In honor of St. Valentine's Day, I bring you this story of relationships, trust, truthfulness...and talking behind people's backs.
So I'm at an event out of town and there's this "photo op" sponsored by Dodge, where you can pose with a Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robot. Normally, something like this would clash with the debonair image I try so desperately to project, but since the battling 'bots were an icon of my childhood, I take the picture.
Unfortunately, they don't give it to me on the spot (where is Polaroid when I need them?); instead, I am handed a slick plastic card, Dodge-branded, with instructions how to pick it up online in 24 hours.
A bit of a drag...but simple enough, right?
Next day, I log onto the site to retrieve the snapshot, but before I can get it, I have to "register."
I don't want to register. I want my dopey photo.
Burn #1. And it's not over.
Then I have to answer a series of questions about how I feel about the company, about the promotion itself, about my opinion and how it has changed, blah blah blah...
Burn #2. All I want is my damn picture, and I want it less and less with each passing query.
After I answer enough questions to pass my GMAT, I finally get to download it. Here it is, in all it's glory. (Given that most people took the aggressor stance in the picture, my position of defeat was almost foretelling.)
The point here, particularly on this day of love, is that Dodge took the glow off what could've been a beautiful relationship. This ain't Permission Marketing a la Seth Godin; it's what I'm coining as Submission Marketing, and it's the type of marketing being practiced in places like Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and Amsterdam's basement S&M clubs. It's the type of marketing where you'll say whatever, confess to anything, just to get to the carrot (or glass of water, or piece of stale bread, or digital picture with oversized plastic robot) being held in front of your nose.
Do any of us tell the truth in these forced surveys? I think not. We lie through our teeth just to jump over the hurdles the companies put in our way to get to what we have really come for. The worst part is that the "data" gathered is taken as "fact," and used by the survey-makers to score brownie points with their bosses...and to spawn the next such intrusive, obstructive program since this one worked so well.
I didn't learn much in my McGill University computer programming classes, but one adage that has stayed with me is: "Garbage In/Garbage Out." Now I have nothing against Dodge. I'm sure they're a fine bunch of folks, I like their Viper a lot and I think their new Nitro is a cool vehicle. But this program, and countless others like it, undermines the tender company-client relationship and sends it spiraling down a compost heap. Garbage out, indeed.
It's not that we can't tell the truth. Oh, we can and we do, but choose to do so on blogs, on community feedback websites, to each other in chat rooms, school cafeterias, office watercoolers and coffee shops.
In other words:
We only tell the truth
behind marketers' backs.
I used to say that "True power is controlling what people say behind your back." That's a near-impossible challenge these days, but the way for marketers to increase their odds is to treat the ones dear to them--we the customers--with respect and trust.
So if you wanna give me a gift, give it to me first. THEN ask me a bunch of questions. If I ignore you, so be it; believe me, you wouldn't have wanted my answers anyway.
But perhaps your kind offer of a goofy picture or what have you has softened my heart, and my response to your face will be the same ones I would've given behind your back. Then this is how things would transpire:
I get a gift.
You get real feedback.
I get to speak my mind.
We start a relationship.
And we all live happily ever after.
Awww...now isn't that a heartfelt sentiment on Valentine's day?