02/24/2012 03:32 pm ET Updated Apr 25, 2012

What Does Love Mean to Brands?

Love. Often people give presentations about "brand" love and cite companies like Apple, or Starbucks, or Virgin. Guess what? No other brand is Apple, or Starbucks, or Virgin; and you cannot just go out and copy those brands. If I stood in front of you and presented a case study about Apple it would demonstrate the "concept" of brand Love. What it would not do however, is help you. Many in the audience would silently mutter to themselves about all the failings of their brand. "OUR brand is not Apple," you'd think to yourself "and never will be." And I am here to tell you that you are 100 percent correct. Showing you case studies of brands that people Love is a waste of your time. For "Love" is not the reason, it is the result.

You cannot learn from looking at results, you have to understand the reasons for success.

And the reason is Devotion. Devotion, not Love is what you are after. Let me talk about Craftsman. I worked on Craftsman. What made Craftsman great is the devotion of those who used it. It has heritage. Craftsman made a better product, and then guaranteed it for life. FOR LIFE. Although they no longer offer that on all their products, an entire generation grew up with that promise. Kids remember working with their dads with Craftsman tools -- and that cemented memories about Craftsman that were positive for an entire generation. Unfortunately the Sears brand, which was the only place you could get Craftsman, no longer has that impact on me. Why not? YOU, your brand, wants to be Craftsman, not Sears. When you have devotion, do not take it for granted. Invest in it. Invest in devotion.

Devotion is the reason, Love is the result. Devotion, not Love is what you are after.

And we are devoted to the strangest things. That is the effect you wish to evoke in people. Devotion is less abstract. Devotion requires an experience with your product and brand; and that experience MUST surprise and delight. Devotion is what Craftsman had because the experience of all those kids with all those fathers.

It was the devotion Sears USED to have, back when they produced the Wish Book. In 1993, Sears discontinued publishing their big-book catalogs in the United States and the Wish Book noticeably started to diminish in size. By 2005, Sears had completely abandoned anything resembling the original Wish Book. It was that book, before its decline, that was our Internet during the holiday season, and unfortunately it never will be again. Even though they started producing something called a Wish Book in 2007, it is a paltry substitute, and more importantly, the market, the way we all consumed information, had changed. And with it went one of Sears's primary methods of drawing us in each year and connecting their brand with us in a deep and emotional way.

Slowly Sears became just another store as a generation slowly lost those magic moments of connection. A juggernaut store to be sure, but something was missing. I would guess that most emotional branding moments, those that stick with us, happen outside the purview of a brand. They are ephemeral but create that perfect memory for us that cements that brand in our psyche. What they are not is advertising campaigns or discounts on products. They are... experiential.

Imagine for a moment... imagine your first car. What did it mean to you? Was it a little rusty, maybe a little dented and beat up, or maybe it was something fresh off the lot. Regardless, did you name it? Is it not an it, but a her? Remember a time when it broke down on you? Did you get angry at it, and them forgive it? Did you take it through a car wash and KNEW that it ran better? Did you talk to it a little while cleaning it? What you want your brand to be is your first car. You loved it, you hated it, but you were devoted to it. You may have a nicer car now, it never doesn't start, it warns you if you are low on gas, it even speaks to you, but it often just doesn't have that same personality as your first car.

When people mention "brand love" and talk of Apple or Virgin or Starbucks... ignore them. You, your brand, does not have to be the best, or the shiniest, or the most expensive. But it has to make a connection with the person so that they can have an experience with it. That is what will engender devotion.

Stop trying to get people to love your brand and start acting like a brand that deserves their devotion.