Are you seeking Brand Love or Friends With Benefits?

Our research into the future of brand relationships gives us a clearer understanding of how to build better, stronger bonds between brands and people. Turns out a Friends With Benefits relationship can sometimes be more profitable than a Dependency…

Jul 16, 2021

By Neil Davidson

I spend a lot of my working day in Pret. I start off the day with a coffee and a list of things to get out of the way before the onslaught of Zoom calls hits, then I’m in and out when I need liquid or food, or just a change of scene to stimulate the brain.

Pret gets a lot of my time and money, and these behaviours would be classified as loyalty in some behavioural segmentation models, by some I might even be described as having a brand love relationship with Pret.

I could go full Planner on this anecdote and dive into Lovemarks vs Byron Sharp’s physical and mental availability with a sprinkling of ‘The Long and Short of It’ thrown in, but sometimes the realities of our own relationships with brands makes the point so much better.

The reality is that my relationship with Pret is driven by convenience and ease. There’s a Pret at the bottom of my street, there are lots sprinkled around London, and I know what I’ll get when I go into any of them. Pret helps me make one less choice in a day full of them, and it’s good enough to stop me looking around, no more.

Are we doing it for love or money?

Pret gets over 80% of my spend and yet I have a weak emotional connection with it. This trap for brands is one we identified in our research into the future of brand relationships: marketers assuming or aspiring to something closer to a brand love relationship for their brand when the current reality and what people may really be looking for is friends with benefits. To quote one of our research respondents, ‘I love British Airways ads, but EasyJet gets my money because it’s easy to use their mobile app and they’re so much cheaper than BA.’

We’ve been living in an era of FWB when so many brands were still chasing unrequited love, and the acceleration of this due to the pandemic made this so obvious. Legacy push and pull models need to be reconsidered and challenged by asking ‘why are we pushing and pulling when people want things to be made easier?’ These choices may not be exclusive, but it seems crazy to invest in brand communications and then make engagement with the brand hard work, as so many brands still do.

Are you a swipe right or swipe left brand?

My FWB relationship with Pret may not sound so appealing to many marketers, but is it such a bad thing? Particularly if it’s shaped with that understanding and reinforces these FWB relationships? Pret has had troubled times recently, through no fault of its own, and while it’s hard to predict its future they have locked me in again with their subscription app. It’s worth asking how many newer brands, both admired and growing, have done this through a FWB relationship? Amazon, Zoom and Just Eat to name a few.

Great brands do build emotional connections. However, we need to remember how few brands are truly loved. We need to let go of legacy models based solely on pulling and pushing, wasting businesses’ time and money and remember that genius brands often hit skyrocket growth because they just help make our lives that little bit easier.

Time for another black Americano…

Download our short white paper on the 14 new brand relationships and the opportunity for Human Brands.