Lovemarks and College branding

Kevin Roberts of Saatchi & Saatchi has championed the idea of lovemarks as the ultimate level of brand loyalty. Think Apple or Harley-Davidson. His definition is “Loyalty beyond Reason.” With a brand, there is high respect. With a fad, there is high love but low respect. With a lovemark, there is high respect AND high love.

To Roberts, love here means three things: mystery, sensuality, and intimacy… sounds like eros, and Madison Avenue certainly knows how to incorporate sex if they can. But mystery is the word Saatchi likes to use to describe the stories, metaphors, and symbolism of the brand. It adds complexity and compelling drama to the personality of the brand.

Sensuality refers to the multiple ways the brand communicates with its target. And intimacy describes each customer’s amount of empathy or passion or commitment to the brand.

And here is where I think lovemarks and colleges naturally collide: because the bottom line for a lovemark as defined by its inventors is this:

“Take a brand away and people will find a replacement. Take a lovemark away and people will protest its absence.”

I don’t think very many colleges can expect incoming students to reach that kind of loyalty or commitment during the admissions process. The fact is students have lots of choices and they’ll matriculate wherever they feel drawn at the moment.

I’d suggest that colleges really do develop a lovemark with their students over the course of four years. Most alumni WOULD protest if their alma-mater were taken away. Once they’ve invested their lives there, they have loyalty beyond reason. Which of course is the leverage that makes fundraising possible.

For admissions marketing, I think the reality is more reserved. Except for perhaps full-pay legacy students, a college will not often be able to be a true lovemark for its prospectives.

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2 Responses

  1. Wonderful encapsulation of how a foundational book applies to the college experience!

  2. A very interesting blog post. What would you say was the most common problem?

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