Hot Off The Press: 'Can't Buy Me Like'

Can't Buy Me Like: How Authentic Customer Connections Drive Superior Results is a bit of a manifesto, a bit of a manual and a bit of a self-actualization guide for doing business in the Relationship Era. Early chapters document the trends with data and case histories. Subsequent chapters provide a detailed description of how to interact with stakeholders online and off. 

The following is excerpted from “Chapter 8: The Shift,” which imagines a world of Venn diagram circles and advises brands to see where their own interests, values and intrinsic qualities overlap with other circles of constituencies.

Imagine a dinner party. You and the spouse have been invited to join a group of friends whose kids go to the same school, and who have formed significant bonds around soccer, classroom activities, birthdays, sleepovers and so on. You are the outlier. You got to know Kyla from pilates, where you two cut up every week while working futilely together against nature and gravity.



But at the party at the first opportunity, you -- the relative stranger in the group -- turn the conversation toward pilates and keep it there . . .  to the diminishing interest and growing embarrassment of the dinner company, including your husband, who keeps glaring at you. In effect, through sheer force of will, you have hijacked the conversation and made everybody uncomfortable, except for the ones who comfortably decide you are an obnoxious intruder.

This is obviously not a great way to start with near-total strangers. At that stage, you might as well get sloppy on the white wine, because you’ve already lost this crowd.

The dynamics are no different in social media. Therefore, enter the conversation not by calling attention to yourself with offers and promotion and fledgling schemes. First, simply share. Pass along items of interest to your Venn groups that may be interested in them. You have the wherewithal to rigorously scour the Internet for content; why keep the goodies to yourself? Share relevant news, information, videos, charts, quotations and other content -- including just the highly cool and very fun -- with potentially interested parties.

Do not -- repeat, do not -- attempt to gild the lily with some sort of brand spin. At least, not yet.

“In general,” says marketing Professor Jonah Berger of the Wharton School of Business, “we found a negative relationship between brandedness and sharing.” He and fellow researchers concluded this in a combination of laboratory experiments and auditing of YouTube video pass along. And why should this be so? Because branded content looks like an ad, and (we repeat) to the public all ads are spam.

According to Visible Measures, the video analytics and online ad platform --  a company in the viral-video business -- six of seven videos, even with the help of big media buys, fail to reach one million views. That means achieving less reach than one spot on Anderson Cooper’s CNN show one time. However, if you gain credibility as a trusted curator, you will be taken more seriously when -- and if -- you presume to lead. There may well come a time to create content, and the rewards can be plentiful. Just not quite yet.

In the interim, confine your participation to being the best forwarder ever, and, naturally, to directly addressing complaints or questions posed to you or about you online. How do you build personal relationships? As a rule, a fleeting encounter does not lead immediately to marriage and joint ownership of assets, or to deep and abiding friendship including gift exchanges and golfing trips and late-night phone-call privileges. It might lead to a coffee, though, or a lunch, or a ball game. Or to a glimmer of recognition and some friendly but awkward conversation, because nobody remembers the other’s name. All of which is more intimate than your relationship with, say, Geico insurance -- no matter how many billions of media dollars they’ve invested in the gecko -- because you are strangers.

Ordinary social relations are not just a useful analogy to business in the Relationship Era; they are a near absolute template. Let us consider briefly that question of what level of permission is conferred on a brand when somebody clicks Like. In the previous chapter, [we noted that] that 15 percent of Facebook users are practically ready to surrender their debit card PIN numbers, but 39 percent think a Likeing permits nothing at all. To them it means, ‘Yeah, nice stuff, but don’t call me; I'll call you.”

Imagine a situation from actual, analog life. You are at back-to-school night for your fifth grader, your butt squeezed into a tiny classroom chair and the vice principal comes into the room to brief the parents on the school's zero tolerance policy for tween violence. Here she comes, Dr. Filkins, and she looks exactly like Angelina Jolie and you and another dad exchange a quick surreptitious glance, eyes widened and just the barest hint of a smile crossing your lips. Later, while waiting to tell the teacher about your kids' peanut allergies, you shake hands with the other dad and exchange pleasantries.

Here's what's permissible: a vague promise to meet again at the PTA meeting, or to set up play dates for the children, either of which could lead to an ongoing relationship and perhaps someday even friendship. Here's what's not permissible: “Nice to meet you, Bill. I'm Doug Levy. In the trunk of my car I have one hundred copies of my new book, Can't Buy Me Like. Wanna buy one?”

Bill would be some combination of put off, embarrassed and offended. He would make sure to avoid this Levy guy at the PTA meeting. And there is a high probability he'd tell other dads that Doug Levy is a total dick. So why would anyone behave differently in the name of their brand? Useful advice in business and in life: Don't be a dick.

Excerpted from Can't Buy Me Like: How Authentic Customer Connections Drive Superior Results. Published by Portfolio/Penguin. Copyright (c) Bob Garfield and Doug Levy, 2013. 

1 comment about "Hot Off The Press: 'Can't Buy Me Like'".
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  1. Patrick Scullin from Ames Scullin O'Haire, inc., March 7, 2013 at 9:01 a.m.

    Terrific wisdom, thanks for sharing.
    "Don't be a dick" reminds me of the sagest adice I ever heard on religion. A friend once told me that he and his family were attending a Unitarian church. "What's the Unitarian doctrine?" I asked.
    "Well, we study the teachings of the greatest minds of all time-- Jesus, Plato, Buddha, Mohammad, Thoreau..."
    "Great, but what exactly do you believe? What are the rules of the religion?"
    My friend paused and said, "I guess it boils down to this: don't be a shit."
    There you have it. The golden rule on a diet. A good way to live your life.

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