Who’s your brand valentine?

The season of love is rapidly approaching, and no doubt those cunningly pesky marketers will be trying to woo you, dear customer, with fine promises, finer promotions, and lots of offers wrapped in metaphorical — and no doubt literal — pink bows and ribbons, garlanded with hearts, fluffy or otherwise.

All of which might strike some of you as being slightly off the point when it comes to celebrating the saint day of a man (possibly five men) who may have had his head chopped off for helping couples marry.

The fact that there is more than one person who could claim to be St Valentine does point to another truth. When it comes to marketing around this particular festival, most brands are particularly one-dimensional when it comes to their thinking about love. Most of the offers and the hooks seem to revolve around Eros, romantic and erotic love, the one that we most associate with the day.

However our clever ancient Greek chums actually defined six other types or modes of love, so I thought it might be a bit of a wheeze to see which brands could help us appreciate the other ways there are of appreciating each other.

Agape — the love of humanity

This is the big love, the one that connects us to everyone — even people we don’t know — just because we’re humans together on this little shining green rock of ours. It’s what makes us sad when we see bad things happening in countries far away, and means we give to charity to try and alleviate the pain we see. All of which sounds like the natural territory for a brand on a mission, or a charity –Amnesty International, or UNICEF say.

Ludus — flirting, playful affection

The giddiness, the butterflies, the flitters and the flutters… this is the love before Eros, all playful and dashing and maybe a bit dangerous and cheeky too. Something that puts an unstoppable smile on our faces. That to me sounds a bit like an Instagram or WhatsApp — think how your heart races when you get a like or the next message comes in; what’s the next stage in the story?

Philautia — self-respect

We have to love ourselves too, of course. Not too much, for that way vanity and staring at ourselves in the nearest pool will lie. But we have to try and be true to ourselves and our own values as much as we can. From that integrity comes the strength to care for ourselves, which means that we can then care for others too. Which brands might be said to stay true to themselves the best (of course, this is something that all brands should do)? How about Huit Denim, the Welsh jeans company which prides itself on doing One Thing Well?

Philia — shared experience

This is deeper than sharing just an experience — it’s more akin to the bond we feel towards people when we have gone through a difficult or challenge together with them. It’s the love we have for those who’ve stuck by our side as we achieve things — colleagues and teammates. You can see how sharing economy brands like Airbnb try and appropriate some of this sentiment when they talk of their community of hosts creating a sense of belonging. But perhaps the truer expression of it is a sports brand such as FC Barcelona who are, famously, more than a club.

Pragma — love which endures

Perhaps this is the hardest type of love for a brand to offer or replicate. As much as many companies might speak of long-term customer relationships, do they really think of them as analogous to the love that develops over time between a married couple? Or a connection that means a friend will look after you if you become ill? I’m not all that convinced that there are that many commercial brands that think for the long term — the real long term, such as building a 10,000 year clock. Maybe John Lewis, of all contemporary organizations, does this best.

Storge — family love

And finally, arguably the strongest units of love — the feeling that a parent has for a child, or vice versa. The feeling that uncles and aunts have for nieces and nephews, grandparents for grandchildren — a blood tie is a good sign that love should hopefully be present too. And the brand that best reflects the magic of all that? Disney of course.

What I really would love, in the spirit of the season, is for your suggestions for other brands that might sit well within these categories. Which brands do you love that might be good lovers?

Hunger, Fire, Harrumph.

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