Brands That Target The Heart

Love at First Sight

Most brands need to earn the customer’s love, over time. To speed up the courtship, a number of brands are trying to become more human-like. People choose their favorite brands with their hearts, not their heads. A real human story evokes emotion and is more powerful than any brand storytelling.

Carolin Dahlman says in her book, Love Branding, if you can learn to master your customers’ emotions and make them feel the love, you will earn more money. She explains that love is a two-way street and most brands fail to love their customer’s back. So what does that mean? It’s all about giving back what you get. I guess you can say it’s not a one-night-stand but a commitment – a long-term commitment.

Emotional Branding

No one knows this better than Procter & Gamble. Over the last 178 years P&G has been at the forefront creating powerful, emotional relationships between consumers and brands. They have been pioneers and leaders in embracing technology to build an emotional brand connection with their customers. Utilizing soap operas on the radio and early television, to award shows, to fast-growing web ventures.

P&G Global Brand Building Officer, Marc Pritchard emphasized the importance of one-to-one relationships in today’s always-connected, always-on digital environment. He said that brands need to be less focused on making money and instead place more emphasis on improving the lives of both existing and potential customers. He too thinks it’s important to give back to the customer.

P&G’s used the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games and the Paralympic Winter Games to thank moms through several highly emotional stories. There aren’t too many mothers who can’t relate to these stories.

P&G Pampers brand is another good example of how P&G is defined a higher purpose for their brand beyond the functional benefit of keeping babies dry. Pampers has leveraged the key consumer insight that moms—especially first time moms—are constantly looking to connect with others who are sharing similar experiences. Pampers created programs such as “Pampers Village” and “A Parent is Born” as forums for moms to connect, learn and discover. If you visit their Canadian Facebook page they have over 14,488,921 likes – pretty good for a dirty diaper discussion.

But is this love? Love is defined as an emotion of a strong attraction and personal attachment – the ultimate goal for any brand.



Love Potion

But it’s hard to argue with success, and no brand is more successful than Heinz Ketchup. A brand that has been around for over 139 years and still the bestselling brand of ketchup in the world with over 650 million bottles sold in 2012. So what is their love potion? Diane Levine, author on the blog Beneath the Brand, says their enduring success comes down to a few simple but brilliant relationship strategies:

  • Maintain a core (or at least an air) of consistency
  • Spice things up once in a while
  • Be considerate of your partner’s needs


At the end, she says it’s the little things that matter most.

In Romancing the Brand: How Brands Create Strong, intimate Relationships with Consumers, branding expert Tim Halloran argues that today’s effective marketer must foster a deep, committed, and emotionally connected relationship with their consumer base. They must keep the sparks alive in a long-term relationship rather than focus solely on the short-term, single purchase.


Better Lives

Building off of Diane Levine’s three strategies, Tim Halloran includes ‘Listen to your customers’ and ‘Strive to make your customers’ lives better’.

On the last point, Nike ‘Just do it’ is now more about ‘Help me just do it’. Nike+ has become an enabler to its customers and bringing them together in a virtual community to stay motivated and challenged. Nike’s success has to do with its focused use of athlete relationships and innovative brand experiences to inspire its customers to feel like athletes. Its products and technologies are always linked to values such as aspiration, achievement and status.

Tim Hortons has found its way into the hearts of Canadians not only through their coffee on every corner of every city and town of Canada but also through their social consciousness of understanding Canadians. From their support of the Canadian military to tapping into the Canadian passion for hockey, they have successfully used the Canadian brand to reinforce their own brand love.

Love Me

If you read this article out of context you would think that we were talking about the secrets for a successful marriage. In truth, what we are talking about here is a deep and emotional relationship between a customer and a brand. The interesting thing is that the historical brands figured this out a long time ago and just keep re-engineer how they engage and support their customers. The internet gives every brand the opportunity to engage with their customers on a one-to-one level but without the insights and relationship strategies to connect on an emotional level, there will never be any love.

If you want customers to love your brand make sure you give more than you take. Follow through on the little things, keep your promises, learn to apologize when you make a mistake or disappoint and spend time learning about what is important to them. But most importantly, your brand must be authentic and real to be loved.



WABBA (Will All Brands Become Acronyms)

Today, we are surrounded by acronyms and meaningless letters. Every business and industry has its acronyms and initials. We all need a decoder ring to make sense of all the abbreviations and acronyms. Actually, there is a website Acronym Finder dedicated to decoding acronyms and abbreviations with more than 4 million definitions. We don’t even notice how many initials and acronyms we use in a day like, 24/7, WWW, LOL, TBD, ASAP, FYI, ROI, FAQ, SAP, SOL, KPI, ETA, SEO, SWOT and OMG, to name a few.

After Y2K, the DotCom bubble and 9/11, there have been an explosion of companies moving towards acronyms and initials to reinvent themselves, such as: The Hudson Bay Company to HBC, The Royal Bank of Canada to RBC, Kentucky Fried Chicken to KFC, British Petroleum to BP, Lucky Goldstar to LG, YMCA to The Y and Bank of Montreal to BMO.



Wisconsin Tourism Federation changed its name to The Tourism Federation of Wisconsin, retiring its unfortunate WTF (also known as What The F&*K) logo in favor of the innocent TFW. While Wisconsin Tourism changed its name to stop the humiliation, many companies are doing this to expand into new non English markets or to remove words that made the company too regional and old.

There have also been brands that have had a long life as initials such as: GE, IBM, HP, BMW, UPS, SAP, AT&T, H&M, MSN and VW. Most people today couldn’t tell you the words that these initials originally represent.


So Much Meaning In So Few Letters

As it gets more and more difficult to come up with unique brand names that can be trademarked (see Building a Brand Identity Isn’t Getting Easier) developing distinctive acronyms is another solution. IKEA is an interesting acronym that was made up from the founder’s initials “I.K.” (Ingvar Kamprad). The “E” came from the farm where he grew up (Elmtaryd), and the “A” from his home county (Agunnaryd in Sweden). The world’s #2 search engine and web directory Yahoo was derived from the acronym for “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle”.

Simplicity Or Survival

The charm of initials and acronyms are their simplicity. There is no need to memorize several words, especially if they are long and difficult to pronounce (like German companies such as Bayerische Motoren Werke, BMW or Systeme, Anwendungen und Produkte in der Datenverarbeitung, SAP). Acronyms and initials can easily be communicated in many languages, cultures and countries. Graphically, they can create a strong design mark that can also convey emotional dynamics and more importantly can be legally protected.

The main problem is acronyms mean nothing upfront. Remember your first day in a new company – all those nonsensical abbreviations – all just a scramble of letters. Over time, you had to load each with meaning and build a mind library of what each letter represented if you couldn’t actually remember the literal words. Acronyms and initials are inherently not descriptive of the business and possess no imagery or benefit-oriented language in and of themselves. Ideally you want a brand name that communicates something about the category, or a benefit, or both.


Name = Benefit

In the car insurance industry, GEICO competes with companies like Nationwide, SafeAuto, and Esurance. Right away, the three GEICO competitors’ names all tell you something about who they are:

  • Nationwide – extensive network of service and coverage.
  • SafeAuto – keeps you and your car safe.
  • Esurance – provides access to insurance online.

What does GEICO tell you? The first thing that comes to mind is the little green gecko. GEICO built their brand recognition by extensive advertising. In 2013, GEICO spent $935 million on advertising, almost three times the average spent by the rest of the 10 biggest insurance companies. No surprise their brand is well recognized.

Small and medium size companies can’t afford the time and money to build a brand from initials and acronyms, unless the initial or acronym is very exclusive and memorable.




However, there is a way to cheat by using the initials/acronym as a design mark with the full words that represent the initials. Consulting firms like law, advertising, architectural, where the people are the differentiating factor tend to use the founders and partners names as the brand. To be customer friendly, they must abbreviate the brand name to simple letters or acronyms to help the customer. Just make sure the final initials/acronym does not spell words you couldn’t say in front of your mother like WTF. However, there are still those companies who try to push the limit like the popular FCUK which stands for “French Connection UK” a trendy clothing store.


Professor treating acronyms like formulae.


The Internet, texting, tweeting and social media have forced everyone into new abbreviated, shorthand to fit, save time and work with a mini keyboard of two-inch by two-inch. Many companies have also abbreviated their company names to have more memorable URL addresses.

Acronyms and initials are here to stay and will continue to become more prolific as more brands become more global and more digital. But there are other trends that could influence the evolution of brand names becoming acronym such as smart home devices (Amazon Echo, Apple HomePod, Google Home) and the increasing use of audio dictation and Apple’s Siri. Artificial intelligence (AI), digital assistants and logarithms are changing how we communicate every day. How this will effect abbreviating brand names is still unknown. The most important brand goal is to ensure its customers remember their name – acronym, initials or not.



Footnote: The term acronym is initial abbreviations that can be pronounced as a word, such as NASA or IKEA, whereas, the term initials are just initials that are pronounced individually, such as FBI or BMW.