Gone are the days of Mad Men-style advertising.
“In Can’t Buy Me Like: How Authentic Customer Connections Drive Superior Results, authors Bob Garfield and Doug Levy cite this case as one example of the shift from the “consumer era” to the “relationship era,” where companies can no longer control their image and need to create authentic connections in order to thrive” (Source). Though I heard this story in the car about a month ago, I listened to the story again today. I love the idea of advertising moving into a relationship era because it allows honesty, integrity, and genuine dialogue to promote products. Consumers hold more power than ever before, and this forces companies to treat people like people.
Click here to listen to the story or to read the article. Since I am a huge Neal Conan fan, and since Talk of the Nation is on its last leg, I definitely recommend listening to the story versus reading it.
I’m definitely interested in figuring out how to incorporate some of these ideas into my class when we discuss rhetoric and how it relates to advertising and marketing. I love what Garfield says within the first three minutes, “You cannot dictate your image anymore” (Source). The corporate message should take a backseat to cultivating actual human relationships with customers.
Garfield’s ideas resonate with me because I do feel a huge difference between companies who treat me like a person and companies who treat me like an account number. For example, I had two really negative experiences with Wells Fargo and with Verizon Wireless, and I am in the process of leaving both companies.
At a local Wells Fargo branch, an overzealous salesperson sat me down to help me with a mortgage-related issue. As soon as we reached his desk, he tried to sell me a different kind of mortgage. I told him I would need to talk with my husband before making any enormous mortgage-related decisions. When I asked for literature so that I could go home and talk to my husband, the guy purposefully shamed me for being ignorant and tried to make a sale off of my embarrassment. When I refused to give in to his sales tactics, he began to process my original request. He made small talk – asking me where I worked, etc. – and then tried to sell me a credit card. ”I’ve never had a credit card in my entire life, sir,” I replied, “and I don’t need one now. But thank you.” He began to berate me for being “afraid” and “scared” of credit cards, and I just shut down. I stopped talking. He saw that I was done and finished my request a few seconds later. What should have been a short and sweet transaction made me feel terrible about myself. Not only did this person insult me several times (insinuating that I was stupid and then scared), but he also completely ignored that fact that I was a person to make a sale off of me. He didn’t care about building a relationship with me. He cared about making money, and I was just the latest victim. I decided right then and there that I wanted to transition to a local credit union.
Another negative experience was at a local Verizon Wireless store. My husband and I had to get another phone because he had lost or destroyed his, and we also wanted to see if we could downsize our plan to get a cheaper rate. The salesperson said we could decrease our payments by adding a third telephone line for our home, and we would see our monthly bill go way, way down because of this special going on in their store. Instead of seeing our bill decrease, it increased by $25. Countless hours of talking to Verizon and going back to talk to the salesperson proved fruitless. Because we’d trusted what this salesperson said and signed a contract, we were paying the extra $25 a month, and that was that. For the past two years, my husband and I were swindled into paying Verizon Wireless $600. A salesperson lied to our faces, made a commission off of selling us an extra line, cost us hundreds of dollars, and got away with it. Because we were trusting customers, a company treated us like a cash register instead of like real people. I decided right then and there to never use Verizon again, and I am making the switch to a new phone company in May.
Have you ever had a negative experience with a company? What companies can’t buy your “like” ?