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July 2, 2004

News & Opinion: One More Once: Another Lovemarks Review

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 5:54 AM – Filed under: Marketing & Sales

Book: Lovemarks Author: Kevin Roberts I have an abiding love for everything Ferrari. No other car fires my neurons like a 250 GT Lusso, and who cant get emotional over all their racing successes, from Formula 1 to the Mille Miglia to Le Mans? To me, Ferraris complex mythology of heroic drivers, gorgeous bodywork, and raw, mechanized sensuality is simply intoxicating. If only all products and services in my life could deliver such an emotional punch. I have deep respect for everything that Ferrari does, and I love really love the way their products make me feel. And Ive never actually driven one My relationship to Ferrari is a textbook example of a Lovemark, and the subject of this review gives us a new language to describe the Lovemarks in our lives. With that language comes a better understanding why things like Ferraris and iMacs and Guinness are such a kick to experience and use, and that understanding in turn gives us more tools to go and create Lovemarks of our own. Lovemarks, by Kevin Roberts, is not a great book, but it is a compelling collection of ideas, and is worth your time if youre at all concerned with bringing products, services, and experiences to market. Roberts puts forward a simple and elegant point of view about how marketing efforts should focus on the care and feeding of Lovemarks rather than on traditional brand building activities. Traditional marketing, he says, has gotten us to a world where competent, feature-centric functionality is but the price of entry. Channels are overflowing with boring stuff (think Dell), and the audience for that stuff is sick and suspicious of branding. Lovemarks proffers a fresh, different way to go to market. As the name implies, it injects the concept of love into the equation, and states that if you create something which people respect (because thats the price of admission), and then build a long-term, passionate relationship on top of that foundation of respect, well, youve just earned a license to print money. A Lovemark isnt about mere loyalty, its about the kind of love that makes you want to invest and get more. Lovemarks is about moving beyond the tangible, metric-driven world of features and functional benefits to a place where the primary currencies are mystery, sensuality and intimacy. If the old way of marketing led to Windows CE devices with acres of bells and whistles, it was Lovemark-type thinking which gave us the Palm V, packing just the essentials in a gunmetal anodized aluminum case which ached to be caressed, miraculously held together by nothing no screws at all: total elegance, an absolute Lovemark. As I mentioned above, Lovemarks is chock-full of compelling ideas. And its highly relevant, too, because more than a few notable business brains are gnawing on the same basic question as Roberts: how do we move from the traditional, brand-centric, algorithm-driven marketing paradigm to a more user-centric approach built around empathy, passion, mystery, and emotion? For example, theres Seth Godin arguing that marketing should be about creating remarkable things, and should be part of everyones job. In a similar vein, Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management, thinks that succeeding in business is no longer about economies of scale but about the capacity to create elegant, compelling things that solve user needs. Like Godin, Martin envisions a workplace where everyone is a designer. And then there are frontline practitioners like Fords VP of Design J Mays, who recently said, At some point, youve got to cut through the analytical logic thats driven the automotive business for the past 30 years and say, 'Hey whats going to turn people on? Where Roberts adds value is by bridging all of these viewpoints hes a pundit, (lite) academic, and (serious) practitioner all rolled into one. His answer is a loose methodology built upon a philosophy of getting out there, seeing what needs, desires and dreams people have, and then building something with them which they can love. His prescription is necessarily loose and foggy because its all about creating mystery and passion and not even Shakespeare was able to really nail that whole love thang in print. Be warned that Lovemarks is not great literature. Its not even a proper book, really; its much more a richly-upholstered PowerPoint presentation. Crank out some pithy phrases, a few quotes, throw in some expensive photos, shake, and pour (no batteries required). The ideas are there, but theyre not explored in any real depth, and the limited set of examples used to illustrate his points quickly becomes repetitive. Held up as a quintessential Lovemark, the Toyota Prius, for example, gets driven into the ground, and one wishes Roberts had fished for items outside of Saatchi & Saatchis immediate client pool. And while each page is designed in a way that makes even a Tom Peters book seem tame, the overall effect is merely very good rather than remarkable. It smacks of design by committee, or at least design by timid people, and lacks panache. If you want to see how a book about business can knock your hat into the creek design-wise, try Chairman Rolf Fehlbaum by the late, great Tibor Kalman. Similarly, Roberts occasionally writes with an entertaining voice, but the author of Lovemarks is a far cry from the expletive-spewing idea monger he was in the Fast Companys earlier article on Trustmarks. His words often seem as if theyve been throttled back by the conservative hand of a corporate PR department. In short, Lovemarks is pleasant to look at, but hard to fall in love with it just doesnt evoke much passion. Its a shame that Lovemarks wasnt done to the hilt. That it works at all comes down to the occasional beams of Roberts irreverent brilliance that break through the glossy Saatchi & Saatchi veneer. He must be a helluva guy to work for no shrinking violet, this fellow, and one suspects that as a CEO he cuts a Captain Kirk-like figure: passionate, instinctive, jocular, and outspoken. This is the guy who ranked the original iMacs sensual quotient on par with a sex toy, who as head of Pepsi Canada sprayed a Coke vending machine full of lead before a live audience, who sounds the most real and human when telling us about his own favorite Lovemarks, like the New Zealand All Blacks. If only Lovemarks could have captured the full essence of what Roberts preaches, for it would have been an exceptionally tasty brew of sensuality, mystery, and plain old honesty. In the end, I do recommend that you read Lovemarks. And if youll indulge me in taking the Star Trek theme a bit farther, Id like to recommend you supplement Roberts Kirkonian vision with two other works. Taken as a trio, they compliment each other and combine to illuminate the edges of this new age of marketing were living in (some would argue its just what Drucker has been saying all along, but thats for another day). Playing that bastion of logic, Mr. Spock, is Clay Christensen and The Innovators Solution. His chapter on segmenting markets on the basic of jobs rather than attributes offers a concrete methodology that meshes well with concept of a Lovemark. In the role of Dr. McCoy we have Seth Godin and Purple Cow, which provides a more nuanced and credible argument for the end of traditional brand marketing than does Lovemarks. Together these three books represent as good a primer on the state of creating great stuff as youll find anywhere. Read them, incorporate their lessons into your own enterprise, and may you love long and prosper. Diego Rodriguez is an award-winning marketer, engineer, and designer. He has worked with companies ranging from BMW to Medtronic to Intel. See more of his thinking on innovation, marketing, and design at metacool