The allure of connecting with products on a personal level often captivates our imagination, yet the practicality of cultivating brand love raises questions about its impact on Return on Investment (ROI). Amidst the plethora of declarations of love for brands in online and offline spaces, how often do these sentiments translate into actual purchases?
Should brands succumb to the unpredictable whims of consumers in the pursuit of elusive “brand love”?
A recent incident involving Deborah Olaki (Mummy Zee), a Twitter personality, and Innoson vehicles, Nigeria’s only indigenous motor vehicle manufacturer, shed light on the overstated concept of ‘brand love.’
Mummy Zee’s humble Christmas wish for a bedside fridge went viral, sparking unexpected generosity from Nigerians. Her subsequent revelation about waking up early to prepare her husband’s lunch, prompted by financial constraints, ignited debates on gender roles and marital dynamics.
In the midst of these discussions, a wave of support rallied behind Mummy Zee. Notable brands and personalities, including the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL), Infinix Nigeria, Indomie, and the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), offered generous contributions ranging from petrol vouchers to smartphones and cash donations.
However, when a Twitter user tagged Innoson Vehicles, suggesting a car as a gift for Mummy Zee, the company responded with a refusal, offering wishes and virtual balloons instead. Despite some criticism, many Nigerians supported Innoson, questioning the measurable impact of giving away cars and its correlation to increased sales.
“Dear @innosonvehicles,” the tweet reads “Our sister is pregnant and a car would be a good gift so she doesn’t have to run around with public transportation….”
Innoson responded “Kudos to her on the baby news! While we can’t deliver a car as a present, we’re driving by with a bundle of best wishes and virtual balloons! Maybe one day, the little one can enjoy a ride in an Innoson Vehicle.”
The Innoson perspective challenges the notion that brand love should be the ultimate goal for marketers. While fostering genuine connections with customers is valuable, brands need to prioritize measurable outcomes and ensure that their investments contribute to tangible business success.
This scenario also prompts reflection on the words of Olu Akanmu, a prominent marketing executive and former OPay CEO who argued the need for marketers to adopt an accountable approach. Akanmu in his speech had asserted that marketing should align with business goals, focusing on measurable metrics such as revenue and ROI.
Akanmu said “Imagine you want a billion Naira budget, and you don’t want to be accountable, you just want to say, ‘oh brand preference, feelings, they love it. Brand love. Your shareholders ask, ‘hey, how much is brand love? How much is it putting on the table? That is the marketing we have to practice. Marketing is business. Performance marketing, accountable marketing. If you invest, I’m not saying, I’m not saying marketing is all short-term, but even when you are doing a long-term, there must be clear metrics that show what the one billion Naira marketing investment has given to you. Think like the CEO, think Revenue, think ROI, and in everything that you do, relate it back to that. Then you will be a far stronger, solid marketer and business leader.”
Bruce Clark, an associate professor of marketing at Northwestern University, echoes this sentiment, arguing that brand love is often oversold. He also cited studies indicating that the majority of consumers do not express love for brands, with only a small percentage reporting such sentiments.
Clark’s argument challenges the conventional wisdom that brand love leads to brand loyalty and positive word-of-mouth. While some customers may genuinely love a brand, the challenge lies in achieving this at scale. Investing in brand love on a large scale becomes a daunting task when considering the potential limitations in increasing sales within this niche.
In the case of Innoson, their decision not to give away a car aligns with the notion of responsible marketing, considering the long-term impact on business performance. While some criticized the company’s response, many recognized the need for accountability and strategic decision-making.
As we navigate the evolving landscape of marketing and tough economic times, it becomes crucial to distinguish between emotional appeal and tangible results, challenge the conventional pursuit of brand love, and encourage a shift towards accountable marketing that aligns with business objectives.
For me, the Innoson case also prompts a reevaluation of marketing goals. While emotional connections with consumers are valuable, the focus should be on strategies that yield measurable outcomes, ensuring a strong return on investment.
At the end of the day, the narrative of brand love, once seen as a captivating headline, will probably continue to face scrutiny as marketers increasingly prioritize accountability and tangible business impact.
– Akanmu, Olu. (2023)
– Clark, Bruce. (2020). “Brand Love Is Oversold. It’s a Great Headline, but Not a Great Goal.” Medium.
– Albert, Merunka, & Vallete-Florence. (2008)
– Rossiter. (2012)
– Sharp. (2010)