This blog was originally posted on the website Valuing Nature.

Marketing professionals are well aware of the power of love. By inducing a sense of connection between the consumer and the good or service that is being sold, this becomes part of a person's identity (in the same way that a loved friend might become part of one's identity). This phenomenon, and its use to the marketing industry, has been thoroughly explored.

Most recently, this idea has been taken a stage further, in the idea of lovemarks. As Kevin Roberts, the CEO Worldwide of Saatchi and Saatchi, puts it: "Consumers need to be emotionally engaged, they need to have a relationship. A lovemark is a brand that has moved up that respect axis."

We don2t buy lovemarks because of any rational reasons. Kevin Roberts says: "I love Adidas: Because I'm loyal beyond reason." He continues: "I don't care about the product, I don't care if it makes women run faster than if they had a pair of Nikes on. Or if it makes me look like David Beckham. I'm loyal beyond any of that rational crap"

When we love Adidas, that alone is sufficient to change our behaviour. We don't have to be told that we will run faster. We don't have to be told that David Beckham wears them. We open our wallets and buy them, for no other reason than that we love them.

The website www.lovemark.com invites people to nominate lovemarks. They are a bizarre list of things, including Harley Davidsons, the Lake District, Greenpeace and Twitter (a social networking programme).

panda-logo.jpg

Sign-writer's rendition of the Panda logo, Jim Corbett Nat'l Pk., Uttaranchal, India

Love-bites

The interest in lovemarks in the marketing industry points to a fundamental truth that people in the environment community would do well to take on board: The most effective way to change peoples' behaviour is for this to be prompted by something that they love.

Kevin Roberts is in the business of selling things, and has recognised that people buy things, reflexively, when they have come to love the brand. Love, here, is a sense of continuity of self between yourself and the object. It is a sense of self-identity with something. It is a relationship with something.

As Kevin Roberts puts it:

"So what are you seeing? You're seeing people hungry for relationships, hungry for intimacy. They've lost trust in all our institutions. Does anybody trust the Church anymore? You gotta be kidding me, right? Does anybody trust government? You sure as hell don't trust the company you work for, right? Because that's going to be Enron, or they're going to lay you off anyway next week and outsource you, etc., etc. So there's no trust. You can't trust the family unit because you probably haven't seen your father. People are looking for relationships, they're looking for intimacy, they're looking for bonding. They're not interested in transactions.They're frightened s**tless by the fact that we're at war, by terrorism and brutality, and who knows what's going to happen next. They are looking for a relationship, whether that's with an author, an idea, a brand, a product."

But this seems to me to be a shallow, fickle love. It's a transient fumble in the dark at a teenage party. Lovemarks make me think of hickies. Hickies, or love-bites, are the marks of lust, rather than of a mature relationship. Our love for a brand should be, and hopefully always will be, different to our relationship with members of our family or our home. The things that are really important to me; the kick of my unborn daughter, a beer with a friend, the sound of chaffinches in the morning, etc. can't be a lovemark. Lovemarks must be specific and tangible. They must be marketable.

Mediating mature love

We know from studies in psychology, that most people are either:

· Unaware of an (unconscious) connection to nature

· Aware of a connection, but unable or unwilling to articulate it

· Aware of a connection, and able to articulate it explicitly

We also know that when people identify with nature, they are more likely to take make sustainable behavioural choices. Not because they are 'sold' these on the basis of them being in their own self interest (energy efficiency measures) or because they are persuaded that they should behave differently, but rather because they want to behave differently. There is strong empirical evidence for this from psychology studies.

Today, a marketing strategy is deployed to shape the relationship that a consumer has towards a brand. This is managed in such a way that the relationship becomes one in which the brand becomes part of the identity of the consumer; it is a relationship which instils love on the part of the consumer.

Tomorrow, might a cultural transformation strategy be deployed to shape the relationship that an individual has towards the planet or other living things? The initial premise for the development of this relationship is that most people have an unconscious, or conscious but unarticulated connection. This is developed into a love relationship, in which the individual concerned now has a more transcendent sense of self, and reflexively engages in behavioural choices which are life-affirming. Is there a role for a mediator in this; possibly an NGO, which works to facilitate the development of this relationship? Much as an advertising agency works to nuture our love for Adidas running shoes?