Today is St. Valentine’s Day, the day on which many around the world celebrate their love for one another by buying cheap cards, garage forecourt flowers and all single people drink a lot of gin. I love gin.

St. Valentine himself was a Roman priest who lived around the 3rd century. Apparently, he annoyed the emperor by secretly marrying Christian couples so that the husbands wouldn’t have to go off to war. As soldiers were sparse at the time, this understandably angered said emperor, and he had Valentine sent away for execution. While imprisoned, legend has it that he cured the jailer’s daughter of her blindness, which was jolly nice of him. Probably had little else to do while in the dungeon is my guess. On the day of his execution he left the daughter a note that read “Your Valentine” … and so 1800 years later we all send cards to each other celebrating a man who had his head chopped off for organising renegade marital ceremonies. How sweet.

Love my Bones

Although this man had nothing to do with Ireland, his bones and a vial of his blood ended up on display in a Dublin church, where they remain today. In front of his relics is a book into which people write their hopes and prayers for love. Mostly, I imagine the entries are “Why does he/she keep ghosting me?”. Love in the 21stcentury, eh?

All you need is love. But a little chocolate every now and then doesn’t hurt. –
Charles Schulz

So, to celebrate this love fest, let’s take some time and see what we could all learn from love. Everyday our brands and businesses expect customers to love us, to buy from us, to be ‘brand loyal’ to us. But have you ever stopped to ask yourself what you have done to deserve such loyalty? How have you fostered this relationship or how you could do better? Perhaps it is time we looked at our businesses through a relationship lens to better understand the customer experience and ourselves. If it is about Customer Lifetime Value, then we need to make sure we put the work in to stay in ‘relationship’.

So, let’s look at 5 areas of Love and Relationships for inspiration.


It doesn’t have to be love at first sight, but ultimately to make it past the first date there understandably has to be some attraction. But getting past that first date is a minefield.

Tinder and on-line dating has most of the world swiping left and right looking for that special someone. Everyone understandably makes their profile look as best they can. Attracting someone in the first place is a rather key part in finding love. It is a cluttered market out there, everyone selling themselves, and so it is too for brands.

I think you should think about your brand as a Tinder profile. Are you really selling yourself as well as you can? Or are you like Mark, Brandon and Brosquito below?

Some brands think it is enough to produce their product or service and then do some ‘marketing’. It is not. You have to do a whole lot of tail-feather shaking today to get noticed. Watch a few David Attenborough documentaries and you’ll see. Finding a mate takes work.  It is a cluttered digital world out there. Your brand or business doesn’t have a chance unless you get your attraction ‘game on’.

So many businesses are so busy producing or selling or strategizing that they forget about how they ‘look’ to their customers. You wouldn’t go out on a date in your baggy around-the-house hoodie, would you? “Sorry, I was too busy to change”. It’s time to review every customer facing touch point and ask yourself “is this the best I can look?”


Ask for any relationship advice and you will be told it is all about supporting each other. Committing to the relationship is key if you want it to last. And while we all accept this as true for our personal relationships, we seem to struggle to bring this to life with our customers.


Support and commitment are two-way streets. The customer gives you their business, their money, their interest in who your business is and what you do. And what do you give them? Most B2C relationships today remain wholly transactional. One-way streets where the customer feels used. A transactional relationship is the equivalent to the one-night stand, the ‘walk of shame’ home a familiar road for many customers.

Brands really need to up their post-purchase conversations beyond ‘please rate my product’ on Amazon. Today in our digital world, it is so easy for any business to interact with a customer post-sale, to be there for them when they are needed. You need to show a level of support and commitment to your customers if you want their loyalty, and commitment requires investment outside of ‘buy more of what I’m selling’.

Most businesses ‘want’ something from a customer in a follow up communication. Rate us, review us, give us feedback, buy more. Too needy and all about you. Red flags if you were starting a relationship. Learn to offer authentic commitment to a customer relationship by supporting them in what they want.


In any loving relationship, there are always peaks and troughs, those initial months of excitement and intimacy generally fade. In personal relationships, these phases are called ‘landing’ and ‘burying’, that is you realise your partner does have flaws and the everyday takes over and you become lost in the hamster wheel of life. Soon disillusionment can follow and from there the future becomes less certain.

The relationship you have with your customer is no different. You are a fool if you think that what originally attracted them to you in the first place will keep them with you forever. Just ask Nokia or Debenhams. There will always be new competition and industry disruption. You have to prepare for the disillusionment.

If your brand has supported and been committed to your customer, you may survive initial disillusionments. But no one survives repeated disappointment. Identifying pain points in the customer journey (read my previous blog post here on that topic) is critical. Immediately dealing with any customer dissatisfaction and disappointment is key. Welcome negative customer feedback, embrace it, encourage it. It is how you will grow as a brand and a business. Learn to listen to your customer in a genuine way, not through pointless tracking surveys. Be more authentic in your conversations with your customers.

Disappointment is just part of life. The difference with great brands is that they are ready for it and take it seriously.


So how do we even avoid this disillusionment? Well, open any relationship advice column and they will tell you to ‘spice up your relationship’ to keep things exciting and interesting. Now before you go off and buy an entire PVC body suit and leather whips, what I am really talking about here is ‘Surprise & Delight’.

In our personal relationships, we show our love and affection by doing little things for our partner. When we surprise them, we show them we care. We show them that we think about them, that we took the time and effort to organise something for them. Each of us has a different love language but ultimately, we have to show we care. And so it should also be with brands.

This goes back to the support and commitment point above. If you want to develop a relationship with your customers, like an actual relationship, that is not going to happen with simple consecutive transactions. You have to step outside of that and deliver beyond customer expectations. You have to surprise and delight them on occasion. Do something for them that they don’t expect. Make them smile. Make them laugh. Show them you care.

This video from BOL.com (the Netherlands leading online retailer) encapsulates both the ‘managing disillusionment’ and ‘surprise’ points. The delivery of a regular sized trampoline had not made it to the customer on time, and when he complained, to apologise the company planned a surprise for the family’s children.


And so, we arrive at the ultimate aim of any relationship. To attain a level of bliss where there is true partnership and co-creation. If you can make it from the initial attraction through the disillusionment, supporting and surprising your customer, this is the reward.

In marketing terms, we term this an empowered customer, someone who feels a tribal sense of belonging to your brand and business. At this point your relationship is so deep that they will sell your product for you. In today’s peer-to-peer economy it should be the aim of every business and brand. Think the kind of tribal brand following Harley Davidson has, or Red Bull or Apple.

You must co-create and partner with your customers. It is no longer us-and-them, it is about bringing the customer in to the heart of the business, true of B2B and well as B2C. To build your business around them, around their needs, around their desires. This is true love and it is only achieved where a brand makes a continued effort to foster this sense of partnership with their customer.

Men are from Earth. Women are from Earth. Deal with it! – George Carlin

So, what have we learned? Well Love is complicated, but we all knew that already. It takes effort and investment to build strong personal relationships, and brand relationships with your customers are no different.

You cannot expect brand loyalty if you don’t show the support and commitment to your customers. You cannot expect them to talk about you with their peers unless you give them some surprise and delight stories to share. You will only get back what you give.

But love is hard, and you will still have to get past that first date. Perhaps we should put as much effort into developing customer relationships as we do with customer acquisition. Sure one-night stands are fun, but no one wants a lifetime of them.

By the way, St. Valentine was also the patron saint of Beekeepers and Epilepsy, the relationship between those two, perhaps best left to the imagination.



Ken Hughes is now considered one of the World’s leading virtual speakers on the subject of consumer values, organizational change, leadership and agility. His virtual keynotes are famous for their high-energy, thought provoking content as well as their impactful and inspiring delivery.

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Ken Hughes, known as The King of Customer Experience on the International Conference Circuit, studies emerging consumer behaviour and helps businesses and brands establish deeper and more relevant connections with their customers.

A blog to
inspire & delight