This isn’t going to be one of those posts where I throw boring marketing statistics at you. Rather I am curating an article that has some life lessons that dually apply to marketing. Brian Solis is a principal at Altimeter Group and popular blogger regarding marketing and new media. At the beginning of this month he wrote an article called “How to Live a Recommendable Life,” which has gotten a fair amount of attention. While it’s nothing ground breaking, it does expand on some of the guidelines any good marketer already knows, plus he frames the information in a useful way, especially for recent university graduates. He first gives a spiel about how recommendations are important:
About a month ago, Nielsen published a compelling marketing study. The headline? 92% of respondents reported that a positive recommendation from a friend, family member or someone they trust is the biggest influence on whether they buy a product or service. In comparison, only 42% trust radio advertising and 58% trust editorial content.
Think of that. 92%.
Unfortunately, the opposite also holds true. In fact, 67% of consumers in another study report that seeing as few as three negative reviews is enough for them to not buy a product or service.
Recommendations and word of mouth, of course, have always been important. But in the age of social media, they are essential.
This is something, like I said before, that any good marketer already knows. The useful part of his article are the five key lessons he provides for successful marketing:
Number 1: Develop a clear and purposeful story of how you want people to talk about and recommend both you and your brands
➢ It’s a simple question that needs to be answered: How do you want to be talked about and recommended – as a person, a son or daughter, a parent, grandchild, friend, partner, spouse, employee, child of God, business leader – whatever the case.
➢ Same thing, of course, applies to any brands you are marketing. Buyers have a staggering amount of choices. Why would someone recommend your product or service over another?”
Here we are introduced to two explanations of the lesson. The first is how to live the lesson in life, and the second is specific to marketing. Choose whichever applies to you.
Number 2: Live Your Brand
➢ It’s as simple as that. If you want to be recommended as a thoughtful and caring friend – make sure you are always a thoughtful and caring friend.
➢ If you want your brand to be recommended for having the most advanced features and design – make sure your energy and focus goes into owning that role and not ceding it to competitors.
Basically he’s saying: DON’T BE A HYPOCRITE. Do what you say you will do or want to be remembered for doing. This is simple enough and can be extended by my previous article: A Life Philosophy That I Try To Follow and Additionally Was Articulated Best by a Lesbian from the year 1928
Number 3: Be Human, Transparent and Live Up to Mistakes Quickly
➢ Yes. We need to live our brands. But we are human beings. And our brands and organizations are run by human beings. So, we and our brands will occasionally veer off course and make mistakes.
– In this era of social media, consumer journalism and always on news, years of thoughtfully lived lives or well managed brands can be undone in astonishingly short order
– Own it when you or your brand goofs up. Fix what you can and ask forgiveness when needed.
It’s just like Miley says, “Nobody’s Perfect.”
Number 4: Stay engaging and interesting
➢ Ever been cornered by the party bore? They drone on about themselves. Don’t ask you any questions. And seem oblivious to anyone’s needs or interests beyond their own.
➢ Marketing success used to be defined by how well we could interrupt consumers and compel them to give us their attention. Success today, on the other hand, is based on how well we engage our audiences before, during and after the sale.
➢ This doesn’t happen by accident. We often talk to brands about following the 90/10 rule. Spend 90% of your time on your social channels listening, paying attention and engaging with your consumers on their terms. And 10% of the time talking about yourself. Not a bad approach for life either.
Again, obvious, ENGAGE. But the first line is such a great analogy. I know far too many people who fit that description and have shared far too close of quarters with such individuals. I always say I like anyone who doesn’t suck. These kind of people usually suck.
And finally, Number 5: Regularly evaluate and evolve – but stay true to your core
➢ People and brands must always evolve. Lives and markets change.
– Take time to be introspective and ensure that you are living the life – and being recommended – in the ways that you want to be. It’s good – actually it’s essential – to evolve, change and grow. Same thing for the brands we represent.
– But don’t let these changes happen by accident or get forced into them. Then it’s often too late. Take ownership of your life and your brands.
It’s just like the all too heart-wrenching episodes of “Kimora Lee Simmons: Life in the Fab Lane” where Kimora is making her severance with Baby Phat: tears are shed, a brand consultant is hired, and KLM fashions is relaunched. Way to mature Kimora! You are like, so totally inspiring! (The Style Channel is one of the only English channels I get in Turkey…I’m sorry I know all of this).
To finish off all of his advice, Solis references the movie Saving Private Ryan from Steven Spielberg. Thanks to my American Culture degree, I automatically began to compare it to Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line.
It’s a few years old, but many of you may have seen the movie, Saving Private Ryan. As the story goes, all of Private Ryan’s brothers had been killed in WW II. A team of soldiers, led by Tom Hanks, was sent to retrieve the Private before he too was killed – and his mother had no more sons.
After many dramatic encounters and lives lost, there’s a fierce final battle. Hanks is seriously wounded. With his dying breath, Hanks looks at the Private and says, ‘James, Earn This. Earn it.’
In the ending scene, Private Ryan is an old man. He and his adult children and grandchildren have gone to Arlington National Cemetery to pay respects to Hanks’ character. The Private looks at his wife and says, ‘Please tell me that I am a good man. That I’m a good husband and father. That I earned being saved.’
In other words, what he really wanted to know was whether he had lived a Recommendable Life.
I guess this is Private Ryan dealing with the guilt that every quintessential war film character has when someone dies and they didn’t. As far as human life lessons go, I find Saving Private Ryan to be a lot more simplistic, cliche, and commercial than the masterful depiction of human’s constant avoidance and final acceptance of finitude that is illustrated in The Thin Red Line. But I’m not saying that Solis is wrong, because indeed if you compare the box office incomes for both movies at the time of release (which were very close together), you’ll see that Private Ryan’s predictable lamenting really outdid Malick’s deeper musings. Despite both featuring star studded casts and similar WWII themes, Private Ryan dominated because it played on the nostalgia that people had about the so called “Good War.” Spielberg knew his audience and he marketed accordingly.
There was another factor that contributed to Saving Private Ryan’s popularity. The marketers for The Thin Red Line also made a mistake: they marketed it just the same way they would market a true war film like Saving Private Ryan, so that when people got to the theater expecting an action film, action was never delivered. Instead they witnessed a couple hours of slow panning scenery, poetic voice overs, and a whopping 1.5 actual fight scenes. By breaking tip number 2 (do what you say), The Thin Red Line no doubt got unfavorable recommendations from those who saw it expecting something else. This, in my opinion, is really a better example of why living a recommendable life is effective, however in an attempt to override the negative recommendations that The Thin Red Line received 14 years ago, I would like to formally recommend that each and every one of you see it. It is gorgeous, admittedly a little slow (don’t worry it doesn’t break tip number 4, it does engage and it doesn’t suck), and incredibly meaningful. If you don’t get it after, which you won’t because no one does, the article “All Things Shining” by Kaja Silverman in this book really brings the movie to light.