Love is in the air this Valentine’s Day. It's this time of year when sappy, indulgent love songs reach their peak rotation on the radio and Spotify playlists. They latch onto our eardrums, sneak into our subconscious, and stay there on repeat for weeks on end. These songs, in some way or another, profess an end-of-the-world love, a promise of undying affection and dedication, all in hopes of wooing a love interest. Songs that say Don’t leave me. Take me back. Reciprocate my overture. Say “you love me, too." I can’t help but notice a resemblance between our beloved ballads and brand advertising.
Like the singers in love songs, brands make big promises in their marketing communications, to both current and potential consumers, begging and pleading “Baby, baby, please…!” Brands use catchy language, music mnemonics and featured performers (i.e., celebrity endorsers), all in an effort to woo consumers into relationships that lead to action: Buy. Share. Click. Search. Sample.
But much like true love, it’s not enough to say it, brands also have to prove it. Smart marketers are moving beyond just brand communications (saying it) to focus on brand kinetics (behaving it).
As we find ourselves nearing Valentine’s Day this year, it’s a good reminder for brands to do a little less declaring and a little more demonstrating. Or as Madonna puts it, “get into the groove, boy, you have to prove your love to me!” On that note, here are three things to consider:
(1) “You can’t hurry love, you just have to wait”
Love takes time. If a couple says “I love you” after the first date, we immediately become skeptical of its merits. However, marketers are constantly looking for love to bloom within a quarter because that’s when their performance numbers are due. Intuitively, it doesn’t make sense, but brands are showing up in more places and more frequently - thanks to programmatic buying and retargeting - in hopes of “developing a relationship” quickly. Some may see this as persistence, but in many instances this level of stalking would turn someone off. Brands have to be willing to put in the time it takes to build a meaningful relationship the right way.
(2) “Try not to hide what you feel deep inside/if you care, you must dare to be free as the air”
As Earth, Wind, & Fire proclaimed, brands have to let their feelings show. When a brand’s beliefs are reflected in its behaviors, it sends a clear signal that the brand is “about it.” REI’s decision to close its stores during Black Friday is a great example of this, because beyond PR value, it was a demonstrative representation of its core beliefs. REI believes the outdoors are meant to be explored, so it encouraged consumers to spend their day off exploring, not shopping. Though the decision might have cost REI potential revenue on an important day for retail, it was far more important for them to represent their truth. And isn’t that what we expect of any overture of love?
(3) “Because I need somebody who will stand by me”
When it comes to love, it’s the hard times that prove the “real” vs the “fake.” A perfect example of this is Tristan Walker’s Bevel. The company founded a core shaving system product for men of color. It was meant to be an alternative to Gillette and other mainstream shaving products that did not meet the unique sensitivities of black men shavers. Walker launched Bevel as a subscription based service to remedy these pain points with a product “for us, by us.” After three successful years, Walker has reportedly received offers to the tune of $500 million to acquire Bevel from the very same companies that previously ignored Bevel’s target consumer, considering it too small. Sounds like a payday, right? Rather, Walker has remained committed to the brand’s core consumer. Bevel is putting a stake in the ground to say this is “for us, by us” despite potential riches, letting core customers know that this is truly the “real thing.”
(4) “No chocolate covered candy hearts to give away”
According to Stevie Wonder, our motives for “showing love” have to be more than just a holiday. Brands must remember true love should be demonstrated all year round, not just at designated moments. It’s too convenient for marketers to show moms appreciation on Mother’s Day or in support of a new product launch, but those that show their love throughout the year stand to build strong, authentic relationships. American Express demonstrated its commitment to small business owners with Open Forum, a platform that creates and curates content to help small business owners avoid the pitfalls of entrepreneurship and turbo charge their efforts by sharing the knowledge and experiences of successful companies. They also created Small Business Saturday to help small businesses thrive during the critical holiday retail season, which has even resulted in other brands using the day as a moment to show small business owners love.
Perhaps the 90’s band Extreme was really onto something with their classic ballad, “More Than Words.” The lyrics read “More than words/is all you have to do to make it real/then you wouldn't have to say that you love me/cause I'd already know.” In the world of marketing, truer words have never been spoken. If brands are to cut through the clutter and truly establish relationships with would-be and current consumers, these marketers have to move beyond communications and start focusing their efforts on kinetics, because actions speak louder than words.