Edited by Ken Wheaton,
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MARK LESSELROTH, SYRACUSE, N.Y.
JAN HEGNSVANG, PALM DESERT, CALIF.
KEITH WIEGOLD, CHICAGOLAND, ILL.
READERS WAKE UP TO THE
Doug, first of all, kudos to
you and Bob for writing
about what I feel has been
obvious for years. I’ve been
involved in business
development my entire life,
much of it in the advertising
industry, and not unlike a CPG
trying to sell their products to
consumers, I always focused
on the “human” element to
endear myself, and hopefully
my agency to the prospective
client in hopes they would
choose me and my agency over
the competition. God knows
how many times I was on the
other end when our agency lost
even though on paper we were
far more qualified in terms of
industry experience and knowledge of how the client goes to
My point here is that the “human” element has been
around for a long time and frankly shouldn’t be celebrated
as some kind of breakthrough revolution. I disagree with
you and Bob about how there should be a shift away from
the Consumer Era, since I believe understanding what’s
important to your client is still very important. I would argue
that the Consumer Era and the Relationship Era can and
should coexist. After all, how can you appeal to the human
side of customers if you don’t know what their likes and
If you look at relationships between two people, wouldn’t
you want to know some things about your date ahead of time
to see how compatible the two of you might be? It’s then, of
course, up to your “Self” to see how well the date goes in
terms of how you communicate with that individual.
This is the most important writing on
marketing and leadership in a very
To some of us this is not entirely
new, and we have, with more or less
success, tried to live by it and make
our clients “see the light.” (I am in
public relations, which ought to be
about “human relations” and not
to put a spin on a lie.)
The big question is whether the people who are
presently leading our businesses are able to change their
habitual thinking, or [if] we have to wait for a meltdown or a
new “generation” of leaders, marketing and PR people,
educators, textbooks, etc.
It is also important to remember that relationships
without content are just shallow connections. You have to
bring genuine value to the relationships. Advertising people
love numbers that justify their efforts, but numbers of fans,
clicks and “likes” say nothing about the quality of the
The notion of “it’s not what we
communicate but what people
communicate to one another” is at its crux
the definition of branding vs. Brand.
“Branding” is what marketers, their
agents and, now more than ever, friends
and acquaintances say and do to influence
what the Brand means in a person’s (note:
not necessarily a consumer’s or customer’s)
“Brand,” then, is whatever the individual
believes it to be.
We marketers have never been in charge
of Brand, but branding.
My take on the Garfield/Levy piece is it
announces the fundamental change in the
relationship between Brand and branding—
I’ll stop short in chanting Power to the People.
Social media, word of mouth and advocacy efforts have all
demonstrated “The Relationship Era” is well under way, past
dawn and maybe having breakfast.
OLIVER MALETZ, NEW YORK
AMI BOWEN, BOSTON
JEFF GREENHOUSE, NEW YORK
Great article. What strikes me the most about this is that
advertising is predominantly about presenting and
discussing a product that is already set in stone. But if you
look at the arguments Bob is presenting, the key drivers to
human sentiment are:
1) The product itself—and inherently, what benefit it gives
2) The production: what it is made from, how it is made
and how the company gets it to us (along with any collateral
damage along the way).
These are largely the province of executives and
marketers rather than agencies. If these two things are
aligned with the public conscience, the task of advertising
becomes much easier.
Wonderful article, Bob and Doug, and one that can get
marketers thinking with a different perspective (always a
We should keep in mind that we are still very much in a
transitional phase, which means dramatic overnight shifts in
marketing approach should be cautious and thought
through. For the “actionable” future, every brand will likely
have different relationships with different customers. If you
look at the Brand Sustainability Map discussed here from the
perspective of a single brand, I believe each brand will have
some level of customers in each relationship state
(Emotional, Sustainable, Limited and Reluctant). The larger
the customer base, the more relationship states.
The key will be to explore the revenue/profitability of
each state [and] the socio-demographic of each state as well
as the cost to maintain or evolve the relationship. I would
think the category, and brand’s consumer relevance would
also play a significant role in determining state skews.
Understanding this will allow us to develop relevant
marketing programs for each consumer state.
One size fits all doesn’t work anymore. Did it ever really? Or
did we just either a) beat people into submission, and they’ve
now learned and been given the technology to more easily tune
us out, or b) overdramatize our messages to the point that
consumer skepticism fueled by social technology now rules?
The age-old approach still holds true: Understand your
customer, treat her with respect and provide her with real value.
MELISSA PFANNENSTIEL, MAPLE GROVE, MINN.
Business-to-business marketers, especially those who believe
brand doesn’t matter in the B2B space, need to read this
article. Regardless of what you sell, the person on the other
end of the transaction is indeed a person, and companies who
don’t recognize this will see their marketing messages fall on
deaf ears. Thanks for the fantastic piece!
ANNA CHOI, BLACKSBURG, VA.
This is such a great article to start off the year. Loving a
brand or, more importantly, what that brand fulfills in my life
is so natural that it’s good to step back and evaluate brands
like this article did. Sticking to what you know/love the most
then continuing your journey with those things are what
makes brands come alive/thrive!
Everything said in this article will be constantly in the
back of my mind.
I can’t say I entirely get this article. What is “the human
element?” Looking for clarification here. Is it to build a stronger
emotional connection by creating a sense of purpose for your
Also, I went to
the KFC and Krispy
Kreme Twitter sites.
True, KFC does
offer more in the
way of incentives to
drive a purchase.
Not a bad idea,
frankly, given that
at least 50% of the
people who follow a
brand say they do
so because they
want access to info
on promos and
KFC did similar
trivia to Krispy
Kreme and even
seemed to do some
where to go to let
the company know
or to find more
was giving away
free T-shirts for answering trivia and promoting new shop
openings. Hardly commercial-free—no discounting, but still a
BOB GARFIELD RESPONDS:
The Human Element is simply to
operate your business entirely with
a mind to your relationships—with
customers, vendors, investors,
neighbors, employees, you name it—
and to external measures of
success, such as market share and
stock price. In so doing, you will
prosper more than you would have
by obsessing on “making your
In a connected world, any business
(or institution) that does not forge
such relationships will be forging
OTHER kinds of relationships—those
based on suspicion, hostility,
resentment and mistrust.
As for the difference between
Krispy Kreme and KFC, KK has
resolved to make delicious
doughnuts and let the experience
underpin all of its activities. It
embraces the nature of its product.
KFC continues to try different ways
to obscure its nature.
MARK MCKINNEY, DALLAS
Regarding positioning, I agree that a brand will always have a
position, if we define that as its character, personality and
actions. No matter the era, the brand has a point of view.
Sometimes, “position” is used to indicate how the brand
compares to other brands, and marketers look to position
the brand in white space. Hopefully, a brand’s position is
always based upon its core ideology and purpose, and not
upon what spot is left available in the minds of consumers. I
gravitate toward Joey Reiman’s (CEO of BrightHouse)
admonition to brands to take a stand, rather than a position.