My first brand love affair happened when I was five. It was with a box of Ferrero Rocher. Third prize in my school’s Christmas tombola, they beckoned to me over remnants of mince pies and peanut fragments. I had lusted over those gleaming golden balls ever since the Ambassador’s Reception.
Every ad break, I’d be whisked away to a world of black tie balls, schmaltzy electronica and butlers wielding formidable pyramids of edible gold. It was decadence, it was elegance, it was the epitome of good taste. And I wanted in.
Fast forward twenty-odd years and I’ve had more than my fair share of brand flings. I’ve toyed with Tamagotchi, philandered with Apple and flirted shamelessly with Yo Sushi. It starts with an electric moment, your thirsty first kiss.
You see that thing, making eyes at you from the shelf, from your screen, from that gaudy window display out of the corner of your eye. And you want it. You don’t just want it; you need it. Every fibre of your being craves it like a 4pm Twix.
Perhaps you’re a ripper, ravishing the packaging to get your grubby little mitts on whatever thing it is that sets your soul on fire. Maybe you’re a dainty unboxer, delicately fingering open your prize package.
Who can forget magic moments like that eternal wait for your first iPod as the box slowly slips open, when you caught Pikachu from your sofa in Pokemon Go, or that first time you sipped an Innocent smoothie and felt understood by a plastic bottle?
Branding is seduction. It’s when product melds with words, design and vision to create something that transcends the thing itself. Like any good seduction, branding is not a wham, bam, thank you ma’am affair. It’s those little moments of surprise and wonder that spark that electric tension and keep you coming back for more.
Things like thank you cards, “just because” notes and apology gifts make you feel like a winner, because they acknowledge your humanity. They create human connection. They remind you that you matter.
Just like any seduction, if you break the illusion, the whole thing shatters to pieces. How many of us end up disappointed with the brands we fell head over heels in love with? That time when you realise your new phone barely has the battery life to help you survive the commute home, or your favourite beloved Netflix series has been cancelled, the absolute fuckers.
That’s the moment for a grand gesture, a barrage of love letters, expensive gifts, or at the very least answering the goddamn helpline. But right when we need them to seduce us the most, brands often ghost us like a flaky tinder date.
Customer services have anything but answers, comms channels fizzle into eerie silence, refunds are promised but never turn up, when all you want are words that acknowledge that you, as an IRL human being, have not had your expectations met and they give a damn about that.
At the heart of it, branding and seduction are both pretty simple. It’s not just about what you say; it’s about what you do. Connect with the people who matter most to you. Keep doing the little things that make them love you. Surprise and delight them every now and again. Don’t make things too hard for them, they won’t come back. Make ’em happy every chance you can.
And work with the right people to make that fantasy a reality.