Customer Development

You Don’t Need Customers. You Need Lovers.

How do we find our potential Lovers? By establishing a platform that allows for a consumer’s authentic self to be expressed through your brand.
You Don't Need Customers. You Need Lovers. - Lioness Magazine
Global Brand Strategist Nicole Ertas.

In this gray area and gray matter world of ours, we work hard to be crystal clear about what we’re trying to achieve: more sign-ups, more followers, more foot traffic, more clicks. Which is why it’s so quizzical that many marketers are so cavalier about leaving their consumers’ hearts on the table.

Channel and functional ubiquity has led to product commoditization, creating a powerful opportunity for brands to connect on an entirely different level. Focusing less on what we want our potential consumers or customers to do and more on how we want them to feel, can have far-reaching and profound results. Experience shows that if one’s heart is with you:  their feet, heads, clicks, and choices will follow.

Whether it’s your target audience or one of your most fervent loyalists – consumers want to have an ongoing love affair with your brand. Anything short of that is a commodity. If they can’t absolutely love you, they’ll leave you as soon as something better or cheaper comes along. And it will. It doesn’t get any simpler than that.

You don’t want customers.  Or buyers.  Or consumers.  You want Lovers.

Lovers are everywhere – and it’s our opportunity to be the object of their affection.  But unlike customers, buyers, and consumers, price, promotions, or even the best marketing tactics don’t interest the Lovers.  Lovers seek to align their identities with brands that resonate more powerfully than solving for an unmet, functional need. They seek brands that reflect their souls. When a brand’s authenticity syncs with a consumer’s self identity, a Lover is born.

How do we find our potential Lovers? By establishing a platform that allows for a consumer’s authentic self to be expressed through your brand.

Now, more than ever, consumers look to their brands to say something distinct about themselves and who they are, express what is important to them and, in some cases, even stimulate conversation on that topic. What is it you’re selling?  How do you position your brands or your company?  Who are you?  Not in functional, deliverable, concrete selling terms, but a in more evocative, emotional way. How can you become transcendent to bridge all your possible communities, preparing your brand to be a force of authentic expression for the Lovers?

Lovers seek brand “chemistry.” It’s the currency they trade in.  A brand that can build chemistry is one that does not let itself be defined by what it does, but by its obsession. It looks forward, not backward. A Lover is drawn into your story not as a target demographic, or as one who needs what you sell, but as one who shares the dream, vision, interest, or curiosity. The obsession becomes inspiring to the Lovers and chemistry is sparked. This is the basis of a higher connection. Chemistry is all about capturing the hearts, not the minds. About turning products into friends, humanizing them to become a force of connection.

So, rather than a two-calorie breath freshener, Tic Tac decided to “Go Little.”  Little is mighty. Little is surprising. Little goes on fun adventures and has unexpected experiences.  On some level, we can all relate to Little.  Check it out and you’ll fall in love with Little:  https://youtu.be/l6c-5A9CvFI

GE humanized what otherwise would be a complex brand that produces products ranging from aviation to consumer appliances, healthcare, and power. GE brilliantly connected all its divisions through the platform of “Imagination at Work,” humanizing the brand and capturing the hearts and minds of an audience that ranges from the most technical to the most general. GE uses humor, personal connection and inspiration throughout a range of platforms including YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Vine & Snapchat, showcasing the mind-blowing aspects of their brand without delving too deeply into the technical aspects. GE’s Facebook posts revolve around fun, engaging questions, eye-catching images, and fascinating facts about the brand that are share-worthy for the general consumer or enthusiast. Yet it still connects with the most technical audiences in very targeted ways.

“We have more than a million followers on Facebook, and they love to hear about innovation,” says a GE Marketing Director. “We don’t talk about how we built a great gas turbine that delivers return on investment. That isn’t going to engage people on that platform. But we might discuss a new type of material we’re thinking about or crowd-source ideas which do keep people engaged.”

So ditch your buyers and embrace your Lovers.  Identifying and igniting your Lovers creates a powerful force that leaves no hearts behind.

Nicole Ertas is a recognized global brand strategist, author, and speaker who has helped build many of the world’s finest and most powerful brands. Her thinking has been embraced by companies such as Beam Suntory, Wrigley, SC Johnson, Mike’s Hard Lemonade, Johnson & Johnson, General Mills, Kraft, and Nestle. Nicole’s success in global innovation and brand leadership gained her recognition in Forbes and The New York Times, as well as selected to be one of Crain’s Chicago 40 Under 40. Her book, Free Range Brands, will be published in January. Follow Nicole on Twitter @freerangebrands or subscribe to her newsletter.