Feel the Love

A lovemark is a product, service or entity which instills loyalty beyond reason 

Kevin Roberts, Lovemarks, Saatchi and Saatchi, 2005  


A teacher attending a Social Services meeting for her school is exasperated when a child cannot be placed in either foster care or a home. There’s no provision, not even temporarily, for this difficult boy. They ask around the room if anyone knows of a family who might take him. Silence. In the end the teacher agrees to take him overnight until something can be sorted the next day. He stays with her and her family for the next ten years.  Another teacher drives out of his way every morning to collect a sullen teenager and take her to school. Every day for two years. In the same school a young teacher sets coursework deadlines and goes round to the flats to make sure its handed in on time. Another voluntarily runs catch up classes in the months before GCSE. These staff don’t do it in service of a school policy or to boost Pupil Performance Data or because it’s on a list of tips. They do it out of loyalty, sometimes this loyalty seems beyond reason.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou


What constitutes loyalty beyond reason? The phrase originates from Kevin Roberts, who as global CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi, the agency who produced the poster ad of the pregnant man and who coined the phrase Labour isn’t Working, wrote a controversial book in 2005 called Lovemarks: the Future Beyond Brands. He claimed brands had become bland. They were undifferentiated, didn’t inspire loyalty and failed to stir the emotions. What businesses needed to do was create deep emotional connections with their customers who in turn would pay them back again and again with loyalty and love.


The truth of this struck me as I was sitting on a beach in Spain. Ahead of me a man was standing with his back to me by the water. He had long greying hair in a ponytail and a Harley Davidson tattoo across his shoulder blades. The tattoo had faded but was recognisable. The man obviously loved his bike. Here was loyalty beyond reason. I’ve yet to see anyone with a tattoo of a school name or logo or the name of a favourite teacher on their back – even though schools do stir the emotions and can provoke loyalty.


What, for your school, would constitute loyalty beyond reason? What does it look like? Where does it come from? How do we secure it? Roberts created a grid for his Lovemark concept . In this grid, Roberts positions brands but we could as easily be talking about schools.

Lovemark Grid

In the bottom left – Low Love and Low Respect – we find everyday commodities, low value transactions and things which we need but which inspire little or no affection. You don’t want your school to be here! Doing the minimal to get by, functional and concerned with coping. Schools here are lacking purpose and direction.


Top left – High Respect, Low Love – gives us brands and schools which are focused by ambition and shaped by corporate thinking. The brands, says Roberts, are fixed on the “e-r” words: cleaner, leaner, smoother, faster but have become commodified. This is the default for some Multi Academy Trusts led, not by Head Teachers, but by Chief Executives with little local ownership or governance. Competition ensures it’s a treadmill which is difficult to step off.


In the bottom right – High Love, Low Respect – we have fads, trends and short-term infatuations. It’s the world of C List celebrities, instant gratification and Pokemon Go! For schools it’s the consequence of weak leadership, others determining the school’s priorities and uncritical acceptance of whoever or whatever shouts the loudest.
In the top right – High Love and High Respect – are what Roberts labelled Lovemarks. For him, this is where new value lies. Businesses or schools can ‘create deep emotional connections with their ‘clients’ by gathering respect and stretching for Love.’ Think about the man who had tattooed his love for Harley Davidson on his back – a literal lovemark. For school leaders it’s a powerful question to ask how can we get all the structures, systems and relationships in place to gain what we’ve called Respect and at the same time build the loyalty through which we add value and foster discretionary effort.


It’s an interesting exercise. Where would you put your own school on the grid? Other schools? What about provision within your own school? How would you move your school to the top right, assuming of course you would want to?


For me the lessons for School Leaders emerge from this interface between respect and love.


  • Think Long Term.  Thinking about legacy and how what you do will sustain over time is a powerful way to determine what actually matters. If it’s not going to matter in five years’ time does it actually matter now?
  • Focus relentlessly and publicly on your Core Purpose.What is it that you and your colleagues are there to do? If we asked all your staff would we get the same or even a similar answer? You cannot revisit this often enough.
  • Be Clear on Expectations and ask others to be the same. How will we know we are doing a really great job? Great organisations are characterised by high levels of trust where open and honest conversations shape performance.
  • Simplify everything.Use plain language. Be like Steve Jobs at Apple and reduce everything to its simplest and most accessible form.
  • Nurture your teachers.Look after your staff by saying no on their behalf. No to time consuming and wasteful initiatives, the agendas of others and wasteful bureaucracy.
  • Own the Feelings. It’s tempting to bury emotions behind policies and protocols. Emotions drive behaviours and choices. It’s ok to ask how people are feeling.
  • Cherish and Curate all work.Why ask any pupil to complete a piece of work and then leave it lying around at the end of the lesson.  If a task is worth asking an adult or a child to complete then it’s also worth cherishing the outcome. Use this principle in all you do.
  • Focus on Solutions. Encourage collaborative thinking when engaging with meaningful problems. Don’t waste time with standing working parties or large, ill-defined groups. Finding a solution is more important than giving everyone a voice.
  • Share the stories good and bad.The culture of any organization is shaped by and reflects the stories it tells of itself.  Roberts asks consumers to describe how a product makes them feel. How does your school make staff and students feel?
  • Model what you espouse.Align what you do with what you say. Sounds simple enough but too often leaders are tripped up over inconsistencies.
  • Stand back regularly and do so together.Reflect on what has gone well and what can be improved.  Football managers spend considerably more energy trying to account for and correct bad results than learning from the good ones. Schools find it too easy to do the same. Make reflection a permanent feature of your development approach.


A lovemark is a product, service or entity which instills loyalty beyond reason. Saatchi and Saatchi have an ambition to ‘fill the world with lovemarks’ and thus rewrite the future with their clients.  They quote an eminent neuroscientist who suggests “The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions.” Leaders need to feel the love.

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