The most valuable German brands are especially strong on providing a great experience, having a clear purpose, and are widely seen as being innovative. But what they tend to lack is love.
Brands might be tempted to think that this doesn’t really matter. Who needs love if they’re regularly coming up with innovative ideas, and making great advertising to promote them? Well, love is worth a lot to a brand – it’s much more than a “nice to have”.
Our research shows that when consumers make decisions about what to do or buy, their brains work in two ways. The first happens almost without any thinking at all. It’s an instinctive response made in a fraction of a second – what’s become known as System 1.
The second way, System 2, is more like thinking in the traditional sense. It’s when someone weighs up the pros and cons of one brand choice versus another and comes to a reasoned decision. Compared to System 1, this is time consuming and taxing.
This is why the brain uses System 1 – the fast, easy approach to decision-making – wherever possible, to help it make sense of a fast-moving world with as little mental effort as possible.
And here’s where love comes in. In essence, people feel first and think second, so when people feel emotional affinity towards a brand, it can lead to that brand becoming the one they reach for without really thinking. It becomes their System 1 choice, and that’s clearly a major competitive advantage.
So, where did the love go for Germany’s brands?
The Top 50 German brands are poor performers compared to the leading brands from many other large economies.
Worse news still is that German brands are less loved now than they were just a year ago. The love scores of the Top 50 brands has declined 4 percent since 2018, and for the Top 10 has dropped by 7 percent.
When BrandZ researchers ask consumers about the personality attributes they associate with leading German brands, we start to see why there’s respect and even admiration for them – but often a distinct lack of love.
Many of the largest German brands have established a strong reputation for success by providing world-leading, innovative products supporting customer choice and the desire for quality. But for some, this focus on all the rational reasons why someone would choose their brand has come at a price: they’ve forgotten about the emotional connection, and as a result people feel they’re lacking warmth and approachability.
The Top 25 brands in the German ranking over-index on traits such as being in control, arrogant and assertive. They also under-index on some of the more attractive personality attributes, such as being kind, brave, playful and fun.
This is not to say that there aren’t lovable and loved brands in Germany; there are. It’s just that smaller brands – and some of the big international brand names – are doing a better job of getting consumers to fall in love. In fact, among the most-loved brands in Germany, none of the Top 5 features in the BrandZ Top 50 Most Valuable German Brands.
Taking the love potion
German brands wanting to bring back the love need to look at all of the contacts that consumers have with them. This includes physical experiences in a store or when using a product, along with brand communications, items in the news, and word of mouth. It also brings in packaging, logos and sounds associated with a brand.
At every one of these touchpoints, brands need to deliver not just reasons for making a sensible, System 2 choice, but also positive, emotional associations that embed themselves in consumers’ minds. In this way, they may gradually become the automatic, System 1 brand of choice.
This is a large, long-term task, and there’s no shortcut to building the kind of strong emotional connections that lead to true brand love.
But there are several areas from where brands lacking love can make a start. Here are two:
TRUST - The brands that tend to perform poorly on the BrandZ love measure also tend to be less trusted when consumers are asked about their reputation. Trust levels for the Top 25 brands in our 2019 ranking have levels of trust significantly lower than the average brand, while brands 26 to 50 have a trust score that’s much higher than average.
It’s not quite as simple as saying that building trust will definitely lead to love, but love requires an underlying emotional connection with consumers, and few brands can generate that without also building trust.
Ads are an opportunity to etch a brand’s name on the mind of a consumer, but they’re also much more than that. If an ad also creates strong, positive emotional connections, then it is not just recalled, but remembered fondly. And it’s this warmth of feeling that helps lead to love. Germany’s Top 50 brands are less renowned for great advertising than some of the leading brands from other markets. In fact, among the Top 10 brands in Germany for advertising, only three feature in the most valuable Top 50. BrandZ research around the world shows that when big brands have engaging communications, they also generate love.