Tom Peters thinks that Kevin Roberts’ Lovemarks is brilliant.
Well Roberts is a brilliant self-publicist. I hope that his genius for PR may one day find a cause that really merits the amount of airtime he seems able to command. But Lovemarks surely isn’t that cause.
I’ll give Roberts credit for stating so explicitly how he sees the world so that it can be tested and challenged. I think he does a good job – inadvertently – of showing us just how far admen are out of touch with the times.
Down here in New Zealand I came across an interview with Roberts in The Listener magazine. All credit to interviewer Greg Dixon for giving Kevin the rope to hang himself with.
Q: Is New Zealand a lovemark?
A: No. It was, but now probably isn’t, because it has lost respect globally
I assume that Kevin is speaking ex cathedra here as there is no reference to his much-touted research to justify this assertion. But let’s not interrupt his Holiness so impudently. He continues
We’ve lost a lot of respect… we’ve grown up and become a little like a teenager: “We’re very rebellious, so we’re not going to join you in this, we’re going to do this and that.”
Nice specific stuff there then.
Roberts identifies himself as a New Zealander. I can only say that I find this a patronising view of New Zealand that I suspect most of its citizens might resent.
The interviewer goes on
Dixon: What’s your definition of love exactly?
Roberts: In a marketing sense, it’s to create loyalty beyond reason
It’s quite telling, that phrase “in a marketing sense”. I think what it means is, well here’s some shallow stuff which is all to do with selling you things.
In case we don’t follow, our Kev obliges with a specific example of what “in a marketing sense” he thinks love is
I walked past an Adidas concept store. I love Adidas. I didn’t need anything. $US860 later I walked out of that store.
Well, in a marketing sense I’d call that lust or greed. Or as the interviewer puts it, a little more politely
But isn’t that consumerism beyond reason because your buying stuff you don’t need?
Yep, that’s about the size of it.
But wait, there’s more!
Dixon: One definition of consumerism is that it amounts to people working in jobs they hate to buy stuff they don’t need to impress people they don’t like
Roberts: Every person in the world is a consumer, six billion people. Are you criticising six billion people here?
Er no Kevin, I think he’s criticising you. And little wonder when we read the next exchange:
Dixon: Consumerism means that New Zealand household debt is at record levels, however.
Roberts: I lke that.
Dixon: But people are borrowing money they don’t have, money they have to pay back
Roberts: The next generation will. Great. Terrific
This is what Kevin’s love boils down to: let’s consume our way out of problems, and let’s let the next generation pay for it.
Some of us might question the sustainability of such a view, and all Roberts can muster by way of counterargument is more self-importance
I’m the professor of sustainable enterprise at Limerick and Waikato universities
which of course proves nothing, except the size of his ego.
Indeed, it seems that Roberts needs to regularly remind us of his own importance
I’m the head of a very powerful company, so I have the opportunity to sit down with CEOs
– but then you wonder, why does he have to tell us this?
And if you disagree with Kevin, well that’s because you are just the wrong kind of person…
If you’re going to rely on government in any one country to move the world forward…then you’re a dreamer…
Cynics can knock…
The consumer is boss… if you think that’s bad, go be a communist
Question the sustainability of his philosophy and instead of a reasoned economic argument we get I’m-a-professor-of-sustainability-at-Limerick-and-you’re-a-dreamer/teenager/communist.
Kevin fleetingly presents himself as the voice of the consumer, warning those wicked branding people not to take us for granted. But this is just a cover; we can see from his examples that Roberts is stuck in a twentieth-century adman’s world where emotions are just there to exploited to shift product.
But if you worry for the poor old consumer, what about Kev’s clients?
Roberts gives the game away here too.
Clients cannot communicate ideas. That’s why we exist – because we’re creative, imaginative, intuitive and inspirational.
So here is the sting in the tail for Procter and Gamble, whose products Kevin pitches slavishly in his book, preposterously presenting Tide as a Lovemark and asserting his undying love for Head & Shoulders. Oh he may pimp your products P&G, but deep down he thinks you can’t communicate and need to come to him for imagination, intuition and inspiration.
Oh, and I can’t let this pass unremarked:
Ideas are like arseholes, everyone’s got one. But what advertising agencies do is share those ideas.
I see, all these years Saatchi and Saatchi have been dressing mutton up as lamb, all they wanted to do was share their ideas. Sure.
And as for this:
We (admen) are the people who create jobs through building demand
Words fail me.
I see that some people seem inspired by Lovemarks. Well, there are many brands that people find attractive on the surface. But with Lovemarks, the surface may be all there is.