February 11, 2010

Relationship? Relationship?! Sorry, Corporations, Consumers Just Aren’t That Into You

by Freddy J. Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango + Business Relationship Counselor…

“You’re totally cute and all, but I still won’t like you on Facebook.”

Dear John Corporation:

Let me begin by saying that our times together have been good for me. I mean it! I definitely see the value in being with you… to a certain extent. So what I’m about to say might seem cold and heartless, but please don’t take it the wrong way. I think you’re great! I really do, otherwise we would never have gotten together in the first place. But the truth is — well, how can I say this any other way but…

I don’t want a relationship with you.

As much as I need you occasionally — and “occasionally” is the operative term here — I don’t need to get any closer or spend any more time with you than what’s necessary to, um, get the job done. That means I don’t want to follow you on Twitter, like you on Facebook, or get your emails in my box on a regular basis — make that EVER. I “like” you but in a strictly non-media sense, which means don’t email me about what’s new with you or what you can do for me. Really.

I mean, face it, John, you’re a corporation. What makes you think I want a relationship with that? I can barely keep up with my real friends and family, and they’re human. I don’t care what the Supreme Court says — you’re not human to me, no matter who you hire to be your face in the media.

Plus, I know you’ve been seeing other consumers and, I confess, I’ve been seeing other corporations — shocking, huh? — so it’s not like we had an exclusive here. So let’s just cut this “relationship” crap, OK? Let’s just keep things the way they are: distant and impersonal.

Now I know all those social media “gurus” tell you that consumers want relationships with brands, that it’s all about “one-to-one” marketing these days. But, seriously, like, what do they know? I mean, I don’t remember them asking me what I want! I think they’re just making this stuff up so they can get retweeted. In fact, I bet most of them were writing for horoscopes or fortune cookies before social media came along. Seriously, how many of these gurus actually have relationships with corporations? — and I’m not talking about the ones who hire them as consultants. Are they swapping emails with Palmolive? Getting it on with Elmer’s Glue on Twitter? Posting sweet nothings on the Facebook pages of their favorite gas station minimart?

The cold hard truth, John, is that to most of us consumers, most of you companies are just something we use. Harsh but true. We’ll pay you for your time and goods, of course, and I know that makes you feel like a whore or a Senator from Connecticut, but that’s the way it is. We don’t want a relationship with you. Period. We don’t even want to just be “friends,” whatever the hell that means in the Facebook age.

So please stop stalking me. Really. STOP. No following, no friending, no fanning, no f’ing anything.

Just back off.

And if you keep it up, I’ll have to get a restraining order.

So I hope we have an understanding here. And of course, I’ll see you next week for our usual, OK?

Happy Valentine’s Day!
Jane Consumer

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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

4 Responses

  1. I so wanna be you when I grow up, Freddy :)

  2. Fast forward 10 years into the future… when consumers of the world are united in their virtual communities and aggregated buying groups… corporations’ marketing departments will spend more time paying consumers for their attention (to research our needs) and to win our attention (when we are ready to buy) something useful and relevant…

    We are entering an age when consumers rule.

    Angies List and e-Bay models will dominate… reputations from corporations and professionals will have to be earned by customers who vote.

    Forget invasive ads, relationships (whatever that means)… the future of commerce, especially e-commerce will probably resemble what a few us envision as customer-centric infomediaries (credit McKinsey & Company).

  3. Aren’t you really diminishing the corporate thought of having shoppers / consumers / loyal users feel that they have, – and believe in- a warm and fussy moment when thinking of a brand and its products.

    Surely, there is a difference in buying wire fencing for the back yard, or nails for putting up a fence, vs. a Scotchgard item that will preserve my leather couch and its ‘old
    looking’ appearance!

    And for the generations that live on electronic
    devices and the many offerings of the internet, you better find a ‘warm and fussy’ venue in their minds.

    Or, we are back to the ‘commodity’ view of all internet programs, devices, etc.

    As, we all know, the Generations of X, Y, etc. are
    not easy to please. So for the Brands that are embrassed by these Gens, the ‘warm and fussy’ moment is closer to reality than the ‘no’ relationship offered by some of the commentators.

    Freddy’s Comment: Stephan, I’m not exactly clear on what you’re saying, but if you’re asking if there’s a place for likable branding in the marketplace, then you’re absolutely right. I help my clients develop attractive brands that generate goodwill, long-term loyalty and referrals. I love great brands.

    I also believe in strong CRM programs where relevant — and that’s the key. Customer relationship management is not always relevant.

    The point of this post was to mock the widespread notion — perpetuated mostly by social media consultants and agencies — that all companies need to create relationships with their customers. In reality, only a few companies should bother. The rest can waste their time and money on social media to try to build relationships, only to discover that most customers just don’t care.

    Of the hundreds of products, services and brands you contact each and every day — from your toothpaste to your electric company — how many do you want a stronger relationship with?

  4. Very well put, Freddy! Perhaps the S(t)upreme Court will eventually rule that groups of fans of corporations qualify as people too, to promote corporations’ interests even further. Maybe then there will be a reason to follow them & act like we have relationships with them? Until then (and probably even then), I don’t think so. Thanks again for sharing your wonderful perspectives! :-)

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