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  • Subject area(s): Marketing
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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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When people think of brands certain emotions may come about when asked how they feel about that brand. The emotion of ‘love' may be instinctively said, while ‘hate' may be used and a whole slew of emotions in between. But it is the word ‘love' that becomes a very interesting topic and word choice when talking about brands. Defined by two main characteristics, emotion and passion, brand love is the emotional and passionate relationship between a satisfied customer and a brand (“Brand Love” 1). Brand love is the bridge between the customer's satisfaction and their brand loyalty (“Brand Love” 1). Due to this, brand love predicts brand loyalty and is an antecedent to brand loyalty and satisfaction is an antecedent to brand love. Brand love is made up of seven core elements: (1) self-brand recognition, (2) passion-driven behaviors, (3) positive emotional connection, (4) long-term relationship, (5) positive overall attitude valence, (6) attitude certainty and confidence (strength) and (7) anticipated separation distress (Batra et al. 2). Additionally, brand love helps explain the variation in repeat purchase intention, positive word of mouth and resistance to negative information about the brand. If someone is in love with a brand they are going to defend it until the end. They won't care if someone else doesn't like the brand and won't want to listen to the negativity that person has to say about it. Instead, they'll try to convince them otherwise. Due to the fact that many feel so strongly about brands and love them, some consumers have gone as far as to assign human characteristics to brands, consider brands as their counterpart in an interpersonal relationship and built communities around brands. There is an emotional relationship established by consumers with the brands they buy. They are so connected with the brand emotionally, that it essentially a part of who they. As stated by Roberts, brand love happens primarily on the individual level. It is the individual who decided what brands they want to buy, what brands they become attached to and what brands they fall in love with (3). “Brand love is not simply a preference; instead, it is the brand that a consumer chooses without reason.”

From the study Falling in Love with Brands: A Dynamic Analysis of the Trajectories of Brand Love, five different brand love trajectory types emerged: slow development, liking becomes love, love all the wat, bumpy road and turnabout (Langner 18-20). With respect to brand love, trajectories are characterized by a rise of positive affect toward the brand. As stated in the study, slow development describes a relatively slow upward transition to the feeling of love that begins with a neutral feeling during the first contact with the brand. Liking becomes love illustrates a transition from merely liking the branded product to actually loving it. Love all the way refers to the brand love that occurred either at first sight or in a very short time after the ignition contact and has been maintained to the present: “Perception. Desire to town it. Big, big love.” Bumpy road describes a fluctuating, even erratic, path to the consumer's current state of brand love. And finally, turnabout describes paths the begin with a feeling of dislike toward the brand that changes to love over time. It was also found that combining different experiences formed a brand love relationship that proved powerfully emotional consequences, like paying a price premium (18-20). Additionally, the positive experiences with the brand led to a stronger development and maintenance of brand love as well as influence evaluations and emotional reactions to the brand (22).

When launching the iPod, Steve Jobs' marketing goal was to be something to somebody not be everything to everybody. This is why Jobs referred to the iPod as “a tool for the heart (Brown)” The brand is built on fan love, not customer liking. “The Apple Brand inspires a peculiar level of love, one that makes people stand around on a cold street just to be one of the first to buy a new product (Brown).” It may have all started when Jobs wanted his company's first computer to be able to feel more human-like and say “hello” when turned on (Matyszczyk). He wanted to have a connection be made with the device and user. Jobs knew that “if you inspire a positive emotional reaction, rationality is thrust into the background (Matyszczyk).” It is why Apple is such a prominent example of brand love, especially with millennials. From experience, looking throughout a college classroom, for those that allow laptops in them, a sea of MacBooks are usually seen. Whether it's a MacBook, a MacBook Pro or a MacBook Air, a majority of the students have some form of a MacBook or maybe even an iPad. And if you look right next to their laptop or in their hand, you'll most likely find one of the numerous versions of an iPhone. Apple has created such a strong and powerful brand for themselves that once someone buys one of their products, they will most likely go back and buy more from them, either for themselves or as a gift. It may start with an iPod or an iPhone, but soon after that, a person gets hooked and falls in love with Apple. They'll soon buy an iPad, a MacBook, Apple TV, etc. Then from here it would be buying the newer versions of each. A new iPhone hits the market about every one to two years and once this new version comes out, many Apple customers will preorder their new phones or go wait in line hours before its launched so they don't have to wait even longer after the phone comes out because it's backordered. People are in love with Apple. You will also see that those who do not own a MacBook most likely have some sort of PC and their phone will probably be a Samsung or some kind of Android. Those who choose PC and Samsung love these brands. It will always go back and forth with these two. Very rarely, will you see someone with both an Apple product and a PC/ Android product and it's because of this brand love. Friends will always try to persuade their friends to switch to Apple or switch to Samsung because they feel so strongly about the brand; they love that brand and they want others to feel the same way they do about it and more so with phones. Why else do people freak out when they lose their phones or sleep with them, they are basically in a relationship with it.

As Michael Donnelly, director-global interactive marketing, of Coca-Cola stated, “So much of our metrics aren't about sales, but they're about brand love (Batra et al. 3) Coca-Cola has such a strong brand that they have such a strong following. People love Cocoa-Cola and will only purchase Coca-Cola products. Some love it so much that their wedding theme was Coca-Cola. The bridesmaids' bouquets were flowers made out of coke cans, the centerpieces were succulents inside coke cans that acted like vases and the gifts were the original Coca-Cola glass bottles with a personalized bottle cap (“Getting Married with Coca-Cola”). “Coca-Cola wants to transmit its values and influence the way you look at your world and the world (“Getting Married with Coca-Cola”).” To have someone theme their wedding after your brand is something powerful. That couple is so in love with the brand that on their most special day, they decided to share it with Coca-Cola; that is some strong brand love.

However, because brand love is becoming an increasing interested topic in the branding field, there is still a difference of opinion on exactly what brand love is. One of the overlying questions with respect to brand love is whether consumers can experience feelings of love for a brand. Another is, is the feeling of love for a brand similar to a feeling of love for a person (Albert et al. 1062)? While some may feel that there is a true feeling of love and connection someone may have with a brand, others feel that people cannot actually be in love with a brand. For this reason, some argue that brand love needs to be conceptualized “from the ground up (Batra et al. 4).” This means that there needs to be a deeper understanding of how this ‘love' is experienced by consumers and from there, the connection should be made. Additionally, they feel that many marketing studies have omitted the exploratory work that is needed in the early research states in order to establish the boundaries and contents of the key construct (4). Due to this lack, two problems have surfaced: assuming the equivalence of brand love and interpersonal love and second, the perception of brand love as an emotion rather than a relationship. In order to help with these problems and fully understand what brand love is, there needs to be an implicit definition of love that consumers are using when they say they love a brand (4).

Because brand love deals with emotions or love, prototyping of these attributes come out: the brand love prototype. “The more of these prototype features a relationship or an emotion has, and the more central those attributes are to the prototype, the more likely a consumer is to consider it some type of love (Batra et al. 7).” Ten elements are involved with the brand love prototype. They are (1) high quality, (2) linkages to strongly held values, (3) beliefs that the brand provided intrinsic rather than extrinsic rewards, (4) use of the loved brand to express both current and self-identity, (5) a positive effect, (6) a sense of rightness and a feeling of passion, (7) an emotional bond, (8) investments of time and money, (9) frequent thought and use and (10) length of use (10) High quality meant that the brand was the best available; it was the best in every way. Brands held strong values for respondents when they also connected to something when what a respondent felt was on a deeper level, like self-actualization, close interpersonal relationships, existential meaning and or religious or cultural identities. A brand creates psychological states, like happiness, when using the product; a brand is providing intrinsic rewards for a respondent. While loved brands provide both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards, consumers felt that when only extrinsic rewards were provided, they weren't in love with the brand anymore, causing intrinsic rewards to really be a part of band love. When respondents felt a strong identity with a brand they loved, it showed a direct relationship with the object and the loved brand's facilitation of interpersonal relationships. Positive emotional terms were used when describing the love of a brand. A sense of natural fit and harmony was found between respondents and their loved brands. There was a sense of “rightness” about the relationship. It included a very strong desire for that specific brand, reflecting higher arousal, ‘hotter' aspects of brand love or known as, passion. Additionally, respondents felt an emotionally, connected bond with their loved products. Because of this it was found that consumers have very strong desires to stay very close to these loved products. There is “separation distress” when consumers are too distanced from these products. Because respondents had such love for these brands they have more willingness to invest. They'll pay a higher premium for these brands because they love them so much; they see the investment's importance and the deeper integration into their identity. They have a more frequent engagement and thought and use with the brand. It essentially becomes a “relationship partner.” And finally, the length of use. The longer use or history with a brand can predict further use into the future. This implies that there is a higher loyalty to loved brands (10-13). Taking all ten of these into consideration, one will get a more thorough understanding of what brand love is and how it is seen in the eyes of consumers. However, consumers felt that the love they have for a brand was a different kind of love than that of interpersonal love. The brand love was partially based on the consumers' interpersonal love and then modified to fit a consumer context. Furthermore, consumers were concerned not with what they could do with the brand but what the brand could do for them (15).

Additionally, brand love can be seen differently in other countries. Due to the fact that the word ‘love' is sacred to the French culture, consumers feel that there could be no love feeling felt towards a brand. A study conducted on French consumers with respect to brand love brought out eleven dimensions what brand love is to them. They are: passion, duration of the relationship, self-congruity, dreams, memories, pleasure, attraction, uniqueness, beauty, trust and declaration of affect (Albert 1072-1074). Two dimensions of brand love were found to be explicitly shared with those that were found with respect to France and the U.S. These two dimensions are passion and pleasure. On top of this, three dimensions were linked to American ones: dream, declaration of affect and duration of the relationship. However, declaration of affect is said slightly different because French consumers use the words ‘adore' or ‘like' when talking about brands they love, unlike in the U.S. where consumers use ‘love.' It would be declaration of love in the U.S. While there are these similarities, there are some differences between the dimensions in both countries (1072-1074). In France memory and trust dimensions are very clear in terms of brand love. Although there are dimensions to brand love for the French, they still view it differently (mostly because of what the word ‘love' means to them). They conceptualize love for a brand as a set of characteristics and dimensions, unlike in the U.S. where it is viewed on an interpersonal relationship level (1074).

Once brand love is thoroughly understood by academics, it can be a really powerful tool for marketers. In this day and age, it can be hard to keep the attention of customers while looking at ads. Something has to grab their attention. If it's a brand that they already love, the attention will automatically be grabbed but it is retaining that attention and prolonging the relationship of that consumer that keeps a brand going. If consumers just liked a brand they wouldn't try and demand their family and friends to go out and by that brand. They would not pay a higher price for it. Rather they would have probably gotten that specific item because it was, the only thing they could get at the time, was on sale, etc. “The relationship of being Liked is transactional. It's easy come easy go (Brown).”

Overall, brand love is a relatively new concept to the marketing world. It is something that is very evident in today's society; most likely between the top two competitors. Due to the recent development of the brand love concept, many marketers and branding academics agree that there is such thing as brand love while others don't because there is no concrete proof of it. They feel that there needs to me more research from the ground up of the concept. Additionally, it is important to recognize how other cultures view the topic of brand love. This will only help further in the development of brand love. However, even with this skepticism, the concept of brand love is definitely there. Consumers do essentially ‘fall in love' with particular brands. Even if it is not the same type of love as one would have with another human, there is still the emotional relationship there. Consumers are willing to pay a premium for their beloved brands; they try and make their family and friends buy the brands they love. Companies are realizing this brand love and are now trying to use it in their favor when marketing their brands and products. Instead of focusing more so on the product, they are focusing on the relationships and emotions that the product brings to customers. Further research and the development of brand love could help increase the outcomes of what brand love is. It will help those understand the concept more and better understand why it can be a very crucial part of the future for brands and understanding those brands' consumers.  

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