One way to conceptualize intense loyalty is to use love construct. Kevin Roberts, the CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, was an early advocate and elaborated the concept in his 2004 book Lovemarks.

Three Michigan researchers, Rajeev Batra, Aaron Ahuvia and Richard P. Bagozzi, have provided more depth to “brand love.” They conducted two qualitative studies exploring what a person means by loving a brand or other object and a quantitative study to identity its underlying dimensions and the output or value.

The findings are fascinating.

The qualitative studies found characteristics that subjects reported when discussing brands they loved. They included feelings that the loved brand:

  1. is the best in every way from value, to key attributes, to experience.
  1. connects to something deeper. Apple (the most mentioned loved brand was the iPod) represents

creativity and self-actualization.

  1. creates emotional benefits like being happy, e.g. “Pinkberry frozen yogurt makes me smile.”
  1. provides self-expressive benefits and high levels of WOM communication.
  1. generates affection and warm-hearted feelings.
  1. has a natural fit and harmony between people and the loved brands.
  1. stimulates a desire to maintain proximity to the brand and even feeling “separation distress.”
  1. engenders a willingness to invest time, energy and money into loved brands.
  1. involves frequent, interactive contact with the consumer
  1. has a long relationship history.

In the quantitative study, a brand love variable was found to predict loyalty, word-of-mouth communication and resistance to negative information.

This, to me, is an impressive validation and elaboration of what had been basically a common sense analogy. Each of the 10 characteristics has implications about the creation, maintenance and measurement of loyalty.