cans of tuna fish, it may make sense for some brands of tuna fish, and I’ll get into that in a moment, but for a lot, you’re just going to want to get the consumer to be convinced that, A, this is really good tuna fish, and B, hey, I remember when I was a kid, I used to have this tuna fish. It has a little bit of warm emotion associated with it. They think the quality is there. You’ve got a little bit of emotion which is kind of getting the Brand Love direction but it isn’t all that far in that direction. Then you get really good placement in the store and you give people a coupon and you sell your tuna fish.

That’s a very viable strategy based around usually distribution is really key element to that and brand awareness is a key element in that kind of a strategy. However, there are going to be some brands out there where Brand Love really is relevant for that brand. You look at a brand like Apple, and wow, you can see how power – when it works, it really, really works. It’s possible and it works for brands all the time. Those are going to be brands usually that are higher consumer involvement, the things consumers care about more, the things consumers are willing to put a little bit of thought into this. Often, there’s going to be an experience in the consumption. The consumption is something that’s either going to be fun or could be made to be fun or pleasant. There’s an experiential aspect to it that also goes into creating this kind of love, but what you really need is you need the consumer to adopt the brand as part of their own identity. In order to get that to happen, I’ve talked to lots of – done a lot of research on this, talked to a lot of consumers. Overwhelmingly, that happens for consumers when the consumer feels that the brand really reflects who they are in a deeper more personal level. That translates into reflecting the person’s values out there in the world. They’re proud to be associated with that brand because that brand reflects who they are and displays the values that they think are really important in life and in the world. Brands that are at least a little bit mission-driven, maybe they’re serious triple bottom line brands, maybe they’re just mainstream brands with a mission as part of what they do, they can hook into that sense of value, values, not value in the normal sense that marketers talk about.

Taylor Martin
[36:45] Yeah, I know what you meant.

Dr. Aaron Ahuvia
[36:46] Personal values, ethical values, social values, and they can resonate with those values for consumers. That is potentially a solution to a core problem that a lot of mission-driven brands have, because often being mission-driven, of course, can raise your costs in certain ways, which means you have to raise your prices in certain ways, which means you’ve got to get customers to be willing to pay those prices. Brand Love is a great way of getting customers to be willing to pay those prices, but just slapping a “we’re organic” logo on the outside of your package, that’s not a bad step, but it’s not a sufficient step. It’s actually a pretty complicated business of getting customers to really reflect – resonate with your values and feel proud to be associated with the brand.

Taylor Martin
[37:45] Another aspect of all this is, we’ve been talking about customers, customers, customers, but also employees, people that work for a company, if they love where they work because of the purpose-driven aspects of the business and they love the product or service that the company offers, that just makes for a better-quality engagement from the employee, which engages with possibly your customers or other people in your company, which makes a better health culture for your company. There’s a lot of tentacles here when it comes to Brand Love.

Dr. Aaron Ahuvia
[38:18] Absolutely, and there is a nice positive circular loop that goes on here, which is, if the employees love the company and really believe in the mission of the company, that’s contagious. Customers will come to love the company, too. If you can get your employees really on board, that really can trickle out to the customers as well. That is one of the main reasons that companies are interested. Sometimes companies are interested in being a little more mission-driven because they’re hoping that the customers will resonate with that, but a lot of the time, the customers are important but not the first driver. The first driver is the employees. The employees in the company are saying, hey, we want to feel like when we come to work every day, yeah, we want to make money. We get that. We’re all about making money. Absolutely, but we want to do a little more than that. It’s a big part of our lives. We don’t want to spend like 40 years of our lives just making money. We want to feel like it means something a little more. To capture and motivate those employees, it really helps if the brand is doing something that feels a little bit bigger in the world.

Taylor Martin
[39:45] We have a client that is a privately held company. Their mission is to make the future leaders of tomorrow from the inside of the company. That’s their mission. What their business or service is has nothing to do with that, really, but what they do is they focus on this culture of business and they focus on this team-man-ship and teamwork. It percolates out because everybody is so happy to work there. They give back to the community. They do cleanups on the beach. They fix homes. There’s just all this wonderful vibe and culture in the company and their mission-purpose-driven-ness of it, but they’re just starting from the inside out.

Dr. Aaron Ahuvia
[40:30] Yeah, and that’s fantastic. I’ve seen that work at companies. I applaud what they’re doing. That sounds great. If I could give a company like that just another maybe little thought to move things even a little bit further in a positive direction, you mentioned they do cleanups on the beach. I don’t know what industry they’re in, but if you’re a company like that, see if you can find a way of keeping socially driven but do it by contributing your core competencies and your brand value in the sense of commercial consumer value, the things your brand provides to consumers, that kind of brand value, make that the center of your contribution. I’ll give you an example. I’m not going to name the company, but there is a company that is big in managing email, both commercial emails to consumers as well as emails between businesses and they help manage this process. They were doing some really excellent work with a charity in a developing country that was doing a lot of good in this developing country. That’s fantastic. That charity that they were working with, that charity needs to solicit contributions from people all over the world. That’s how the charity raises money.

What if instead of just giving that charity money, they adopted that charity and worked with that charity and said we’re really great with email solicitation. That’s what we do. Let us for free work with you to improve your email solicitations so that you can raise a bunch more money. Then when they put that out there to the public, they can say we work with this charity and we improved by some amount the amount of money they were able to raise. People look at that, the customers look at that, and they go, wow, this company is not only a morally good company but they’re a technologically good company. They’re an effective wise good company. The employees of that company start thinking, hey, not only does – email solicitation, not only is that a way to make money but that actually – our core skill is something good. Our core skill does something good in the world. It’s not like we do this thing which is I’m not sure how good that stuff is but we make it up by giving money to a charity. We do something that’s good.

Taylor Martin
[43:23] Right, you’re actually using your professional services or product to make the good happen.

Dr. Aaron Ahuvia
[43:27] Absolutely.

Taylor Martin
[43:28] Okay, so I’m going to preface this next question because I always think about that Spiderman quote, “with great power comes great responsibility.” What are some key takeaways that can help build Brand Love? Because I feel like if you give people these tools, they have to realize there’s a lot of responsibility. We talked about, when you’re building that relationship, you’ve got to make sure that you have a great product and you’re following through on your promises and you’re keeping that relationship happy and alive.

Dr. Aaron Ahuvia
[43:57] Absolutely, so here’s the sort of first steps to, at a practical level, building Brand Love. Step 1, make sure you’ve actually got a lovable product. It’s the kind of product that people look at and they’re like this is really good. This is really helping me. This is high quality, etc. That’s Step 1, but there’s a lot of companies out there that do have that type of product already, and if they don’t, they’re already working on it. They don’t need me to tell them that that’s important. That’s not new news to most companies.

Then Step 2 is to measure Brand Love. That which is measured improves. If you’re not measuring Brand Love, you don’t know what the hell is going on. A lot of times, the measures that companies use, either they make them up themselves and they’re really not very good, or they use some of the measures that are used commercially and often those, honestly, aren’t very good. They’re usually not very good because they weren’t developed in a sufficiently evidence-based way. There’s a very long explanation of what that means but they didn’t ground it enough in actual consumers. They spent too much time philosophizing about what they think love means. That can really get people into trouble. One of the things that I do most often with companies is the first step is I help them develop a really good measure so they know where the customers love their brands and who does and why.

Then after that, you want to look at the consumer experience. The whole notion of customer experience management is really important because a lot of Brand Love emerges out of what it feels like emotionally to interact with the company and to use the company’s products. That’s the next step. Then after that, you’ve got to start talking about how are you going to get consumers to think about your brand in human ways. Is it going to be through emotional relationships with people who work with the company? Is it going to be through helping customers connect to other customers and forming relationships with them? Is it going to be through getting customers to resonate with the company’s values and feel that the company really is something they’re proud to be associated with? Those are all different ways and that’s a very big discussion as well.

Taylor Martin
[46:33] Yeah, or getting a famous person to be a spokesperson for your company.

Dr. Aaron Ahuvia
[46:37] Yeah, but then you have to keep the famous person on board long enough that it really is more than just attention getting. They become part of the company.

Taylor Martin
[46:48] Part of the brand, sure. Aaron, thank you so much for enlightening us in this area. When you and I first connected, I was like, oh, man, Brand Love, that’s a great conversation. Let’s have that right now. How can our listeners reach out to you or follow you on social media?

Dr. Aaron Ahuvia
[47:03] All right. Obviously, I’m on LinkedIn and the rest, but I’ve got a website, thethingswelove.com. I’ve got a blog with Psychology Today called “Peace, Love, Happiness, and Marketing.” If you go to my website, you can sign up for the blog there. That’s a nice way to keep in touch. I don’t inundate you with email by any means, but I do send around things that are sort of related to Brand Love, also related to the mission-driven companies that would be listening to this podcast. I’m very happy to do that. Be in touch there. I do a lot of consulting and speaking at companies. I would really love to have the opportunity to meet with companies that are interested in using Brand Love potentially as part of their mission-driven marketing initiatives. I would be – usually, I do – this is a fee-based service, but if you’re interested, if you’re out there listening and you’re interested and you’re willing to pay the travel costs, I’m really curious to talk to companies about what they’re doing. I’d be delighted to come and pay you a visit and give a talk and share what I’ve learned about this as a way of getting to know what you’re doing as well. I think that could be a really nice way to keep in touch.

Taylor Martin
[48:38] See, this is what we need more of, people. We need more people doing something like this where you’re giving your time to help organizations that are probably doing something good but you’re giving them a little boost. Just like I’ve mentioned on previous podcasts, people that are doing something to help other companies that are in fact trying to do something. I commend you for that. Everybody, the book is The Things We Love: How Our Passions Connect Us and Make Us Who We Are. Aaron, thank you so much for being on the show today. I’ve really enjoyed this conversation.

Dr. Aaron Ahuvia
[49:10] Taylor, this has been a great pleasure. I love your podcast. It’s been really a worthwhile experience. Thanks.

Taylor Martin
[49:19] Awesome, thank you, Aaron. Thank you, everybody, for being here. Over and out. 

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[49:24] Thanks for tuning into the Triple Bottom Line. Your host, Taylor Martin, is founder and Chief Creative of Design Positive, a strategic branding and accessibility agency. Interested in being interviewed on our podcast? Then visit designpositive.co and fill out our contact form. If you enjoyed today’s podcast, we would appreciate a review on Apple podcasts or whatever provider you are logging in from. This podcast is prepared by Design Positive and is not associated with any other entity. We look forward to having you back for another installment of the Triple Bottom Line.

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