Lovemarks panned

[UPDATE: Here’s a list of all my entries on Lovemarks]

I don’t love Lovemarks Kevin Roberts’ colourful new mantra for the world of advertising. So I enjoyed Chris Lawer’s full-on rant Brand Lovemarks. What provokes Chris’ ire is this fawning coverage from (I’m sorry to say) Fast Company:

And now in a breakthrough for market researchers and love bunnies alike Roberts and a British company QIQ International Limited, have developed a tool to quantify the emotional power of a brand. QIQ’s research technique measures the twin drivers of what Roberts dubs a “lovemark”: respect (performance, trust, and reputation) and love (mystery, sensuality, and intimacy). Marketers have long measured performance and trust, but mystery, sensuality, and intimacy are brand attributes few have thought to worry about, let alone quantify…

All these results are then mapped on a love-respect axis. In the lower-left quadrant — low love, low respect — are commodities such as sand, salt, and brussels sprouts. Roberts says many telcos risk falling into that unlovable hole. On the flip side of the chart — high love, low respect — are fads, fashions, and infatuations: things we love for the moment but soon abandon. Think Beanie Babies and reality TV. Most solid, respectable brands live in the upper-left quadrant, home of high respect and low love: Maxwell House, Dell, Colgate, Holiday Inn. Roberts says even he was surprised at how many products consumers consign to this less-than-desirable class. “Lovemarks might, on first blush, sound sweet,” he says, “but the approach is actually ruthless — Darwinian, even.”

I’m with Chris when he says

Quite frankly, this is the most ridiculous thing I have read on Branding for some time.

That marketers think they can plot such deeply human values as love and respect on a 2×2 is so damn arrogant it is untrue. Is this a wind-up?…

And what do they mean by quantifying “mystery, sensuality, and intimacy” as “vital ingredients of your brands lovemark”? Come on, please. Nobody anywhere really understands “love” yet suddenly a bunch of delusional brand marketers do….

What utter arrogance that organisations think they can compare their brand-customer relationship to the bond between a father and son or husband and wife!!!

“What are you doing tonight, Chris?”

“Ah, I am taking my lawnmower out for a few beers. You know we’ve been getting much closer these days and well, the way she handles my straight lawn lines is well, awesome. We really deserve each other and we might even move into the shed together for the Winter.

Yes, I think delusional is the word. Actually, perhaps masturbatory is the word?

I glimpsed through this book at Waterstone’s and laughed out loud when I realised it is chock full of case studies of… Saatchi clients (Roberts is the Saatchi CEO). Perhaps the most preposterous of these was the section eulogising the ads for Tide, which appear to qualify it as a Lovemark.

As is so often the case, in praising his clients Roberts in really only praising himself.

I don’t have a 2×2 matrix for Love but I do know it’s not the same as narcissism. Does Kevin Roberts?

11 thoughts on “Lovemarks panned

  1. johnmoore (from Brand Autopsy)

    John, I’m with you of course on the need for organisations, their products and services to fulfil deeper connections and holistic, unique experiences with their customers – as long as it is done authentically on more mutual terms, with integrity and transparency, high commitment, high trust and high performance.

    My problem with Lovemarks is that it overemphasises the roles of branding (i.e. not brands per se) and advertising to achieve these goals. These two are only superficial to this challenge. Not only does Lovemarks trivialise the complex nature of the brand-customer relationsip and connection into a simplistic 2×2 matrix, but also it make some highly delusional claims as to the ability of the concept (a brand in itself despite Roberts claiming it is “Time to get past brands”) to fix the human condition too!

    Finally, on Johnnie’s narcissism point.


    Yep … Lovemarks does overemphasize advertising in creating meaningful brands. That is why so much of the book reads like an ad agency ptich deck.

    And, I agree with the narcissism point … those images are 100% EGO.

    [OUCH!!!! –

    I still like the idea Roberts conveys of brands that connect emotionally with customers and forge loyalty beyond reason transcend from being just a brand into something more meaningful and more powerful. I just don’t like it in the dressing of Lovemark rhetoric.

  2. Johnnie Moore

    Thanks for your comments John and Chris. That additional link to Kevin’s photos is quite funny. And I see else where in “Saatchikevin” that he’s quite proud of machine gunning a Coke vending machine at a Pepsi conference – I wonder where that fits on a Love-Respect matrix?

    A small minority of brands do connect with surprising resonance… but we all knew this already. Of course, for each of this small number of brands, there are legions of consultants, like Roberts, claiming to know how… and he is clearly not a shrinking violet when it comes to putting himself forward. But I’m not very convinced he really offers much new insight.

  3. Katarina Peterson

    Stop complaining! Roberts’ book is a refreshingly illustrative read, attractively layouted to convey messages in the strongest possible way. That in itself makes a great point: theoretical, over-complicated (and boring) textbooks on branding ever so often fail to actually connect with the reader. ‘Lovemarks’ achieves this connection right away, nicely illustrating how text and image together can move and inspire to new action.

    “We all new this already” says Johnnie. What a silly remark. To my knowledge, most subjects that are already known clearly benefit from being analysed and presented again every now and then. In a new light, with fresh eyes – and hopefully to a new public.

    Ok, Roberts may appear a narcissistic self-promotor. Noone can possibly miss the fact that Lovemarks is indeed a Saatchi promotion, you get that on the first page. But hey, what’s wrong with creating a nice portfolio? It’s not like they’re trying to cover it up.

  4. Johnnie Moore

    Thanks Katarina for your instruction to stop complaining. Having reflected on it carefully, I prefer to support a dialogue in which people are free to praise or complain as they see fit, including yourself.

    I agree that the book is well presented and that this is in refreshing contrast to most marketing textbooks. I think Kevin does make his thinking very explicit; and as I disagree with much of it, I’ve said so.

  5. Jasper von Meerheimb

    I’ve been studying Kevin’s book on Lovemarks and felt only inspiration and clarification. The concepts are fundamental and yet so many people miss the point. I’ve struggled for years to find a vocabulary that helps express ideas about better ways to be creative in the marketplace. It’s not just Kevin who has stripped away the chatter and revealed the essence of holistic partnerships. Foreward thinking professionals are defining how community, consumers and businesses can develop synergy in a complex global context. Kevin’s book speaks to the heart of what we want to keep focused on: people and their core needs.

  6. The Social Customer Manifesto

    Is A Flying Monkey With Lasers On Its Friggin’ Head A Good Value For The Experience It Offers?

    “It is considered a bit bizarre to have a meaningful relationship with an inanimate object.” – Tree Stories “Lovemarks.” Dios mio, what a load of swill. Saatchi

  7. jem woods

    Jasper, thanks for your comment and for making sure this post is more of a two-way street. It’s clear that you and many others feel inspired by Lovemarks. I suppose you could say I am too, albeit in a rather different way. I give Kevin Roberts credit for speaking his mind in public, even though I don’t agree with much of what he says.

    And you’re right about their being a wider context in which marketing is being challenged to redefine itself. I certainly see my own little blog as part of that context.

    You find the book clear and it seems that others don’t. I’d like more clarification on how Lovemarks are “Beyond Brands” when every single example given is a brand; and when I see nothing resembling a consensus on what is and isn’t a Lovemark. I see this as an example of the sort of over-promise that disillusions me about marketing.

    Also, I keep returning to the example Saatchi’s give of Cheerios as a Lovemark – see my original heated post for more on this. If we are going to invoke the word Love in organisations, I’d like us to be more discriminating in how we use it.

    That’s my two cents, and I’d welcome any further comment/criticism/exploration.


    what isn’t narcissistic, like having a weblog for example?

    despite that have to say I enjoyed the comments and the pics even more.

    Whatever the content I think Kevin deserves some credit for having a go, and bringing an important issue to the dabting table. And before we have a go at him consider how many other heads of global marketing networks are as concerned about the emotional content of brands?

    last time I looked they were only concerned about their revenue.

  8. Jean-Philippe DIEL

    For sure the book looks like an apology of Saatchi & Saatchi, but aren’t we all able to read beyond that ?

    I’d say thanks to Kevin for having a go at how to read consumer emotions and use them to strengthen brand communication.

    A lot of this book reads like common sense to me, and yes there are simplifications made here… but doesn’t that actually help to understand the whole game ? I have just finished the book, and I am not considering it to be the evangile of Marketing, but I found it refreshing and stimulating…

  9. Johnnie Moore

    Jem, Jean-Philippe: Thanks for your comments. Looking back months’ later I realise my orginal posts on Lovemarks are blunter and more vehement than I would want to write today.

    I think Roberts is onto themes that are very important. I am just very disappointed by the practical examples he gives of how companies can respond. In common with many business books, I guess it’s a case of better diagnosis than solution.

  10. Johnnie Moore

    This “Kevin” guy has to be the biggest tool I have ever seen in this business. And trust me, that is saying a lot.

    If anyone can make any practical sense of what he is saying here in some of these clips (e.g. “Act Local, Go global”) please let me know what that is – I’d like to personally send you a complimentary set of steak knives.

    These are hilarious.


    Hi MJayC: I suppose we might be mistaking context, but I was surprised by the most recent video on the page, dated March 2004. Kevin says in it: “Our view is that television is going to be the most important medium in the next decade… In the developing world, TV is going to be 90% of the spend”

    I wonder if Saatchi still think this way?


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