What is love? (…baby don’t hurt me…) But really, what is showing or receiving love for a marketer?

We won’t pretend that brand love can ever replace actual human love, although I’m sure some could argue their relationship to a brand is healthier and longer-lasting than their human counterparts (looking at you, Apple 😘 ), but regardless, consumers can be very emotional about the brands they purchase.

A large part of showing and receiving love as a brand is creating an emotional connection that resonates. This Valentine’s Day, we’re looking at the top ways marketers can create brand love with consumers, borrowing from some of the key ingredients for fostering love in any relationship.

Key Love Ingredient #1: Validation

Validation is about feeling seen, heard, and understood and is a central element in creating a connection with humans and brands alike. For marketers, this can be achieved through personalized messaging. 

While “personalization” has been on the marketer must-have list for a while, many organizations limit personalization to surface-level data like demographics, purchase history, and/or other passively collected behavioral information. Sometimes this backfires. There is a big difference between a validating feeling of “you know me” and a creepy feeling of “how did you know that?” 

Brands should aim to elevate their personalization efforts by focusing on values, core beliefs, interests, and passions. Collecting this kind of information, also known as zero-party data, empowers you to show consumers that you “get them” and their needs are important and matter.

By validating consumers in a meaningful way, they will show you love in return. In fact, more than one-third (37%) of consumers said they had acted upon personalized communications from a company and 79% of consumers said that brands have to demonstrate that they understand and care about them before they are going to consider purchasing.

 

Key Love Ingredient #2: Empathy 

At the end of the day, we all want to know we’re not alone. We won’t lie though; empathy from brands is a tough business. “We understand” “we’re there for you” “we’re in this together” triggers involuntary eye-rolls at this point. You must go beyond messaging and truly live and breathe the “we understand” sentiment.  

A key way to show empathy is by facilitating a sense of belonging. Starting an online brand community for like-minded people is a way to show your consumers that they’re not alone and there are other people who are like them. 

Seventh Generation, an eco-friendly household brand (also one of our clients), knew there was a cohort of new parents who were reexamining how they wanted to parent their children. When they started the Generation Good community, it became a home for these parents to connect with one another – to share stories, tips, and recommendations with people who sought a similar lifestyle. Seventh Generation supports this dialogue through an active discussion forum with countless topics and comments that are important to parents. 

 

Key Love Ingredient #3: Appreciation

Consumer appreciation can be shown in many different ways. It can seem complicated, but really the hardest part is remembering to do it. 

Showing appreciation to consumers does not stop at providing a quality product or service at a reasonable price. The next level is ensuring the entire brand experience is as smooth as possible AND goes above and beyond. However, 54% of U.S. consumers say customer experience at most companies needs improvement. That’s a pretty large gap. 

Going above and beyond can be anything from surprise and delight moments, offering complementary products or services, personal notes, or even involving consumers in upcoming company decisions. 

Plush stuffed animal manufacturer, Squishables, states they are a democracy and has an ongoing “ Project Open Squish” where consumers can submit and vote on designs for upcoming products. Fast-growing condiment brand, Sir Kensington’s, often includes hand-written thank you notes and provides additional resources like nutritionists to its online brand community Taste Buds (ps they’re also a client). 

Key Love Ingredient #4: Trustworthiness 

It used to be that a brand was considered trustworthy when people could believe in how the company is run, its product is manufactured or service is performed. And for younger consumers in particular, that corporations had ethical practices and was focused on the footprint they left on the planet.

Today, however, many brands are no longer just manufacturers or service providers. They’re actually technology companies in disguise. Some brands openly admit this, like when Dominoes said they are a “tech company that sells pizza.” 

While consumers certainly care how your product is made and how you market yourself, when you become a technology company, trustworthiness means something more. 

Eighty-one percent of consumers said that they need to be able to trust the brand in order to buy from them. Being a trusted brand today is also about your data practices and privacy transparency and it is an integral part of any interaction a company has with its audience. 

A great way to help make your brand become more trustworthy is to create a brand mission statement on data collection. Consumers want to know not just the who, what, where, and how of data collection, but also the “why.” Why does your brand believe data is helpful? How does it rhyme with your brand story and your unique value proposition? Data is an undeniable part of our lives now. Take a stand on how your brand believes data plays a role. 

Key Love Ingredient #5: Authenticity 

Eighty-six percent of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding what brands they like and support, however, more than half (57%) of consumers think that less than half of brands create content that resonates as authentic. 

It’s no secret authenticity is a big buzzword. The industry constantly shouts at marketers that you’ve got to “be real” if you want to attract consumers. When people say, “Be authentic!” it’s not about telling a story about who you are as a brand. It’s about empowering people to tell the story of who they are and what they stand for. 

The best way to make your message authentic is to have other people say it for you. You can do this by empowering advocates to share their stories. Brand advocacy should be the cornerstone of every effort you make to “be real.” Spark advocacy from your consumers by providing useful content, thoughtful and exclusive brand experiences, and new information. 

Download the full infographic here.

[Infographic] 5 Ways Marketers Can Foster Brand Love