Bad Date Syndrome

When I do branding seminars I have one slide that leaves the room silent. It’s a picture of an over-bearing man with a bored looking woman. A title over the top says: Are you a bad date? I usually invite the audience to raise their hands in concurrence, and a couple of mitts timidly reach for the tile ceiling.

Thank you for admitting this!

I go on to explain the following. A bad date shows up cocky and then proceeds to talk about themselves incessantly, in glowing terms, Me, I, Me, I, Me I.

They continue like this ad infinitum until the poor date looks at their watch and excuses themselves to go to “the powder room,” where they quietly slip through a tiny window and escape. Here’s the point.

Many brands are bad dates.

They show up and talk incessantly about We, I, Me, I, We I, Us. You’ve all seen it.

“We are the number one purveyor of coffins in Lake County! We offer the finest woods and we are proud to offer European-style handles!”

“Eat at Jimmy’s. We continue to be awesome and have been awesome since 1946.”

We. Us. I. Our.

The missing pronoun is “you.” As in your customers.

As a brand, I can tell immediately if you are a good date or not. I look at your website and check to see how long it takes for you to talk about me (the customer), if I have to go to “In the news” or “testimonials” it tends to be a pretty bad start to our first meeting.

A little bragging is OK, so are the facts and points and customer feedback, but if you make it all about your business, you are actually talking to yourself and guaranteeing your customers are squeezing through the bathroom window, possibly without paying, hopefully with their pants on. Brands should aspire to be “good dates,” and that means showing up on time, being insightfully engaging and totally “into” the person they are meeting. It doesn’t half help if you happen to look like Brad Pitt, but in the DNA sweepstakes of brands, personality usually rules over good looks.

It’s simple human nature. If you show some interest in someone–real interest–you miraculously become more interesting back.

Marketing engagement is totally like this. Show that you understand them; make a fuss over them; present them with kick-ass insights; make them laugh or cry; show them you care – it’s all pretty simple really. Brands that get it, stop selling and start building relationships, and relationships generally lead to trust which generally … well, you get the picture.

Think of the power this gives you. Done correctly you get “engaged” and go off into the future getting married and having a lifelong relationship together. Maybe even a couple of kids.

So are you a good date?

Oh, look at the time. I must visit the men’s room.

About the author: Phil Gayter

Phil Gayter

Phil worked as a creative director at global giants Leo Burnett and Euro RSCG in Chicago. He currently has a brand and creative consultancy
Brandstorm, and helps clients of all sizes find their voice and correct pant size.

This article was first published by Phil Gayter