Every day I get emails from salesmen asking me to forward their note to the “proper person in my office” who handles whatever it is that they're selling.
I'll bet you do too.
Do they think we're going to drop what we're doing and bird-dog their sales leads for them?
You and I get electronic newsletters every week chock-full of information about what the sender is doing, what awards they've won, what new people they've hired, what new clients they've picked up. Do they really think we've got enough time to read self-serving press releases about their activities?
Until I wised up and adjusted my notification settings, I was bombarded with geo-locator services telling me where my friends were eating, skating, and where they were going to the bathroom. Until I unsubscribed from every e-mail list that had my name on it, I was inundated with updates of photo libraries, scheduling programs, and charity functions that I had no interest in.
I'll bet you were too.
It's bad enough that our spam folders are constantly refilled with European lottery offers, chances to learn foreign languages, investment opportunities from barristers and oil companies, E.D. medicine offers, and pleas from that guy in Nigeria who wants to deposit $15,000,000 in our bank accounts. Why would legitimate companies and friends send stuff that is essentially spam, too?
I know it might appear a bit ironic that you'd get this rant from someone who sends out a blog post every week that is sometimes viewed as spam as well, but I believe there is one fundamental difference: I do try to make my posts interesting to you. In fact, when I evaluate what I've written, I measure my output by whether the posts will be useful, valuable, and enjoyable to my readers. And if my readers ever decide that they're not, there's a big, fat Unsubscribe notice right on the top of my mailings to let recipients opt out.
All About Them is not just the first chapter in my last book, Building Brand Value; it's really the first immutable law of branding. After all, if you expect people to stop what they're doing to take the time to read what you write, doesn't it make sense to make sure that what you write is of interest to them in the first place?
In the dark old days of advertising, interruption was the goal. A 60-second commercial would interrupt the TV show you were watching. A 30-second radio spot would interrupt the songs you were listening to. A billboard would interrupt your view. A magazine ad would interrupt your article.
Needless to say, advertising wasn't a particularly popular craft back then and advertising was rated just above used-car sales as the occupation people most disdained. Why do you think the guys and gals on Mad Men drink so much?
My favorite poet, Ogden Nash, put it this way:
“I think that I shall never see: A billboard lovely as a tree. Indeed, unless the billboards fall: I'll never see a tree at all.”
But today, interruption is out, having been replaced by a new buzzword: engagement. Engagement is where advertisers use interactive digital technology to engage their audience. Product placement, online video games, 900-number dial-in voting, and user-generated content are just a few of the techniques advertisers use to try and get you to participate in their advertising messages. The way the advertisers look at it, getting you to voluntarily watch their mini movies, enter their contest or post their ads on Facebook are much better techniques than trying to trip you as you walk down the aisle.
The new advertising is all around us and the message is clear. So why hasn't everybody with email and an online account figured it out? If they send you something you care about, you might respond favorably. If they send you something that interests only them, not only will you not read it, but you'll also try to figure out how to unsubscribe or block future mailings.
All About Them says that advertisers should make sure that their missives are relevant not to the sender but to the recipient. People care first and foremost about themselves and will respond to the messages that enforce this self-interest. Send things that are not useful, valuable or enjoyable and you do so at your own peril.