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How to Spark (and Sustain) Brand Love and Passion

Everyone wants to be loved—especially marketers. Unfortunately, sparking and sustaining brand love requires more than just a shot from Cupid’s arrow. As with any relationship, it requires give and take.

“Love is a 360 connection, meaning, to receive love you must give love,” John Moore, coauthor of The Passion Conversation and “chief of wahoo” for word-of-mouth agency Brains on Fire, said at the Bazaarvoice Summit in New Orleans.

Love also requires passion. And passion, Moore said, starts when a company is founded. He explained that if marketers can nurture customers to care about the same values and objectives that their brands do, then that passion can grow through word of mouth.

After all, every business’s success or failure starts and ends with people. Have low retention rates? Then your brand doesn’t have enough people making repeat purchases, Moore argued. Poor customer service? Your company has too many unhappy people. Low engagement? Your business has too many disconnected people.

“If you’re not successful, then you’re not connecting with enough people,” the former Starbucks and Whole Foods marketing veteran summarized.

Indeed, getting people to generate word of mouth for your brand is vastly important, especially considering that word-of-mouth media amplifies paid media by 15%, according to the Word of Mouth Marketing Association.

So, how can brands spark a passion-filled conversation with their customers and get them to talk about their products? Here are three triggers for sparking word of mouth, as well as Moore’s three tips for maintaining it.

Three triggers for sparking a passion-filled conversation about brands and products

According to the Marketing Science Institute (MSI), there are three signals marketers can look for or create to trigger word of mouth among consumers:

1)    Functional

2)    Social

3)    Emotional

Let’s take a closer look at each one.


Functional conversations, Moore explained, are factual and educational. These dialogues, he added, provide the basic information customers need to better interpret their surroundings and make decisions.

Earlier this year, for example, Starbucks introduced the Flat White to the U.S. and Canada. To help familiarize North American customers with the new espresso beverage, Starbucks put explanatory signage in its stores.

Southwest Airlines, which disrupted the airline industry by allowing customers to select their seats when they board, needed a way to avoid a mad dash down the airplane aisle. So, the airline assigns passengers individual boarding numbers. Passengers with the lowest numbers get to board the plane first and have their first pick of the seats. Of course, getting a throng of people to line up in numerical order can seem like an impossible task. But Southwest Airlines directs them with its boarding signage.

“The functional trigger helps to spark conversations when you’re introducing something new or something that could be complicated,” Moore explained.


Social signaling occurs anytime a consumer attaches themselves to a brand. This attachment is obvious through displays of affection such as carrying logo-emblazoned items (e.g. a Starbucks tumbler or Whole Foods tote bag) and uploading pictures (e.g., from their trip to Disney World) to social sites, Moore said. By associating themselves with a brand, he explained, consumers are saying that they’re like the brand, and that brand is like them.

“Many times when we engage in conversations [where] we identify with the brands that we love, we start to feel better about ourselves,” he added.

So, marketers’ goal should not be to get people to talk directly about their brands, Moore said, but rather it should be to get people to talk about themselves through the brands they buy.


What happens when people are extremely happy? They notify their social networks. Same thing occurs when they’re extremely frustrated. But when people are indifferent, Moore said, they don’t feel the need to tell anybody. That’s why, to generate word of mouth, marketers need to get their customers to feel an emotion, whether it’s happiness, sadness, empathy, or the just the urge to giggle.

Every company is capable of getting their customers to feel, Moore continued, no matter how dull their sector may seem. Take insurance, for example. Brands like AllState and Progressive have created characters like Mayhem and Flo, respectively, to make talking about insurance a little more enjoyable. He also cited how Whole Foods gets right to customers’ hearts by talking about its values and supplier stories in its national “Value Matter” campaign.

Three types of brand stories for sustaining passion conversations

Of course, getting customers to talk about themselves through your brand is only half of the battle; sustaining this conversation is an entirely different feat. And the key to maintaining these dialogues is to have a clear understanding of the brand’s story.

“If you do not have a story, then you do not have a strategy,” Moore said.

According to Moore, there are three types of stories marketers can tell:

1)    How their brand improves customers’ lives

2)    How their brand rights a wrong

3)    How their brand makes the current state of their industry better

And while being able to tell one of those stories is good, being able to tell all three is the secret to becoming a beloved brand, Moore said. Here’s a deeper dive into each one of these storytelling techniques.

Improving customers‘ lives

Life always seems greener on the other side. So, why not tap into this idea and show consumers how other people have been able to improve their lives through a brand’s products and services.

Fitbit is one brand that tells this story very well, Moore said, mainly by conveying how its products help customers’ and their social communities live more active lives. The Container Store is another brand that conveys this improved-life benefit, Moore said, by communicating the idea that people spend less time and stress looking for lost items because every item in their homes has its own place through its storage solutions.

Righting a wrong

What brand doesn’t want to be a hero in its customers’ lives? Moore said stories about brands fighting an injustice are always a win.

Consider TurboTax: The tax preparation software provider tries to right the wrong of having poor people pay the most to have their taxes done, Moore said, by charging a flat, low-cost fee for its services.

Making it better

Myspace was good until Facebook made social networking better, Moore said, and Blockbuster was good until Netflix made movie watching better. The bottom line is brands need to be able to communicate how their company is better than anything else out there. 

Now go give your customers something to talk about.

Photo sources: Starbucks, Southwest Airlines

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