10 thoughts on “Lovemarks panned again

  1. Chris Lawer

    Johnnie, thanks for this. I’m actually really seething about this whole thing! This guy, his agency and this idea need to be exposed. For me, Lovemarks represents the worst extremes of the preening advertising and branding brigade (see Roberts talk about his attendance at an agency party at Pierre Cardin’s party in the South of France – one can imagine the self-congratulatory conversations about his book). It appalls me that this book is “going global” and that Roberts could become a self-appointed spokesman for “beyond branding”.

    I can’t make Medinge this year but I suggest that this book and its ideas are top of the agenda. We need to make a concerted effort to “positiviely critique” it (I changed my first blog on reflection) I’d also suggest we set up a live debate with Roberts when he is next in town. What do you think? Is it really worth it? Cheers

  2. Tony Quinlan

    Chris: You know I agree with you. I really do think Lovemarks is the same old smug advertising attitude, only superficially different from what went before.

    The apparently endless, smug “look at me”, schoolboy tone of Lovemarks should be challenged. It should also be lampooned.


    The thing that amazes me is that he got almost exactly the same coverage in Fast Company four years ago. Obviously he decided that, with the business dip, it didn’t get the revenue he hoped for, so he’ll try again. Same b******t, same smugness, different hopes.

    If we want to do a debate, do we want to try and do it through Fast Company? I’m reluctant to let it slip – like Chris, I think we need to go over this one carefully in public.

  3. Chris Lawer

    Tony, a letter or a follow-up piece in Fast Company itself would be great. Maybe a joint letter from us all would be a good idea? As Johnnie has initiated, lets take offline and decide the best approach. I’d be happy to help out here in whatever capacity.

  4. Robert Paterson

    Who buys a brand today anyway?

    I still see lots of ‘wannabe’s’ with “Tommy” tee shirts. Kids with $200 shoes but for the rest of us the brands are losing our confidence as agents of trust.

    We bought Dell a few years ago because they 1. Worked well and 2. If they didn’t, got serviced well. Now they satisfy neither requirement of a brand. What happened?

    The brand shifted from trust to fluff.

    Which brings me to Head and Shoulders! I was watching the rerun of the Moon project mini series the other week and after a while began to realize that every single ad – including those from Head and Shoulders – had been placed by P and G. I thought that there were many forms placing ads but as I went to their site to see full context of what they had to offer, I was stunned to see that the entire evening had been paid for by P & G. 4 of their shampoos were featured as well as household cleaning stuff and other brands.

    In this context H & S is merely a portfolio filler that fits somewhere between P & G’s 9 other shampoos!


    There is no love here! Only calculation.

    So again why brands? Do we not go back to Sunlight Soap? The first mass product. At a time when soap was either home made or made locally, a branded soap told us that we had in our hands a consistent product that would perform. Trust was the issue. We could trust that it worked well and that if there was a problem we had recourse.

    Did this as the essence of branding not have to change as an idea when we had all that we needed in essential product?

    Have a look at the P and G link at all the shampoos – why the differentiation? Surely not about trust and performance – what else is going on?

    Was not the big breakthrough in branding, when we had everything that we needed to create a desire for things that we wanted?

    Do we not have so much choice now – again have a look at the list of shampoos, that we are overwhelmed? The issue is no longer trust but the signal to noise ratio in a crowded market.

    This is why I think that branding as we know it and as it is practiced by the likes of Saatchi is dead. The whole Love thing implies care on the part of the brand owner. This is simply not there and so is a lire.

    The Dell story is maybe the story. A Brand emerges based on the Sunlight Soap model – a product that is different because it has integrity. As it becomes the leader, the brand shifts from integrity to fluff and what supported the integrity, quality and care is driven out.

    Thus opening up again a possibility for a new entrant. In the personal computer field the machine that meets the quality/care/price place now is Apple.

    But even here, the seeds of trust to fluff are in the ground. As apple gains in scale, the cosy club feel of apple owners and Apple will shift to a crowd and the link and the relationship that makes Apple special will die.

    For me the shift from care to exploitation is one of scale. Once you get over a certain size you lose your humanity and become P & G or now Dell. Michael is no longer the CEO. When Steve Jobs cannot work anymore, (did you hear he has cancer?) the faceless corporate guys will do a Dell on his life’s work, as has been done before.

    So the way out? I think is that as we get fed up with the big brands and as technology allows more and more businesses to be small, that we will see true brands emerge again where a local Tech service guy will have clients because he meets their needs. In more and more areas of business, very small businesses can operate and offer the quality and care that we cannot get from the big.

    If a brand is based on trust which in turn is based on meeting expectations of quality and care, then a brand can only work over time in conditions where these are the paramount aspects of the enterprise. I cannot see this as being part of the traditional corporate world where money is made by squeezing suppliers, staff and customers.

    This is as true for you and Chris and Jennifer. You do not have to work for Saatchi or any other agency. You have all you need to act alone or in concert with each other. The client gets so much more from you than from a big firm. This scale issue is true win branding and also now in Music, TV and many other areas. Soon I hope that cottage industry will re- emerge as a real alternative.

    For instance, my son James is producing ads for HP’s new iPod launch and has done work directly for Nike, Diesel, VH1, Burton and even Mick Jagger and Bjork. He has the raw talent and he can afford to have the kind production and editing technology that only a large firm could afford a few years ago. So he does not need the capital. So he does not need to be part of a big firm. More importantly, he does not want to get big. He only wants to work with his small circle of friends. By not wanting to grow, he keeps the scale where quality and care are built in. So I bet do you.

    After all if all the home weavers could have been networked, we would not have had to have had the industrial revolution.

    If the small and the good network there are few things that we could not do. My hope is that more and more of the economy will be like James and that big brands will be exposed as the lie that they are. I say lie not as part of an emotional out burst but as a statement of truth. If you have 10 shampoos you cannot be truthful about the claim that each one of them is the best. If you base your PC business on scale and on price only, then you have to give on quality and care.

    The gap between the reality and the fluff will only expand. We are not so stupid as not to notice and we will be attracted to those that do offer quality and care.

    Sorry about the length but you got me going.

  5. Stuart Henshall


    There’s a two edged sword here and it is swinging the wrong way. I almost choked when I read Fast Company a few years ago and I have no intention of spending my time on “Lovemarks”. I think that paradigm and form of thinking disappeared years ago.

    I worked for KR at Lion Nathan (10 years ago). There is no denying his charisma and leadership or the loyalty (even when difficult as hell) he generates. This is a boss I would work for again. He will make you perform at a higher level. He was also the most challenging natural creative judge I have ever worked with (positive!). Yes he has been successful as an executive. Yes his personal site is for me over the top.

    Unfortunately what I see here is a collection of brain power being wasting with ranting and more personal attacks. I’m not sure that this group knows him or what captures his attention. The current tone certainly won’t and shouldn’t

    My suggestion is to be more challenging in a positive way. Create the movement that gets the Kevin’s into blogging. Make the case for why CEO’s of ad agencies must blog. Instead of proving the power of the medium to engage this is more likely to push someone away.

    In that regard each blog has its “lovemark” no matter how tacky the product. Personally I’d love the opportunity to get Saatchi blogging. It would create some humanity which under the covers still exists.

    We know that the brands of tomorrow exist in the conversations we live. Yesterdays brands were once that. At one time we loved them to death (maybe). Saatchi’s no longer talks to the majority of consumers or represents leading edge branding strategies.

    It is too easy to single out one guy and an industry. Chiefs of industry usually manage the status quo. If you put a stong enough case you may change his view. With Kevin I think you have a much better chance than most. Possibly target, real conversations, and owning conversational creativity. Brands like companies are held and nutured by conversations. These conversations are accelerating. Traditional branding strategies don’t address that.

    You may never change KR or Saatchi’s approach. It is fundamentally competitive not collaborative. It is about winning and losing. That works for an industrial paradigm and has worked for them. It doesn’t work longer term when networks prevail.

    To close I have some sympathy with the “I want to weep” and when will the world wake up. So start the “Counter” agency and drag them all down to the bar for a counterpoint.



  6. Johnnie Moore

    Hey Stuart, thanks for sounding a challenging note here.

    It’s good to hear alternative views. I’m glad you agree about Kevin’s site being over-the-top and thanks for your sympathy about “I want to weep”.

    No, I don’t think I will change KR or Saatchi’s approach. Their approach is, as far I can see, not really any different from 20 years ago. I agree with you that it’s old hat.

    It’s interesting to hear you positive personal experience of KR; I am admittedly judging him by his book and website and I think he has made himself a target there.

    Where I think I differ with your comment is when you talk about brain power being wasted with ranting. And the implication that by attacking the Roberts world view I am not being sufficiently positive. (I’ll do a post on this theme in a minute)

    You seem to think it’s wrong to single out a guy and an industry. I think both are fair game and worth challenging. Indeed, I work with agencies and many I’ve met are interested in working differently.

    And KR is not exactly a shrinking violet unable to look after himself. If it all gets too much for him, he can always retreat to one of his many worldwide homes…

  7. 800CEOREAD Blog

    Lovemarks (continued)

    Johnnie Moore can’t seem to let go of Lovemarks. There are four entries in the last weeks on the book and concepts surrounding it: Lovemarks panned againBeyond Lovemarks: ModestyBeyond Lovemarks: It’s not yours to ownBeyond Lovemarks: Emergence Worth t…

  8. Planet Brand

    Who is the “owner” of a brand?

    Johnnie Moore, one of my favorite holistic marketers in the blogosphere, has a great line of posts about if agencies or companies can control a brand. You can start reading with this post. The basic assumption of the hole discussion…

  9. Johnnie Moore

    Intrigued by the tones of the contributions so far on this. I bought Lovemarks over the weekend, and couldn’t put it down. I loved the tone, understood to some degree the background, and honoured the successes he was quoting. Of course he isn’t perfect – but I would prefer the content of his argument to much else of what I experience coming out of the business world.

    I’ve been taught to ask: “So what do you want?” None of us is naive enough to assume KR has the answer to everyone’s problems – he’s not God. However I like his attempts to highlight some higher values. Leave the bones on the side of the plate and enjoy the rest!

    I remember a quote from years ago: “Criticism is an easy option. it implies you could do better without you ever having to prove the point.”

    Andrew Sercombe


    Andrew, thanks for your comments and for challenging some of what’s been said. I welcome debate here, even though I disagree with what you say.

    I went to your website and found the quote from Goethe: “Talent develops in the quiet places, character in the full current of life”. I’d like my blog not to be a quiet place. I reject any notion that it should be a place where we only say nice things about the world.

    I disagree with the sweeping generalisation that criticism is an easy option. I put a lot of work into my posts on this topic, as it seems have others.

    You appear to be saying “don’t be critical”, but isn’t that itself a criticism? You advise (instruct?) us to “Leave the bones on the side of the plate and enjoy the rest!”. What a bland world it would be if we couldn’t ever spit out with vehemence things we don’t like. Exactly the sort of world conjured up by Roberts’ book, in which we are supposed to accept Tide washing powder as a mark of love.

  10. BadMarketing

    Why Lovemarks Offends Us

    There’s a lot of hate out there for Lovemarks, the “beyond branding” marketing schtick. The thing is, these brand relationships weren’t developed overnight, they weren’t manufactured by an ad agency, and it’s insulting to the brands we do love and res…


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