Building an emotional bond with your customers.

Advertising Rules, Tips

Rick Newman, in U.S. News & World Report, wrote a piece about Netflix’s Reed Hastings, “One CEO Who Gets It.”

Beyond Hastings’ proposal that anybody who earns over $1 million should be taxed at 50 percent, instead of having their salaries capped at $500,000, Newman identifies what Hastings apparently knows and what the Wall Street fatcats don’t, which is how vitally important it is for companies “to form an emotional bond” with their customers.

This is at the core of my belief that good advertising should speak TO its audience, not AT them. This is true for marketing as well, particularly in the sense that if you just see your customers as rubes who will fall for your every gimmick, you’ll eventually be awakened rather rudely.

Building an emotional bond with your customer (and yes, it makes sense to think of them as a single person, not a demographic or a percentage of millions of people) begins with talking to them. Effectively talking TO your audience means that you have to stop and think about their needs, wants, desires, frustrations and anything else that might make your correspondence with them worth their time, money and attention.

Yes, you can go too far in identifying your imagined customer and dismiss a whole swathe of your potential buyers. But that risk is far smaller if you really are talking to them, than the risk of losing your whole business by assuming you know your customer so well.

Advertising is not about selling. Advertising is communication. Good communication is one part conveying information and one part listening. This is true even if we’re discussing a billboard, a national TV campaign, or a cross-promoting brand partnership.

Car manufacturers that, supposedly listening to their customers via focus groups and other statistics, provided them with gas-guzzling SUVs instead of more gas-mileage-friendly models really were only listening to the siren song of the millions of dollars of profit they projected making by selling the wrong products.

If in developing your business model, your marketing choices and your eventual advertising efforts, your first question isn’t Whom are we talking to? you’ve already made a huge mistake.

And in these tough economic times, if you’re not respecting your customer base first and foremost by making sure that you’re providing them with a worthwhile product or service, you’ve got another think coming.