I am just not a Valentine’s Day person. Hearts, flowers, gifts, candlelit dinners… none do much for me. Acts of service are much more my love language, and not just one day a year.
That is why when I saw this shirt from Mahogony Mommies, it seemed like a perfect February uniform: Love is an Action Word.
I’ll admit, it feels a little strange to talk about love in the context of business. Culture, sure. Values, no problem. But love?
Even though we don’t always think about them this way, businesses, especially family businesses, are deeply human, and derived from love at their core. Us humans crave connection, respect, and a sense of belonging… in other words, love as action.
The book, Love as a Business Strategy, makes the case for building an internal “culture of love.” I think many businesses could take it one step further and develop a brand of love.
In Six-Point’s brand strategy workshops, we define branding as “the consistent alignment of a company value proposition to customer values.” Basically, you have to connect the value that the company creates to what its customers value.
We know that humans fundamentally and deeply value love. That is not a question. The question is… can a business produce love as a value proposition in an authentic, non-exploitative way? I believe we can.
Simon Sinek has a quote that I love: “There is a difference between providing a service and being willing to serve. Only one is generous.”
I think within these words lies the secret to love as a brand strategy, and it is something that many family businesses do quite naturally. In fact, it is one of the hidden strengths of many family businesses.
I see it daily:
- An IT company going the extra mile to understand their customers’ businesses and make recommendations that may actually lose them short-term sales
- A manufacturer with a passion for engineering a product that can withstand a “forever” guarantee in a channel where skimping on quality boosts volume and profit margin
- A food producer who experiments and tinkers constantly but won’t release a new product until they have deemed it worthy of their customers (which has taken over a decade in some cases!)
This willingness to serve and deeply respect customers is of tremendous value in a world where the pressure is often focused on growing quickly, showing a profit immediately, and being opportunistic during market fluctuations.
But a brand is a reputation… what others say about you, not what you say about yourself. So, if your company naturally acts out of love and respect for its customers, the opportunity is to become known for it. In many ways, this idea is fundamentally at odds with the mindset of humble service that permeates our culture. That said, it is important to connect with customers who value love, belonging, and respect. These will be your most loyal customers, and the ones who fully appreciate the value you are creating.
So, how can you build a brand of love without bragging?
- Tell stories. I know, this is every branding expert’s advice, but one thing that I have learned over the years is that businesses get very good at telling case study stories. These are the stories of “problem/solution/outcome.” Totally fine, but it does nothing to showcase the heart behind the service or product. Instead, it is critical to tell stories of emotion and heart. Stories that people can relate to on a gut level. Don’t talk about technical problems. Talk about where people were emotionally. How were they feeling? What effect did this have on them? How did the work of your team fundamentally change things, and why was this important on a human level?
- Amplify the voice of your customer. This means going beyond reviews alone. Are there opportunities for your existing customers to connect with or spend time with your prospective customers? Are there emails you’ve received or reviews that perfectly capture the love present in your company and your team? If so, don’t just share them once, or leave them in a “customer feedback” file somewhere. Talk about them and feature them prominently and consistently. Maybe there are other stakeholders in your business whose voices you can amplify as well? Is there a vendor you have had a relationship with for decades? A supplier who depends on your company’s success as much as your employees do? These voices can tell your story and affect your brand more than you will ever be able to.
- Create a sense of belonging. Humans want to be seen, feel connected to other humans, and to something bigger than themselves. At first, this may feel awkward in the context of a product or service, but think of a time when you were personally connected with a brand. The value of feeling seen and appreciated is universal. Can you connect your customers to your ability to create jobs in your community, or to develop and promote a key employee? Maybe you have specific stories of your company’s philanthropic initiatives or its ability to positively impact the environment? During COVID, brands became better at connecting these dots for customers, connecting dollars spent with customers’ ability to maintain jobs. The fact is, this impact is always true.
If, like me, you believe that love is an action word, let’s make sure that we center it in every part of our lives, including in our business and in our relationships with our customers, suppliers, and colleagues. Let’s make love our legacy.