Make this the Summer of Love 2.0

Steve McGrath, June 2015

Have you found your true love, your one and only, your match-made-in-heaven soul mate? Do you love unconditionally? Eternally? Is everyone in your loving family really loving one another right now? If you answered yes to any of this, congratulations. You might be the only one.

love_definitionLove is not what the movies say it is, argues “Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become,” a new book by Barbara L. Frederickson, PhD. Love is intermittent, fleeting and biological. It’s a “micro-moment” of “positivity resonance” that can be experienced with a stranger as easily as with a spouse. It opens you to the world and makes you grow. What could this mean for communications, branding and PR?

“I need to ask you to disengage from some of your most cherished beliefs about love … the notions that love is exclusive, lasting and unconditional,” Frederickson writes. “These deeply held beliefs are often more wish than reality in people’s lives. They capture people’s daydreams about the love-of-their-life whom they’ve yet to meet. Love, as your body defines it, is not exclusive, not something to be reserved for your soul mate, your inner circle, your kin, or your so-called loved ones. Love’s reach turns out to be far wider than we’re typically coaxed to imagine. Even so, love’s timescale is far shorter than we typically think. Love, as you’ll see, is not lasting. It’s actually far more fleeting than most of us would care to acknowledge. On the upside, though, love is forever renewable.”

Love stories

Here are three true stories that fit the Love 2.0 pattern.

  • One of my colleagues was battling cancer a few years ago. She was going from specialist to specialist as she put together a treatment strategy. “What brings you here?” the doctors would inevitably ask as if reading from the same script. Apparently, it’s a standard question that elicits a lot of information about the patient’s understanding and attitude. It doesn’t comfort. One day, a particular doc flipped that script. “I’m sorry we’re meeting under these circumstances,” he said, looking his new patient in the eyes. It was a small thing, certainly, but it made a lasting impact. “I still remember how that immediately put me at ease,” my colleague says. “It was kind and human and unclinical. He understood I was anxious and needed sympathy – not the handwringing kind of sympathy, but just some kind of assurance I was more than one more ‘case.’ It made a huge impact on me.”
  • Another colleague’s story goes back decades. “I was in college and visiting friends at their campus,” she recalls. “I wanted to leave a bar, but none of my friends did. A guy I’d never met, the roommate of one of my friends, kindly walked me home with no amorous intent at all. He tucked me into a safe bed and made sure I was okay. I’ve never seen him again, but I always remembered his kindness. Actually, I decided that night that if I ever had a son, I would name him Sam because of that experience. I did have a son. And his name is Sam.”
  • I was riding my bike to work one day and spotted an elderly woman using a walker and dragging her empty trash can across her front lawn. Since then, I’ve stopped by on garbage day and toted the empty can across the yard for her. I was doing this the other day and heard a knocking sound from her house. For the first time, she’d spotted me in the act. She was in the window waving and smiling. I smiled and waved back. A nice moment for both of us.

Love 2.0 is relevant

Best friends self portraitMicro-moments of positivity resonance (“Love 2.0 affairs?”) like these have tremendous implications for communications. This new love model affirms the bedrock premise of our strategic relevance platform, that humans yearn to connect with people, brands, ideas and causes. Love 2.0 also dovetails with our recent findings that more Americans label themselves as compassionate than any of the nine other adjectives we offered them. Compassionate isn’t something you can be alone. It implies a connection.

A fleeting connection can be a powerful one indeed and may even – at that particular micro-moment of positivity resonance – transcend all of the more important loves in a person’s life. That’s not to say it will be more profound or enduring or monumental than a family or marriage tie – just that it will matter a lot when it occurs. And it may leave a lasting impact.

familyThe owner of my local wine store asks customers to tell him about the best wine they ever drank. They rarely tell him the grape variety, vintage or origin. They talk about the moment. “I was vacationing in France with my fiancée and the sun was setting over the Alps on our second-to-last night, and a local farmer walked up the porch and handed us a bottle without a label….”

Be a love machine

So how do you trigger Love 2.0? Storytelling is one way. You assemble random ideas in a way that enables brain patterns between storyteller and listener to converge, as the author says, in “a single act, performed by two brains.

We’d also suggest making sure your communications mine all four quadrants in our relevance model: not only logic (overrated), but senses, social impulses and values – all of which can help spark a Love 2.0 experience.

Meanwhile, the Love 2.0 paradigm helps explain some things we already know: that people are more interesting than things, that shaking hands and slapping backs works for politicians, that a hug can undermine decades of estrangement, that pictures are more powerful than words, that free samples work, and that for many, cat videos are like crack.

So, are you ready to have a Love 2.0 affair with your customers, followers or constituents? Can you deliver?