my turn


Brands Need Face-To-Face Connection

We live in the most hyper-connected time in the country's history; and yet we exist in a constant state of disconnection. While Apple, BlackBerry, Twitter, Facebook, LimeWire,, Fresh Direct, and Amazon are well-designed, convenient, and address specific needs -- and for the most part work well -- they are also responsible for the undeniable erosion in the kind of personal interactions we used to take for granted during the course of a regular day.

I live in Manhattan, and I'm always amused by watching teens walking down the street with their friends while texting and talking on their cell phones rather than with each other!

How is this younger demographic, armed to the teeth with and intravenously reliant upon a whole spectrum of technologically advanced connectivity tools, going to cope and interact as responsible adults?

Poorly, I contend.

Facebook, Twitter, MySpace? -- "Social" networks that do not require you to engage in any kind of human socialization.



Apple? -- Creators of the iMac, the iPod, the iPhone and iSolation.

I do not think it too alarmist to say that we are in the midst of a gradual ebbing away of human interaction that could seriously impact people's ability to truly "connect" with one another.

We've already seen the emergence of dieting coaches, dating coaches, life coaches. Now, people will pay many thousands of dollars to attend "Unplugged Retreats."

Eventually, the pendulum will swing the other way, back toward more personal/human connections. And the brands that get that will be winners. I believe the brands that do not emphasize ultra-modern design, trendy badge value or blow-your-mind technological innovation as their core vision -- but rather emphasize the intrinsic value of person-to-person, real live human interaction -- are the ones that will ascend and maintain leadership positions in the long run.

This trend may already be happening. One company that is already starting to apply that thinking is venerable British Airways with the recent launch of their "Face-to-Face" program, which focuses on "tangible human connections as a crucial driver for business growth."

It affords 1,000 U.S.-based business people/entrepreneurs the opportunity to travel overseas on the airline for free, in order to conduct face-to-face business meetings.

Macy's "Come Together" cause-marketing campaign scores points for teaming up with Feed America to provide 10 million meals for local food banks. With the tagline "The Great American Dinner Party," the retailer is encouraging people across the country to participate by having some friends over for a dinner party/fundraiser -- and just simply enjoy each other's company.

Macy's will match the contributions raised by each party. Television commercials for the campaign feature celebs such as Martha Stewart, Usher, Jessica Simpson, Tommy Hilfiger, Donald Trump, and Queen Latifah enjoying their own dinner party after hours inside Macy's Herald Square.

Even Zappos, the online clothing store, is picking up on this trend. Its CEO, Tony Hsieh, flew to New York last year to meet a customer for happy hour because he believes that customer focus is the only way to grow the company. During that same time frame, he also sent out an open invitation to a company barbecue in San Francisco and personally solved a service problem a customer left in a blog comment.

Old School? Yes. But in this day and age, also kind of revolutionary.

2 comments about "Brands Need Face-To-Face Connection ".
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  1. Paul Van winkle from FUNCTION, November 5, 2009 at 9:28 a.m.

    I'm not sure I agree we're disconnected. Fragmented, running, distracted, frenetic, yes. But those states have been promoted, and despite them, we're rather connected in a rapacious, economically fragile, techno-speed life.

    I think rather we're seeing the blowback effects of organized systems of anti-human, pro-business-only foment. Notions of democracy and an open democratic system promoting human decency and the struggle for rights has been vigorously countermanded for 50 years by powerful corporate interests. Democratic principles - people involved in the public affairs of civic organization -- have been seen as real threats, a "crisis" to be consciously thwarted by businesses. This has been true for a century.

    People are sick of it, some companies know it So a few slightly wiser groups have shifted their 'brand' strategy to respond to mass despondency and apathy.

    These are not revolutionary efforts -- they're more of the same; the above represents feel-good hoodwinkery benefitting a narrow wealthy segment of the population. What's new about that?

    When people - individuals - collectively decide they want and will bring about change in an imbalanced economic and social state of affairs - this is revolutinary. Misapplying words and language to support yet more mass corporate status quos actually does add to disconnnection.

  2. paul myers, November 5, 2009 at 11:03 p.m.

    I totally agree that brands must foster loyalty through more personal consumer engagements. One to one marketing whether via events, sampling, street teams or other means.

    Otherwise, they may as well be prepared to do battle in the price wars. Because consumers will merely go online to research the brand (i.e. see what their peers are saying, or rather typing, online) and then compare shop to see where they can find the lowest price - rather than purchase an item that has made a personal connection with the consumer through a one to one experience.

    This year, our revenues are up because brands, whom we have not worked with before, sought us out in order to foster brand loyalty through one to one consumer engagements, mobile tours, events and sampling programs.

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