The idea of ‘brand love’ is nothing more than ‘fuzzy nonsense’

Most of the money spent on social media by brands is spent talking to a tiny group of people who are probably already using the products – every hour and dollar spent talking to these people is a dollar and hour not spent on acquiring new customers – writes Bob Hoffman

Most people just don’t care that much about paper towels, says Hoffman

There is only one essential job for marketing – to acquire customers. Everything else marketing does is a footnote. This is why the current obsession with social media is largely misguided.

People are far more likely to use social media to follow a brand they currently use than a brand they don’t. It is very reasonable to assume that the vast majority of people following your brand on social media are already customers. And usually they are a tiny component of your user base – well under one tenth of one per cent.

Consequently, most of the money you spend on social media is spent talking to a tiny group of people who are probably already using your brand. Every hour and dollar spent talking to these people is a dollar and hour not spent on acquiring new customers.

The justification for this is usually some fuzzy nonsense about ‘brand love’. It comes from that infantile school of marketing that believes if you shower people with social media or ‘content’ – whatever the hell that means – they will fall in love with your brand.

Here is a recent chart from McKinsey. Frankly, I can’t vouch for the methodology or the conclusions, but even if it’s only half-true it demonstrates pretty convincingly the daunting limitations of ‘brand love’.

The limitations of ‘brand love’

There is obviously nothing wrong with trying to communicate with some of your customers through social media and trying to build a nice relationship. It’s a matter of perspective. It is reasonable to devote a small component of a marketing budget toward that. If you do it well, your objective should be modest — to maintain or motivate brand preference.

However, spending a lot to chase the chimera of brand love is usually a wasteful and largely empty exercise. The idea that social media creates brand love is a fantasy. A recent article published in the Harvard Business Review reported that:

“Across 16 studies, we found no evidence that following a brand on social media changes people’s purchasing behaviour.”

I’m sorry to tell you this, but most people just don’t care that much about your paper towels. And if some do, and they follow you on social media, it’s not likely to change their buying habits. Unfortunately, we have been lead to accept a very seductive philosophy based on the fantasy of brand love.

It is founded on the expensive, wasteful delusion that people want to have ‘conversations’ with brands, read and share ‘content’ about brands, co-create with brands and several other flavours of childish nonsense (for a great read on this subject, particularly for creatives, I suggest “Nobody Wants To Read Your Sh*t” by Steven Pressfield).

Our brands are critically important to us marketers but in the vast majority of cases not very important at all to most consumers. Instead of spending a lot of money trying to convince a small number of people to love your brand, your money would be much more wisely spent trying to convince a lot of people to like it.

Bob Hoffman has been the CEO of two independent agencies and is the author of the Ad Contrarian blog

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