If you’re a reality show fan (or have caved to peer pressure from people who are), you might be spending your social isolation catching up on Love is Blind, the new Netflix show designed as a ‘social experiment’ to see if two people can fall in love without seeing each other. The show entered the cultural zeitgeist after its release on February 13, and now that Netflix has renewed it for seasons two and three, we doubt it’s going anywhere anytime soon.
The show, which starts 38 days before the final couples’ wedding date, follows a group of 30 men and women from Atlanta as they speed date in pods separated by a single wall. Throughout the course of the show, these couples must get engaged in the pods to continue growing their relationship in the outside world.
When the show premiered, we couldn’t have known that, just a month later, many of us would be entering social isolation pods of our own. And although our circumstances are much more somber than the produced drama of reality TV, there’s still a lot that marketers can learn from the cast of Love is Blind.
On Love is Blind, contestants had to find creative ways to grow their relationships in the pods. Each contestant was given a notebook at the beginning of the journey, a practical item for someone who starts by dating 15 people and doesn’t have visual cues to distinguish them. Over the course of their dates, contestants ate dinner together, played instruments, and even salsa danced from opposite sides of a wall. They were resourceful, adaptable, and eager to integrate tools that allowed them to strengthen interpersonal relationships.
Similarly, if brands can create novelty experiences for consumers, the brands can become a lasting and even treasured part of that consumer’s memory. Purchase decisions rely heavily on how consumers feel about brands rather than what they know. Creating personal and memorable moments with consumers that appeal to their emotional need states, egos, and aspirations will boost user experience and strengthen brand relationships in the long run. Emotion also creates strong, long-lasting memories that can be used as shortcuts to simplify decision making. The wave of nostalgia that I get looking at a pack of Oreos absolutely overwhelms my logical “but do you need it?” brain.
When Love is Blind couples started dating, they shared common interests in hopes of finding a sense of familiarity and Belonging (remember how excited Jessica and Mark were to learn they were both from Chicago?). They asked deep relationship questions in search of Security (I think we all got emotional when Amber revealed her past heartaches). And they tried new activities in a unique dating environment to fulfill their need for Exploration.
One of the most interesting aspects of dating in this environment, in my opinion, was the search for Appeal. When we think of Appeal, we tend to think first of physical appearance. But the truth is, dressing up isn’t always about looking good; it’s about feeling good, even when no one sees it. On Love is Blind’s first dates, couples dressed in nice clothes and did their hair and makeup knowing full well that they were about to go on a date behind a wall. This likely boosted their confidence and fulfilled their own need for Appeal. Over time, though, as they made connections and adjusted to dating on opposite sides of a wall, more couples started appearing in t-shirts, sweatpants, and other lounge clothes. Appeal became more about achieving status among the group (especially in Barnett’s love quadrangle) and about proving to their love interests that they were viable partners.
It’s important for brands to understand that, although people may change their habits, they will still find ways to fulfill their BASE needs. I might not think to put on makeup if I’m not leaving the house, but if I’m reminded of how confident it makes me feel, I might put some on in the morning to boost my mood and add excitement to my day. When I’m not able to go to a new restaurant to reaffirm my status as a trendsetter, I might spend more time finding and sharing niche online experiences that signal that I’m still the person you can go to for the next new thing. Brands that tap into this and the other BASE needs can find new ways to engage with consumers—wherever they happen to be.
The secret to success on Love is Blind is frequent, honest communication. The couples were able to develop deep and meaningful relationships (well, most of them) in a short time frame because they went on long dates (sometimes 4-5 hours) every day. Without the distractions of cell phones, personal commitments, or work, they were able to learn more about each other in a couple of days than some couples would through weeks of traditional dating.
The most successful couples, like Lauren and Cameron, found compatibility by talking about their identity, their shared values, and their long-term goals. They had to find ways to communicate who they were and what they believed in without using visual cues we often rely on such as body language or fashion. In a world of banner blindness, ad blockers, and, presently, social distancing, brands may also have to work harder to target their consumers. When brands do get consumers’ attention, they should make the most of these interactions by communicating their identity and values. This will remind consumers that the brand are on their team and helping them to achieve a common goal.
Brands can use a number of tools to develop powerful emotional connections with customers. LRW’s Implicit Identity Mapping® (IIM), for example, captures the extent to which consumers incorporate a brand into their sense of self. Identity Overlap®, as measured by IIM, has been shown to predict future purchase consideration, likelihood of recommending brands to others, and resistance to buying from competitors when unavailable.
Research has shown that when brands ask their customers for advice, they feel a stronger sense of shared identity with the brand, and as a result, they are more likely to give the brand their business. So it’s not only important that brands pivot to remain relevant in their consumers lives during these unique times, but they should also listen to the consumers’ needs right now— much like you would need to listen to your romantic partner when they need to talk.
The perpetual question of Love is Blind was: is love truly blind? Given everything that happened on the show and what happens in digital and physical shopping carts every day, we don’t think love is really blind. But it is near-sighted. If brands want to build and maintain strong relationships with their consumers, they need to spark emotion, understand their consumers’ needs, and communicate regularly to keep the love alive.