Today’s brands face an apparent choice between two evils: continue betting on their increasingly ineffective advertising or put blind faith in the supposedly mystical power of social media, where “Likes” stand in for transactions, and a mass audience is maddeningly elusive. There has to be a better way...

As John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote a half century ago, “Money can’t buy you love.” But in today’s world, where people have become desensitized – even disillusioned – by ad campaigns and marketing slogans, that maxim needs an update to “Money can’t even buy you like.”

Can’t Buy Me Like introduces us to the “Relationship Era,” where the only path for businesses seeking long-term success is to create authentic customer relationships. Where do “authentic customer relationships” come from? The answers are honesty, transparency, shared values and a purpose beyond profit.  The good news is that some companies have already embraced the Relationship Era and are enjoying consistent growth and profits while spending substantially less on marketing than their competitors.

Blending powerful research, fascinating examples and practical advice, Bob Garfield and Doug Levy show how companies can thrive in the book Relationship Era.

Type “I love Apple” into your search bar. You will get 3.27 million hits. Starbucks: 2.7 million hits. Zappos: 1.19 million. 

And “I love Citibank”? You get 21,100. AT&T Wireless: 7,890. Exxon: 4,730. Dow Chemical: three.

Out of 7 billion human beings, three!

Just to put that into context: If you type “I love Satan,” you get 293,000 hits.

Citibank, AT&T Wireless, ExxonMobil and Dow among them spend $2 billion a year on advertising. Money, it turns out, really can’t buy you love. It can’t even buy you like.

The results dramatize three immutable facts of contemporary marketing life:

  1. Millions of people will, of their own volition, announce to the world their affection for a brand. Not for a person, not for an artwork, not for a dessert but for a good or service. Congratulations. People care about you.
  2. Your brand is inextricably entwined in such relationships. “I hate Exxon” gets 2.16 million hits. Each of those expressions of like, dislike, ardor or disgust has an exponent attached to it, reflecting the outward ripples of social interaction.
  3. What used to happen in the privacy of your own boardroom, plants and C-suite is now extremely public and common currency on the Internet.

This is the Relationship Era, the first period of modern commerce when your success or failure depends not on what you say, nor even on what you produce, but increasingly on who you are.

Doing business in the Relationship Era has many requirements: ethical conduct, seamless customer relations, and constant contact and cooperation with all stakeholders. It must be an all-pervasive imperative to earn the trust of all concerned —not as a means to gain advantage in a sale or negotiation, but as an end in itself. 

Trust is the name of the game.

Trust is now the basis for everything. But we must define our terms. Trust constructed as a means to a mercenary end is not trust at all. People trust companies for the same reason they trust people. Institutions have joined the ranks of humanity.

But trust turns out to be a more multifaceted and ambiguous word than meets the eye. There is the most rudimentary dimension of confidence in a good or service: trusting that it will be acceptable and that the marketer will make things right if it fails to deliver.

That level of trust is not nothing but neither is it much to aspire to. In the Relationship Era, trust is now the byproduct of genuine commitment to genuinely mutual values and interests. And it is now central to purchase consideration.

The Three C’s of Trust

For the purposes of measuring brand sustainability, MEplusYOU broke the concept of trust down to three progressively complex components —the Three C’s of Trust:

  • Credibility: The presumption that at a minimum the marketer can be depended upon to meet the terms of the offer. A brand is itself essentially a proxy for that precise element of trust. Virtually all brands pay attention to credibility. They know they must deliver.
  • Care: Through the Product Era and Consumer Era, marketers arguably cared about consumers. Indeed, the essence of marketing was to divine the needs and desires of the target audience, then to fulfill them. But a target is a thing that is shot at, and an audience passively listens. Neither concept has a role in the Relationship Era. Caring about consumers means actually caring about their lives and constructing your business to be as helpful as you can. And it means that, no less than the marketer, the buyer in every transaction should have succeeded.
  • Congruency: People are increasingly reading the body language of corporations in search of the intangibles: beliefs, values, purpose. This demand for congruent values is the most difficult to measure, but also the most defining aspect of the Relationship Era. Prospering in the Relationship Era hinges largely on how well you find common cause with individuals on the same wavelength.

So back to the initial dichotomy – ineffective advertising or blind faith in the mystical power of social media?

The secret is not so secretive after all. Neither are going to work without trust, and trust is only obtained with a comprehensive media relations campaign.

Not every PR campaign can build trust, but the right media relations campaign can not be underestimated for its ability to build trust.

Want to know how PR builds trust? Give us a call to find out…