So both CK and Bill “Make The Logo Bigger” Green emailed me a press release from an agency called 22 Squared (formerly known as WestWayne) that literally operates under the theory that your brand is indeed my friend and that people are just sitting there waiting for brands to befriend them.
I kid you not.
Here’s what it says on their agency blog, “The C Word”: ("C" means "consumer" which for some reason they feel is a bad thing. More on that in a minute.)
Why we're here: Everybody's talking about how ad agencies and marketing firms are broken. There's a lot of talk, a lot of criticism, and a lot of negativity. What's missing is a solution. A theory that helps understand where things went wrong and, more importantly, where they can go really, really right. People are sick of being called consumers. They're sick of being marketed and sold to. They're looking to be treated like...well, people. We think we've got a pretty unique way to stop selling them like consumers and start befriending them like people. We're looking to share our thinking, to share our belief that if you market brands the way people make friends, you'll end up with a lot more friends (and a lot more money). We're three people with a new lens, and some optimism for marketers everywhere. Try being a friend to people, it's amazing what it does for business. This isn't a monologue or a soapbox, we hope it can become a dialogue and discussion. As any good friend does, we welcome (and hope for) input, perspective, criticisms, and commentary. We look forward to talking with you, Karen, Brandon, & Evan
Now in their defense, I get the broader notion of what they’re trying to do here. (I think.) They’re advocating a less in-your-face sales approach in favor of a more consensual one, where clients tell the consumers things they want to hear rather than things the client wants to say.
But Karen, Brandon and Evan: that ain’t friendship. It’s just a different kind of sales technique. And pretending that we're not consumers isn't just disingenuous; it's dishonest.
As I wrote on my initial post on Marketing Profs Daily Fix (coming Monday, I'll post about it when it's up) marketers who try and pretend that they’re not sales people remind me of the Lefrak family. The Lefraks, a prominent New York City real estate clan, changed the family name to LeFrak about a dozen years ago. And I’m not sure who they thought they were fooling. I mean did they expect Skip and Muffy to suddenly say “Oh, they’re French! All these years we thought they were Jewish! Now we can finally invite them to the club!”
Consumers aren’t looking for more friends. We already have plenty. What we’re looking for is authenticity. That means you tell us the truth. Admit when you’re wrong. Don’t treat us like criminals. And talk to us when you have news.
And Karen, Brandon and Evan, "telling us the truth" means you've got to stop trying to pretend we're not consumers and you're not sales people. Because we both know that's not true. Now you can be much nicer salespeople, the kind of salespeople we might actually like, but it's a strictly commercial relationship we've got going on here, not an emotional one.
Because as everyone knows, Your Brand Is Not My Friend™