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4 min read

Is Brand Love a Thing? Unlocking the Science

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Brand love goes beyond mere loyalty—it's a deep, emotional connection that transforms customers into brand advocates. In this blog, we explore the science behind this phenomenon, delving into the brain's role in shaping our experiences and uncovering how brands can harness these insights to create lasting customer relationships.


Is Brand Love a Thing? Unveiling the Science Behind Devoted Customers

Have you ever felt an inexplicable connection to a brand? Maybe you wear their brand several times a week, own every gadget they release, or even have their logo tattooed! This phenomenon goes beyond simple brand loyalty – it’s BRAND LOVE, and it can have an incredibly deep and profound impact on consumers.

In my recent book, Immersion: The Science of the Extraordinary and the Source of Happiness, I delve into the brain’s fascinating role when it comes to shaping our experiences. I describe the brain as "lazy" because it burns 30% of our calories, but it is only 2% of our body weight. I also explain that despite being a calorie-guzzling organ, the brain is wired for efficiency. It prioritizes processing experiences with high social-emotional value (evolutionarily beneficial), which is where brand love comes in!

The Science of Brand Love: Our Lazy Brain at Play

The brain is lazy in two ways. First, because it exhibits selective processing. The human body evolved for the brain to "idle" most of the time to conserve energy, only firing up its processing power in cases where an experience it deems as valuable is happening. Experiences with high social-emotional value induce peak levels of Immersion – a state we crave that contributes to life satisfaction and fulfillment. Brands that create experiences with high Immersion tap into this desire, influencing our behavior and forging deeper connections.

The second way the brain exhibits laziness is through the repurposing of neural networks. That is, certain neural networks that evolved to help us thrive eons ago now activate in different, sometimes surprising, ways today. A powerful example of this is falling in love. Humans are one of the few mammal species that form pair bonds, creating long-term attachments for co-parenting (and sometimes, just for bonding!) Beavers, gibbons, and grey wolves also pair bond. In humans, the bonding neurochemical, oxytocin, runs in overdrive compared to other mammals. It isn’t just limited to romantic relationships – it is why we love adopted children, pets, and even our close friends!

The Alchemy of Brand Love: When Marketing Meets Neuroscience

Nando Costa, who has done design and marketing for the largest tech companies on the planet, beautifully captures the essence of brand love: he says consumers who are in love with a brand not only buy nearly everything the brand produces, they also become ardent brand advocates – advertising it without compensation. The brand becomes part of their identities. Think Apple with its devoted fan base who will wait hours for the latest tech, or Harley Davidson’s fierce biker community. And Disney has clearly cracked the code – in fact, Statistica reports Disney is the brand that has the most tattoos worldwide, with nearly half a million people posting photos of themselves sporting a tattoo of the iconic Disney logo. That's permanent brand love!

But is brand love just blind loyalty, or is there a scientific explanation? Costa suggests there is an "alchemy" to building brand love, and the scientists at Immersion set out to crack the code on that alchemy.

Oxytocin: The “Love Molecule” and Brand Perception

Given Immersion’s previous work demonstrating the importance of oxytocin in memorable experiences and how those impact future action, we hypothesized its importance in the brand love formula. Most of the second-by-second variation in Immersion is due the brain's response to the neurochemical oxytocin, which is also known as the "love molecule.”

The study was a double-blind, placebo-controlled study where oxytocin was administered to male and female participants before they received information about brands and had the opportunity to purchase branded products. This work – now published in a leading scientific journal – found that those who received synthetic oxytocin rated the products significantly higher than those who received placebo (Excellent vs just OK). Oxytocin participants also used more positive emotional words to describe the brands. Most importantly, participants who were given oxytocin were willing to pay more for branded products. Preference, emotional language, and a willingness to pay more...that sure sounds a lot like love!

Building Brand Love Through Immersion

This research offers compelling evidence that similar biological mechanisms behind human love are at play in brand love. This isn't alchemy or magic, it’s the lazy brain's clever way of reusing our existing neurochemical mechanisms for social connection and bonding to navigate today's product-rich, consumer-first world.

The point of this research is not that marketers should drug consumers. Marketers can leverage this knowledge to trigger the brain’s release of oxytocin naturally by crafting high-Immersion brand stories and marketing campaigns. These communications should be emotionally driven, captivating, and create a strong sense of connection with the brand’s values and ultimate purpose. They should also align with the consumers’ own passions, in an authentic, and deeply connected way.

Measuring and Cultivating Brand Love

The key to unlocking brand love lies in crafting effective brand stories. But, how do you know if your story is going to connect deeply and take the consumer on a path to brand love? This is where Immersion technology becomes your superpower.

The only way to know if you brand story will result in brand love is to measure it using the Immersion platform. By using our measurement tools, marketers can gauge the effectiveness of their brand stories and marketing campaigns, objectively quantifying whether they are creating the necessary key moments of oxytocin release in target customers to ensure the spark of brand love ignites. This data-driven approach will help you refine stories for maximum impact, ensuring you will ignite brand love in your customer base.

It's Not About Manipulation, It’s About Connection

The goal is not to manipulate – consumers are increasingly adept at recognizing inauthenticity and skeevy sales tactics – it’s about creating genuine connections through powerful storytelling. By understanding the science behind brand love and leveraging Immersion’s value measurement technology, marketers can cultivate a loyal and passionate customer base…one with a deep emotional investment in the brand.

So the answer is a resounding YES! Brand love is a real phenomenon. It’s a powerful force in consumer behavior – one that can make you an iconic household name loved by many. By harnessing the science of Immersion, unlock your brand’s potential to build lasting customer relationships and start curating more brand love. Start measuring your stories, and generating more brand love today!

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