Is Your Brand a Barfly?

Why Desperation Gets in the Way of Building Relationships

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Tom Denari
Tom Denari
Is your brand a barfly? Maybe a jilted boyfriend? Or is it just too clingy?

What is the one trait that unifies these sad characters?


You can smell it a mile away.

Remember when your first girlfriend ended it? How about when your boyfriend seemed disinterested? Or, god forbid, when you cruised the bar scene? Face it. You were desperate.

You would do anything to win her back, keep his attention, or get just one date.

Does this description hit home? It might make you a little uneasy to even read it. Would you let your best friend behave this way? Or would you pull him aside and say, "Hey, chill out a little bit. Why are you coming on so strong?"

Then why do we allow our brands to behave this way? Why do we allow them to strain for attention, indiscriminately approach everyone in sight, or give reason after reason why they're "the one"?

While this sounds like a metaphor, it's really not. People respond to brands much like they respond to other people, in that all of their decisions -- whether buying a car or picking a mate -- are driven more by emotion than reason. Unfortunately, many marketers still haven't recognized this. Maybe it's because they're too focused on their spreadsheets full of data. Or maybe it's because the phrase "target audience" continues to dehumanize the people they're trying to engage.

I guess it really doesn't matter why it happens, but many marketers continue to lose sight of the fact that they're actually trying to sell their products and services to people -- actual human beings that have a complex mixture of feelings, burdens, desires, pressures, insecurities, hopes and dreams. In our desperation to make "the numbers," we've forgotten that we're in the business of building relationships with individual people -- not numbers on a spreadsheet.

When you're developing a relationship -- with a person or a brand -- there's nothing less attractive than desperation. Nothing is more attractive than measured confidence. (No one likes a blowhard, either.)

So, how do you become the brand that attracts with confidence, and not desperation?

First, don't hit on everyone. Be selective about the kinds of people and opportunities you pursue. Pursuing everyone -- and everything -- usually demonstrates that you don't know what you want, which means that you'll likely get nothing. Understand who's right for your brand and who's not.

Become friends first. Build opportunities for natural intersections where a give and take occurs. Nobody wants to feel like they're only a transaction. Do this by creating a meaningful dialog without the expectation of getting anything back. And, have some restraint -- be careful not to sell too soon or too often.

Behave like the "marrying kind." People are attracted to things that are a little more difficult to get. While doing almost anything to get a quick response can certainly pay off in the short term, it will also erode long-term brand loyalty, value and profits, as your customer will likely succumb to the next aggressive advance from your competitor.

Don't be so clingy. Do you need to fill your Twitter and Facebook followers' feeds with hourly posts? Does someone really want an email from you E-V-E-R-Y-D-A-Y? Didn't think so.

Finally, and most importantly, remember that you can't tell someone to love you.

Think about it, who's more attractive? The guy who continually bugs you, giving you a laundry list of reasons why you should go out with him? Or the confident guy who knows who he is and doesn't force himself on you.

Whether it's the TV ad that tries to list every benefit, or the company who continually posts invitations to attract more "likes," this overbearing approach often does nothing but cause people to push away from them. Despite the fact that people don't want to be told what to think, brands continually try this tactic. Too often, they make the mistake of thinking, "We just need to be straight forward. You know, pound them over the head." Luckily, we've evolved slightly beyond the time when bopping a woman over the head with a club was the best idea men had to capture a mate.

Instead, play it cool and don't tell them why they should love you. Great relationships come from patience and hard work. Get to know what they're interested in -- what they like and what they don't. Understand what makes them happy, and consistently deliver it. Behave in a way that leads them to the conclusion you want them to have.

Because once they truly fall in love with your brand, they'll not only be devoted to you, but maybe even a little desperate to keep you in their lives.

Tom Denari is president, Young & Laramore, Indianapolis, Ind.
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