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Imagine the following situation. A man sees an attractive woman at a party. They talk and decide to have a few dates. After giving all the right signals for being a loyal, caring, trustworthy and relationship-oriented guy, he convinces her to spend the night. The next day he is gone and when she calls it is clear he doesn't want to speak to her....

Three months later, they meet again at another party. The guy has no memory of who the woman is and talks to her as if they meet for the first time. He even asks for her phone number because he thinks she's goodlooking and perhaps they could go for dinner.
I think you'll agree that unless the guy was a truly exceptional lover, his chances of a sequel are pretty slim. Those of actually building a relationship... are zero.
But when you think about it, this is exactly how many brands behave. They advertise, promote, seduce and sell to get us to trust and believe them. And once we have fallen for their charms, we get a box with product and a customer service number which doesn't really want to answer our calls.
And the next time we enter the market place, those without an expensive CRM system (*), have forgotten all about us, yet don't hesitate to make the same proposition all over again.
What amazes me is that, in spite of their behavior, these same brands still talk about customers "loving them" and "building a relationship." After all, if they really care, why do I only hear from them if things are wrong or of they want to sell me something new?
Why doesn't anyone call me 2 weeks after I bought that new TV to see if I figured out all the buttons? Why don't I ever get an invite for a chat from the guys who sold me my car until my lease contract is up for renewal? Why don't they call me after I have - metaphorically - spent the night?
If you run a brand and in the past 12 months have used words like "love" of "customer loyalty," I would like to challenge you to consider whether your actions reflect those of someone truly committed to building a lasting relationship, of they are the moves of someone looking for a quick score. If it is the latter, then don't be surprised if your customers start treating you as a "one night brand" in return.

(*) Most with expensive CRM systems only fare marginally better as they are typically the type who does remember the name, yet behaving like the guy who disappeared after the first night only to show up three months later with a bunch of flowers, instantly expecting the same treatment.

As many companies want customers to "love their brand," in this and a few following posts, I'll be testing a few of the actual behaviour of organisations against the ways we would expect people to behave in a loving relationship. Any thoughts on the topic (good, bad or ugly) are very welcome.

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Alain Thys is a founding partner of Futurelab, a marketing, strategy and business model innovation boutique which helps companies identify new profit opportunities in an ever more complex world.

In this role he also edits Futurelab’s blog, which is the first step to establish a co-creative community of innovators from business, science, politics and the arts.

Alain considers himself a storyteller and agent of change. His core skill is to make complex business issues easier to understand and help senior executives translate them into strategies that inspire their customers, staff and stakeholders.

In previous lives Alain has been in charge of retail and marketing at Reebok EMEA, done pan-European advertising & research at Mexx and as a VC was involved in 30+ start-ups ranging from European mobile payment systems to Indian industrial alcohol plants. The obligatory flirt with digital adventureland included two major dot-busts, and turning down the friends and family round in an unknown outfit called Netscape.

Alain is a regular speaker, has authored a number of seminars and in addition to occasionally ranting on blogs is working on two books he still hopes to finish before they’re out of date.

He is very happily married, has a great little son, and apart from his family he most enjoys cooking, the South of France and a good glass of Malt Whiskey. Like his role model Da Vinci, he considers simplicity to be the ultimate sophistication.