The classic Mac vs. PC debate: Why do consumers behave this way? Why do they profess undying patronage despite possible product flaws or criticism from others — even becoming spokespersons and evangelists of the brands?
MANILA, Philippines – These are truly interesting times for global consumerism. In the telecommunications arena, for instance, we are amid an endless and sometimes vitriolic debate between iPhone and Samsung Galaxy users on which smartphone is better. This is reminiscent of the deep chasm created between PC and Mac users decades back.
The keen marketer will not focus on the issue itself but, rather, on a commonality that runs across the consumers involved — and that is their undying loyalty and passion for their chosen brand.
We have all experienced and seen such consumer behavior — whether it involves teenagers lining up for the latest Nike Jordans or society matrons clawing to be included on the waitlist for an alligator Hermes Birkin. The anticipation, excitement, hysteria and pleasure derived from owning these products — the first to have among peers — drive consumption.
Why do consumers behave this way? What dictates their preference? Why do they profess undying patronage despite possible product flaws or criticism from others — even becoming spokespersons and evangelists of the brands?
Clearly, this happens when products have gone beyond being a mere product or brand. They have achieved what Saatchi and Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts calls “lovemarks.” Simply put, these brands have now transcended into a manifestation of a consumer’s love or emotional attachment.
In the field of public relations, the goal for brands to become “lovemarks” should take center stage as well. While the new “You-niverse” or largely, the “selfie” generation presents challenges, it also provides opportunities as well. Where the focus of control shifts toward individuals and small groups or communities, PR can rise up to the challenge of co-creating brand love with these consumers and stakeholders in general.
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One of the first things that PR practitioners need to do is accept that we no longer exist in the Age of Attention, where the primary task is to inform, educate and communicate. Today, we operate and live in an Age of Attraction where it has become imperative for PR to re-craft its tools so that our organizations, businesses or clients are not only known for something, known for good things, known for things that are different, but are also known for something that our consumers, stakeholders and target audiences care about.
In the Age of Attraction, PR engages and not just interrupts and connects; not just directs or instructs. Today, more than ever, there is a need for personal and authentic conversations and not just information dissemination.
It has also become imperative for PR practitioners to realize that PR campaigns do not and should never exist in silos. Today, more and more PR campaigns are using the 360 approach — the convergence of PR, marketing and advertising — to achieve not just brand recall and preference but purchase and consumption. It is fast becoming an accepted truism that corporate reputation and brand are indivisible — and that to create and mobilize resources to advance one without much regard to the other is senseless and futile.
Last and most importantly, we have to accept that we can never create brands beyond brands — the “lovemarks” —precisely without the “love” in it. This does not simply abandon the concept of PR as a trust-builder, but simply expands our way of thinking and our approach to include “love” strategies in the development and implementation of our campaigns.
However, as Roberts’ book Lovemarks stresses, there is the need to balance love with respect. Love for a brand without respect can be considered a fad at best; respect for a brand may be there, but without love, consumers will abandon ship during difficult times. Therefore, the perfect balance between love and respect is primordial in crafting, framing and implementing our communications campaigns.
PR practitioners should be able to provide ample time and resources in the development and deployment of love and respect strategies.
Through the respect strategies, PR practitioners should be able to build trust and reputation by highlighting performance, milestones and achievements. We should train our sights on company heritage, brand technologies and innovation and reach. Through the respect strategies, we should be able to provide prominence to our partners, key opinion leaders and the communities that businesses operate in.
On the other hand, love strategies would require PR practitioners to highlight corporate contributions to nation building and community development, societal good and advancement of humanity. Through the love strategies, PR practitioners should be able to engage consumers in the key areas Roberts identified: mystery, which is keeping consumers on their toes on the latest about their beloved brands; sensuality, which simply means engaging all five senses; and intimacy, which means being personally involved in their day-to-day living, including triumphs and trials, joys and sadness.
Using the love-respect nexus, PR will be better at generating emotional bonds — from mere likes on a Facebook page, to genuine love for the brand. This is the essence behind virality or the emergence of shareable PR — publicity-led campaigns that will not just make companies, products, services and personalities be trustworthy but love-worthy as well.
Indeed, after all, Roberts’ philosophy of love is no longer just applicable in the advertising industry. It actually speaks of a human truth that resonates in all of us. Even in our world of PR, it’s really a love thing, too.
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Ron F. Jabal is the global award-winning country media head and internal communications manager of Shell companies in the Philippines. He is currently the external vice president of the Public Relations Society of the Philippines (PRSP) and chairman of the 21st National PR Congress to be held on Sept. 25 to 26 in Tagaytay City. Interested delegates and sponsors may call the congress secretariat at 661-7209 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.