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The Relationship Era

SXSW Can't Buy Me Like

When it comes to advertising today, things have changed. In some ways it’s due to social media. Oh, who am I kidding? If it wasn't for social media, most brands wouldn't be held as accountable as they are today. Even local businesses, car dealers in particular, rely on social media and review sites to tell their story beyond the cars themselves.

It's all about relationships.

Searching for “I Love Zappos” yields 2,000,000 results. Searching for “I Love Dow Chemical Company” yields 3, according to Bob Garfield and Doug Levy at the SXSW panel titled “Cant’ Buy Me Likes”. Thanks to their presentation, this number is sure to go way up as people discuss it (such as this blog). By contrast, searching for “I Love Satan” yields 293,000. It’s not a good thing to be loved less than the prince of darkness.

What has happened? Why is it that billion dollar ad branding campaigns get usurped by a YouTube video by a disgruntled customer? They described that scenario of United who has been pushing their brand forward for years with a familiar tune, “Rhapsody in Blue”, only to watch it fall apart when they had a disgruntled musician post a sing about them.

Again, it’s all about relationships.

Here are some quick takeaways that dealers can use to understand the way that things are really working in this relationship era.

“The reality is that thinking of trust as a means of encouraging a transaction is like having a child for the sake of tax deduction,” said Levy.

Purpose and incentives can go hand-in-hand, but people can tell the difference. If a consumer smells insincerity, it won’t matter how much good you’re doing in the world. Do good. If the world enjoys and admires the good that your company does, that’s great but it’s not the goal (at least it shouldn’t be).

“Brands that are admired for the totality of their activity perform better than companies that are only excellent at their business goals,” said Garfield.

Branch out. Being the best at what you do is great, but sometimes the things you do that have nothing to do with your business are the ones that last. What do you remember when someone mentions a brand like Goodyear? You might have thought of tires, which is their business. You also might have thought of a blimp over a sporting event which is not their business but helps to sustain their brand in a positive way. The same can hold true on social media.

“The fundamentals of relationship era marketing are trust, belief, purpose, and authenticity,”

Yes, yes, and yes. And yes. You have a relationship with all of your customers – past, present, and future – regardless of whether you want it or not. Embrace it.

This is where it goes wrong

Things were going great. The points being made by Garfield and Levi were insightful, well-researched, and thoughtful for most businesses. Unfortunately, their advice took a turn for the worse, not because it wasn’t valid but because the ideas that they were giving their audience of media professionals were incomplete. I totally understand the need to sell more books and to use events like these for teasers, but the concept of telling businesses to stop focusing on their primary marketing techniques and switch to finding funny videos of laughing babies and branding that way was a poor direction to take.

Will cat pictures be more liked than business-related posts? Of course! Does that make them more effective? Absolutely not.

I haven’t read their book so I don’t know if they expand on the concept in there in a way that won’t turn businesses in the wrong direction, but that doesn’t matter. They shouldn’t have hinted in that direction to the audience without giving them the caveats. I’ll go into more detail when I get back from SXSW but for now, don’t jump to YouTube and find videos of babies to post to your social media profiles. Hold off until I rebut.

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