“I start with the idea that love is a way of valuing something. It is a positive response toward the ‘object of love’—which is to say, anyone or anything that is loved. In a manner quite special to itself, love affirms the goodness of this object.”
So begins the first volume of philosopher Irving Singer’s masterful trilogy, The Nature of Love.1
Singer argues that love includes two related components: “appraisal” and “bestowal.”
Appraisal involves our valuation of an object’s (person, thing, or ideal) ability to satisfy our interests, our wants, our desires. So in thinking about loving another person, we search for and find love in a person who meets our wants, who satisfies our interests, who meets our needs. We desire him or her for certain characteristics or attributes that she/he has—face, hair, shape, intelligence, sense of humor, interests (and so on) that align with what we’re looking for. This is appraisal. We see a person as lovable based on a set of characteristics that matter to us as an individual. In short, we love them because we find them lovable.
Bestowal involves giving an object emotional importance independent of its ability to satisfy our interests, needs, and desires. We bestow value on an object when that object (again, a person, a thing, or an ideal) takes on a special value for us, when we care about it above and beyond its appraised value in our eyes. Bestowal actually involves the creation of new value. So thinking again about loving another person, we bestow value on our beloved when we come to value him/her for their own sake, over and above and apart from (and sometimes despite) his/her looks, personality, sense of humor, etc. In short, unlike appraised love (we love them because we find them lovable), in bestowed love we find them lovable because we love them.
Both appraisal and bestowal play the same role in the brands we love. Budweiser comes to mind as an example. I have this friend, you see, who loves Budweiser—he says it’s for a variety of reasons: it always quenches his thirst; he can always rely on its taste; the born-on date on every case assures him he’s buying fresh Budweiser (he’ll go so far as to remove several top cases to get at the freshest Bud); it never gives him a headache (like, say, PBR surely would); he can drink it all day and not get a hangover (not that he ever does drink it all day, he hastens to add). Like millions of other Americans (over 100 million cases of Budweiser were sold in 2013, behind only Bud Light and Coors Light), he has personally appraised the value of Budweiser and found that he loves it.
But that’s not all. Over time this friend of mine has bestowed value on the Budweiser brand. He has created personal value in the brand over and above what it does for him—well beyond how it satisfies him in so many ways. He continues to love Budweiser despite the jokes friends make about his particularly poor taste, despite knowing full well that in this age of craft beer Budweiser is considered to be pretty much rot gut by beer aficionados (and beer aficionados are everywhere these days). But this friend has been a Budweiser drinker since he was 16—it has become part of who he is. He unselfconsciously looks for and orders Budweiser (if it’s on the menu, and more and more it’s not) when he’s out to dinner—even business dinners. Over time you see, for my friend, Budweiser has become lovable—because he loves it. He has bestowed love on the brand.
And you can’t argue that Budweiser is a lousy brand. According to Forbes Magazine’s list of the world’s most valuable brands, Budweiser ranks #25. Why? Because people (like my good friend) love it. The nature of love is the essence of a strong brand.
One nagging question comes to mind. How does Budweiser—how does any brand—love one back? After all, love is strongest when it’s reciprocal—when the lover’s love for the beloved is returned in full.
The topic for another post.
1Irving Singer (1925-2015) was an American professor of philosophy who was on the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for 55 years, retiring in 2013. The Nature of Love comprises three volumes: Plato to Luther, Courtly and Romantic, and The Modern World. The quote above is from the first volume, ch.1, “Appraisal and Bestowal,” p3. The February 15, 2015 New York Times obituary for Irving Singer began this way:
“Stung by family members urging him to be more affectionate, Irving Singer, a philosophy professor, spent years researching and writing a 1,300-page, three-volume examination of the subject titled The Nature of Love.
‘This, like so many philosophical works, began as an attempt to understand my own inadequacies,’ he told The New York Times in 1987. ‘Everyone in my family persuaded me that I ought to be more loving, which troubled me. So like most philosophers, I dealt with the criticism by constructing a theory and a philosophy which enabled me to dismiss their ideas.’”
How amazing is that. Seriously.