Study reveals the power of love for a brand

Do you love me?

Men who feel love for their favourite beer brand buy 38% more beer than the average male, according to a new study.

And women who feel a bond with their laundry detergent brand buy 60% more of the stuff than the average customer, research on emotional branding from Murdoch University’s Audience Labs has revealed.

Even a utility brand like petrol can inspire love in some people, researchers reckon.

The study involved 1,025 people and saw participants rate brands bought over the past 12 months in product categories involving utilitarian and ‘hedonic’ products such as instant coffee and beer.

These ratings were then compared with amounts purchased and attachment emotions, if any, felt for each brand.

Emotions included trust, bonding (“It‟s my brand”), resonance (“This fits my self image”), companionship (“This brand is like a companion to me”) and love – in which a deep affection was felt and the consumer would be really upset if they couldn’t buy their favourite brand.

Emotional branding is widely used globally, including McDonald’s long-running ‘I’m loving it’ campaign and Kodak’s attempts to link its brand to nostalgia. But its effectiveness has been unknown until now, Dr Steve Bellman, deputy director of Audience Labs claims.

“Our study shows that when companies tap into consumer’s deeper feelings, the payoffs can be substantial,” he said. “Emotionally attached consumers purchase substantially more than regular customers, which frees companies from having to rely on promotions and discounts to keep them buying the brand.”

But forming emotional bond between a brand and a person is not easy, Dr Bellman said. Full-strength emotional attachment occurred in only about a quarter of buyers – less in the case of utilitarian products like petrol and laundry powder.

“Our findings on utilitarian products were surprising, as we don’t usually associate petrol and laundry detergent with emotions like companionship and love,” Dr Bellman said. “But obviously some people feel very strongly about pulling up to the pumps.”

He added that the study showed emotional branding to be just as effective among men as women.


  1. Fabfour
    27 Nov 12
    9:58 pm

  2. sad, I must say, that women feel so attached to laundry products while men are enjoying a beer. Did Tony Abbott sit on the research panel?

  3. LW
    27 Nov 12
    10:18 pm

  4. Hear hear Fabfour. If we weren’t all at home bonding with the laundry, we could, oh, I don’t know, achieve equal pay or something.

  5. Martin Walsh
    27 Nov 12
    10:23 pm

  6. I’d hate to partially burst the ‘brand love’ bubble here but Trust in a brand now trumps Love in terms of building equity, loyalty and revenues.

    Trust is the new currency because the digital world has changed who we are, what we do and whom we trust.

    Alcatel-Lucent did a great detailed study in the USA on these topics. I highly recommend reading ‘Identity Shift’ by Allison Cerra, VP Marketing, Communications and Public Affairs at Alcatel and if you can see her speak, do so. Here’s one of her presentations

    Specifically, when asking respondents to evaluate brands based on how much they loved or hated them versus how much they trusted them with their personal information, companies earning the trust vote had a much stronger correlation with a respondent’s higher willingness to pay for a particular service.

    The study (and others) have also proved the uselessness of surveys and focus groups. People constantly say one thing and do another.

    Those companies earning the coveted “trust” vote will unlock new services and value chains for a broader ecosystem of marketers, developers and technology savvy companies to partake. In the end, trust evolves as the intangible currency and the most valuable characteristic of technology leaders in the race.

    Identity and trust is the new battleground in the war for the consumers….

  7. Chris
    27 Nov 12
    10:45 pm

  8. I’m suprised that it’s apparently a suprise, you’re always less price sensitive for a gift for someone you love or to share/enjoy something you love.

    There are many brands that resonate or alienate themselves due to their positioning, characteristics (personality if you will).

    Some do it so well, you’re not just a more loyal purchaser – you become a bra-dvocate (brand advocate).

    This message brought to you by Shell V Power, Bonds Hipsters, Kirks Ginger Ale, Subaru and other brands I feel strongly about.

  9. Sam
    27 Nov 12
    11:07 pm

  10. This is an interesting article given some work our agency is doing around neuro marketing which proves that brands cannot be loved. They exist in a different part of the brain and ‘love’ for a brand that is claimed by a consumer is not an accurate measure. I also work on a client that measures ‘brand love’ through asking consumers to measure their love for the brand and interrogation of the data shows it to be wobbly at best. It can be shown that positive sentiment is highly driven by recency of purchase, (love the one you’re with so to speak) as the brand is more top of mind through recent purchase and consumption. Neuro studies are the only way to measure this space as opposed to asking people to rate a brand. Just my 2 cents…

  11. Neuro state of mind
    27 Nov 12
    11:57 pm

  12. Agree with Sam that neuro studies are the only way to measure emotional ‘attachment’ to a brand. Why? Because the brain doesn’t lie. The mouth does. (P.S. Dr.Bellman’s claim that the efficacy of emotional branding has not been known until now is incorrect).

  13. Al
    28 Nov 12
    8:39 am

  14. @Sam – just to be clear, when you say the brand is “top of mind” you mean it is processed in the motor association cortex? This neuroscience stuff is amazing. And here I thought measuring people’s behaviour was the best way of determining the effect of brands on behaviour.

  15. bob is a rabbit
    28 Nov 12
    8:49 am

  16. All very interesting. Particularly some of the comments.

    If I were to verbalise my love for my partner by equating it to fly spray (i.e. I love you more than all the cans of mortein in the world), it’d be met with a slap.

    Point? You don’t ‘love’ a brand. Those that do, have a mental illness (seriously, and said with respect).

  17. Dr Peter Steidl
    28 Nov 12
    9:29 am

  18. You are right Sam – there is research evidence showing that we process people and brands in different parts of the brain. But there is something more startling about the research findings presented here: there is an assumed causality that has not been proven. The argument goes: people who love their brand buy more of it – ergo: loving your brand leads to increased purchases.
    What if it works the other way round? It would make sense to assume that somebody who buys a detergent brand in large quantities may feel closer to that brand simply because of buying more. We know that familiarity is a key driver of preference. We know that people rationalize what the do – even when most of their fmcg purchases are habitual in nature (so what are they going to say when buying a ton of OMO to wash the clothes of their 12 offsprings – they will say they love OMO because if they say ‘I always buy OMO habitually and have no idea why – it’s just a habit!’ they will feel like an idiot). We know that behavior is as likely to shape preferences as the other way round. So how can we conclude that consumers who say they love their brand and buy a lot of product do the latter BECAUSE of the former???
    Are we really so stupid to believe that consumers use a lot more detergent simply because they love their detergent brand???
    Finally, Martin – you are of course right about trust – but same here: because this is of great importance in some categories we can’t just assume that it is the key driver in all categories. You can also safely assume that people who love their brand also trust their brand. And you have to factor in that in many categories consumers trust all the leading brands (e.g., most consumers might trust the four major banks equally). In many categories trust is simply giving you permission to play but it does not differentiate the brand in a meaningful way. I don’t doubt the Alcatel-Lucent research – they are competing in several categories where buyers have limited understanding and/or are unable to evaluate the product offer effectively, so trust is a key factor – but we surely can’t generalize from that to all categories…

  19. Frances
    28 Nov 12
    12:47 pm

  20. Nothing like a study that reinforces gender stereotypes. Whilst I don’t doubt the overall findings of the study, I find it frustrating that the two stats of focus are ‘men and beer’ and ‘women and laundry detergent’. I mean, really? Shoes or wine would’ve been a mildly less insulting comparison.

  21. Martin Walsh
    28 Nov 12
    1:59 pm

  22. Dr Steidl, the Alcatel research wasn’t about Alcatel it was a very extensive study across North America for the book Identity Shift.

    This study is largely centred on brands who participate in the Identity Economy.

    Identity Economics provides an important and compelling new way to understand human behavior, revealing how our identities – and not just economic incentives – influence our decisions. In 1995, economist Rachel Kranton wrote future Nobel Prize-winner George Akerlof a letter insisting that his most recent paper was wrong. Identity, she argued, was the missing element that would help to explain why people – facing the same economic circumstances – would make different choices. This was the beginning of a fourteen-year collaboration–and of Identity Economics.

    The authors explain how our conception of who we are and who we want to be may shape our economic lives more than any other factor, affecting how hard we work, and how we learn, spend, and save. Identity economics is a new way to understand people’s decisions – at work, at school, and at home. With it, we can better appreciate why incentives like stock options work or don’t; why some schools succeed and others don’t; why some cities and towns don’t invest in their futures, why some brands succeed economically and others don’t – and much, much more.

    Identity Economics bridges a critical gap in the social sciences. It brings identity and norms to economics. People’s notions of what is proper, and what is forbidden, and for whom, are fundamental to how hard they work, and how they learn, spend, and save. Thus people’s identity – their conception of who they are, and of who they choose to be – may be the most important factor affecting their economic lives. And the limits placed by society on people’s identity can also be crucial determinants of their economic well-being.

    Trust is the new currency for the Identity Economy.

    For the study and tho book they started with this question, “Does technology cause a shift in how we perceive our relationships and ourselves?”

    Through “Identity Shift,” the authors Allison Cerra and Christina James set out to answer the question of how consumers see themselves through the lens of a Web 2.0 world, and how does that impact their online behaviors and perceptions of themselves and others?

    Findings from the book are based on a year-long qualitative research effort that
    included interviews with more than 5,000 American consumers, as well as with more than 30 in-home visits across the United States to observe subjects in various age groups as they went about their day.

    What they found is how much someone trusts or distrusts a brand had a 62% correlation to what they would pay for that brands products or services. What they found is virtually how much you loved or hated a brand had no impact on the same.

    If people think they are one and the same then they are mistaken. The study found brands who ranked highly or did particularly well in the Love metric but ranked or did poorly in the Trust metric were unable to monetise their position compared to or as well as their competitors who ranked higher in the Trust metric.

    While technology will never define us, this study reveals how profoundly it influences the way we define ourselves.

  23. Dan German
    28 Nov 12
    2:43 pm

  24. I love VB and seeing the new “hard Earned Thirst” ads made me so happy. I didn’t want to buy it when they had the hipster ads, but now, oh boy, the fridge is full.

  25. Dr Peter Steidl
    28 Nov 12
    4:46 pm

  26. Thank you for the long reply Martin! You are worse than me! But seriously I will get the book and read it over Christmas. At this stage all I can say is that I don’t doubt that some interesting insights have been gained but in my experience whenever somebody claims one concept can explain everything it is either such a broad concept that it is of no practical value or it is a false claim.
    Why do people make different choices? Largely because of they have different past experiences and thus different memory patterns – and I am sure we all agree we evaluate new options in light of our past memories. And partly because the specific occasions where they make these choices vary, thus influencing their choices, often via their nonconscious.
    I also think it is a question of what explains what. Does an Apple buyer trust Apple? For sure. But does it mean that he bought an Apple iPhone (or whatever) because of trust or because he wants to be ‘in’ and all his friends have iPhones (or for a hundred other reasons that have little to do with trust)? We know that chocolate activates different parts of the brain compared to non-cravers and the famous Coke vs Pepsi test has shown that Coke activates additional regions of the brain compared to Pepsi and that we process an expensive wine in different parts of the brain compared to an inexpensive one. We know that nonconscious goal activation is more powerful than conscious goal activation. I can’t see how trust can explain these and other factors that have a profound impact on the purchase decision – but I will read the book with great interest as I am always keen to learn about something new.
    At this stage I hold on to the belief that there is no single concept that can explain everything and that we have to be careful not to confuse correlations and causal effects. But as i said I will read the book over Christmas and if it convinces me that Trust is the factor that can explain everything I will publicly apologize to you for doubting this and afterwards I will retire as there will be no mysteries left in the field of marketing worth exploring! All we will need to do is build trust…
    Expect my post after Christmas and thank you again!

  27. Dr Shane Moon
    28 Nov 12
    6:18 pm

  28. Yeah for the neuro pushers! We are but a small but growing group. While romantic love has been studied (neural correlates) there are several areas involved – as for brand love – I with the naysayers – degree of emotional attachment is more capable and meaningful measure – and yes measure it with neuro because you can and it works!