Commentary

I Love My Smartphone; So Should You

Loyal consumers are your evangelists. They create buzz about the brand, they share, they tweet, they FaceTube. And the more they love your brand, the more they shout about it. They are your no-fee marketing department. They are better than a four-day, all-expenses-paid trip to the Bahamas (which I have actually just “won” I'm not kidding, I got the call this morning. Of course, I'd have to go to some marketing company's office in Parsippany and hear their spiel.)

When I read the above (not the Bahamas part) in books and columns, or hear it from the dais at conferences, I usually chuckle, smirk a little and think something along the lines of, "If I were a marketer, I'm not sure I'd want a brand advocate for whom brand advocacy is high on their list of life's priorities. This isn't a brand advocate, dudes; it's someone who needs therapy and a life." 

Yes, it all seemed so alien to me. Not that it can't work wonders for a brand. Look at the poster child for professional brand advocates who need to get a life, Jared over at Subway. Jared Fogle, the one-time embodiment of how a healthy diet of salubrious Subways can change your life. Kudos to Subway. The weight-loss part of his story is now ancient history, the origins myth, as anthropologists would say. 

What he now represents is something even greater: the meta advocate, the living avatar of “we the consumers”: a regular, TV-watching, app-using, fast-food eating, meme-repeating, pop-culture referencing, weight-watching American: not real smart; not too articulate; about as deep as matzoh; and un-good looking in a goofy, non-threatening sort of way. Making him the brand spokesperson was a big risk because he has no life. But that's why it worked: Most of us think we need to get a life, so we can relate. He's the slacker ambassador to the nation of overachievement (to people like Michael Phelps, who really have a life, albeit one spent going back and forth in a pool.)

Well, he wasn't my ambassador. Now he is. Now I get it. A couple of weeks back I had to get a new phone because I'd destroyed my previous one. On purpose, I might add. I have anger issues and I'd hated that phone from the day I bought it. It wasn't a feature phone, but calling it a smartphone would be grading on a curve. A steep curve. It was damned stupid. I'd insult it daily and I probably hurt its feelings. Finally, it pissed me off so much that I put it on the floor in the subway and — as discreetly as possible — stomped on it five times (the phone before that met its demise the moment it met my living room wall at high velocity.) Now it was dumb with a vengeance, literally: when I swiped I got splinters. 

So I got a new smartphone, and it's really smart. It has changed my life.

It does incredible things. It's 4G. It can do things I cannot quite believe. It makes beautiful water droplet sounds when I swipe it to unlock. I carry it around and toy with it as if it were a string of rosary beads. I have a personal relationship with it; it speaks to me; I speak to it; I keep it in a special rubberized shrine; and I believe in it. And because it is such an amazing experience, I want to tell everyone about it. I evangelize about it to anyone who will listen. All the baristas at “Death by Coffee” know about it now. And I tell them to buy it. I actually do. I've told everyone at work. And here I am writing a column about it. I’m changing my name to Jared.

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