Love drives student choices in products, organizations

Recently I’ve been reading a rather beautiful book called Lovemarks, written in 2004 by Kevin Roberts, the worldwide CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi.

Roberts describes what happens when an individual forms a relationship with a brand beyond one of “I buy it because it is adequate and cheap.” Throughout the book he discusses a way for companies to create that invaluable tie: one of loyalty beyond reason.

A Lovemark, according to Roberts, is a few levels above trademarks and brands: where a brand conveys information, a Lovemark creates a relationship. A brand is generic, while a Lovemark is personal. And while a brand might make a statement, a Lovemark tells a story.

There are some easily identifiable Lovemarks that many in our peer group have. Perhaps the most obvious example of loyalty beyond reason is that pinnacle of mp3 player design, the iPod. For years the iPod cost more and had fewer features (as a student journalist, the lack of voice recording was always a deal breaker) than competing players, and while it had the lead in ease of use and design for a while, a number of other manufacturers have been producing very competitive products for some time now.

Still, if you board the Stinger and look around, you will see that 90 percent of the students have the tell-tale white headphones. Why? Apple has done a fantastic job of making the iPod the player to own. Its commercials are an instructive exercise in storytelling, from the unique visual style to the musical choices. Furthermore, Apple’s ability to deliver a complete experience, including an application component and music store, before its competition allowed it to form even stronger ties with its customers.

Better yet, Apple’s ubiquitous product provides the soundtrack to its owners’ lives: people who love music—a huge group—almost universally love their iPods. A friend of mine told me that she likes her iPod a whole lot because it “makes her happy.” A piece of electronics that makes you happy? That’s a Lovemark.

There are a number of other Lovemarks we as students surround ourselves with. Facebook, Skype, bands we like—all of these are Lovemarks for different groups of us. But one of the things that I’ve been wondering about while reading the book is whether these strong relationships also exist between students and some of the things associated with Tech, whether it be traditions, establishments or student organizations.

I truly care about the organizations that I have dedicated my time and effort to, and I know many students feel likewise. But it seems like membership is a pre-requisite for that relationship, which makes me question the status of any student organizations as a Lovemark. Have you ever heard of a student who was excited about attending an event just because it was put on by a certain organization? I haven’t.

And yet every student organization tries hard to get people to attend or participate in its projects and take an interest in its causes. Wouldn’t every one of them want to create a deep, lasting relationship with all the people that are in their constituencies, whether they are members or not?

As the Outreach Editor of the Technique, I wonder what it would take for an organization to build that relationship with the students. What could we do to make the Technique a Lovemark for our community and the students, faculty and staff who make up our reader base?

Roberts defines five core principles of brands that move to the next layout and become Lovemarks: they are passionate, involve customers, celebrate loyalty, find, tell and retell great stories, and accept responsibility.

Over the course of our existence we have done better at some of these things than at others. We have not involved others in our newspaper as much as we should, and we have not rewarded reader loyalty. Most notably, though, there isn’t a story associated with reading the Technique—except that of “I picked it up, read the Slivers and did the Sudoku.”

Ultimately, every organization should strive to build that loyalty. If they succeed, maybe we will have a campus of less apathetic, more engaged students.