It's not enough to be loved; instead, you have to create a sense of desire that will keep someone coming back to you for more.
That's as much relationship advice as it is branding advice, say two experts who have formed an unlikely partnership.
Jonathan Ford is a founding partner and the chief creative director of branding agency Pearlfisher. Esther Perel is a relationship expert whose TED talks on love and desire have garnered more than 14 million views. Together Ford and Perel will debut a presentation called "The Erotics of Branding: Creating Desire in Relationship" at the Cannes Lions Festival for Creativity at the end of June.
Ford and Perel recently gave a preview of their talk at Pearlfisher's New York offices. The two met through their work with the TED organization, and said that after discussing each other's work, they were struck by how similar the language can be when people describe brands and relationships.
Both say that while romantic love and brand love aren't quite the same, love is the quality that is often talked about as holding together a relationship, whether it's with a customer or with a partner. But, they say that desire is actually the characteristic that helps relationships survive the monotony of longevity. Love is about cherishing what you have, while desire is driven by wanting something new or unknown.
"Love is important, but desire makes connections more exciting," says Ford. And desire is what makes the difference when it comes to inspiring loyalty among partners or customers, Perel added.
Here are three tips Ford and Perel gave on how brands can create (or reignite) a sense of desire among customers:
1. Maintain an aura of mystery around your products.
Since desire is all about the unknown, companies should take steps to incorporate some sense of mystery around their brands and products. Ford says the brands that are best at this, such as Apple and Google, are very transparent about what their company culture stands for. But they figure out how to keep people excited about new product launches and other events by releasing as few details as possible in advance.
2. Mystery around how your company operates, on the other hand, is rarely a good thing.
If there's one area in which you should eliminate doubts and questions, it's in how your company operates and how it responds to criticism.
Take Volkswagen, for example, which came under fire in September for having cheated on environmental emissions tests. Volkswagen now has to find a way to restore trust with its customers. If the company wants to create a sense of mystery in the future, it's going to have to prove that it isn't for nefarious purposes, Ford says.
You never want to blindside customers. If you do, Perel says, you must do three things to repair the relationship: admit the mistake, admit you hurt the customer, and continue to acknowledge the betrayal as you try to repair the relationship.
3. Figure out what feeling you want associated with your brand.
Ford and Perel say that while luxury brands tend to get associated with a sense of desire more frequently, a high-cost product isn't a necessary part of the equation.
The key to inspiring desire is to identify what feeling you want customers to experience after they interact with your brand. That way, customers have something to look forward to with every new interaction, which maintains the sense of want that is a necessary part of desire. Consider, for example, how Uber does this.
"What they give you is a seamless, wonderful feeling of 'my ride just arrived,'" Perel says. A consistently convenient, easy experience can go a long way toward cultivating long-term loyalty.