How To Make Someone Fall For You

Brand owners are good at making an initial hit with consumers, but lousy at forming deeper relationships, says Simon Silvester. If the brand can develop a sense of community with users, they’ll come back for more.

Jenny is sitting at a table in a cafe.
Her eyes catch those of a good-looking man sitting in the corner. The man comes over.

“Hi my name’s Dave, and I’ve got a really expensive car.”

“Well, hi Dave, I’m Jenny, it’s good to meet you,” says Jenny. “Do you come to this cafe often?”

“My name’s Dave…,” says Dave, enunciating the word carefully. “Well that’s good to know. Do you live around here?” Dave smiles sweetly. “I’ve got a really expensive car.”

“You’ve already said that,” says Jenny. “Tell me something else so that we can get to know each other better.”

“OK,” says Dave. “What’s your full name, your address and how old are you?” he asks.

“That’s a bit personal,” replies Jenny. “But my full name is Jenny Bond, and I live across the park. I’ll be 32 on Friday.”

“That’s fine,” Says Dave. “Do you like going to the movies, the theatre, bars or opera?”

“I like evenings in front of a log fire!” says Jenny. “Now tell me about you!”

“I’ve got to go,” says Dave. “I’ll be back.”

At the end of the week, Dave is back.

“Hi Dave!” says Jenny. “How’s your car?”

“Hi,” says Dave. “My name’s Dave and I’ve got an expensive three litre car. It’s good that we now have a relationship.”

“Relationship!” says Jenny. “You keep on going on about your car, you’ve asked me all these intrusive questions, and yet I know nothing about you.” “And,” she continues, “you’ve forgotten it’s my birthday today!”

“But my name’s Dave,” says Dave, puzzled. “And I’ve got an expensive three litre car.”

Where did Dave go wrong?
Though Jenny was telling Dave things about herself, he wasn’t using any of that information. And when she asked him about himself, he clammed up.

Dave was talking at her, not to her. Jenny felt Dave wasn’t treating her as a human being.

To understand the problem more deeply, we can analyse Jenny’s experience of Dave in terms of three components, his performance, his treatment of her and the sense of community he builds up between them.

Performance means Dave’s ability to meet Jenny’s needs on first meeting her. He does this well. Jenny likes confident, good-looking men; and though she’d never admit it to him, she finds flash cars a bit of a turn on.

Treatment is Dave’s ability to make her feel she knows him, and to reflect that back to him. Here, he’s failed. He shows no recognition of their first meeting; he’s even forgotten her birthday.

means Dave’s ability to make Jenny feel part of something, perhaps through finding interests or friends they have in common. Here too he has failed.

Jenny ought to be thinking what it would be like being a couple with Dave, perhaps imagining snuggling up with him in front of a log fire. But she isn’t thinking anything of the sort.

However good looking Dave is, and however expensive his car, Dave has failed to connect with Jenny as a human being, and therefore Jenny has developed no desire to get involved with him.

As a result, despite his two meetings with her, Jenny may say hello to him next time he comes to the cafe, but no way is she going to date him.

But how is Dave doing in classic marketing terms?

The funny thing is that by the classic rules of marketing, Dave is doing pretty well with Jenny. A classic marketer would tell Dave that he has:
  • Achieved spontaneous recall of his name.
  • Effectively communicated his core value proposition of owning an expensive car.
  • Built up a good bank of relationship data from her, with her full opt-in consent.
  • Achieved his key behavioural objective, of moving from the trial date into a repeat meeting.
And indeed when we look at classic consumer brands, many act just like Dave:
  • Ariel spends most of its marketing budget telling people that it’s called ARIEL and it REMOVES STAINS BETTER, despite the fact that everyone already knows this.
  • Panasonic spends most of its marketing budget telling people that it’s called PANASONIC and it makes INNOVATIVE ELECTRONICS, despite the fact that everyone has known that for years.
  • Other brands try relationship marketing, or ‘CRM’ as it’s known. They collect your name, address, date of birth, phone, fax and mobile number, e-mail address, marital status, personal and household income level and number of children – but then rarely use any of these facts to build a relationship with you.
All of this sets up a fundamental problem with classic marketing.
  • It’s very good at getting people to try something in the first place. It’s good at creating new, light users, or getting your brand into a consumer’s repertoire of brands.
  • But it’s pretty awful at getting someone who has already tried and likes something to develop a deeper relationship with it.
This is a problem of today
This wasn’t so much a problem in the 1950s when the term marketing was invented, because societies were full of young people trying things for the first time.

But today, when the average age of people in industrialised nations is approaching 40, there are far fewer young people reaching adulthood in need of advice about which new products to try.

On the other hand, there are many more adults of age 25 and older, who have been using products and services in those markets for years.

If you want to affect brand shares, you need to talk to those adults. They already know your name and what your promise is.

Now you must get your brand more deeply involved with them.

Getting involved
If we are looking for involvement with our consumers, the first thing we marketers have to do is to change our mentality. When we talk about marketing, we talk in pseudomilitary terms about impacts, persuasion, awareness, share of voice. We have a one-way conversation with consumers, treating them like territory to be conquered, rather than as human beings.

We need to change to an involvement mentality:
  • We must learn to respect consumers as human beings, listening to and valuing their opinions.
  • We must learn that in the relationship, we both have power, and a good relationship involves sharing that power.
  • We must move away from a one-way process, to a joint, collaborative process.
If we accept all of this, the brand stops being something that we tell them about. The brand is the sum total of their experience of us. It sits in their heads, not in our PowerPoint™ presentations. And it is ours to influence – but not simply to change.

Then we must measure what matters
Classic marketing judged Dave’s actions as good because he did well at getting his name and value proposition across, and at extracting information from Jenny.

If we want to judge our success from this new point of view, we need to invent some new parameters, and check out how consumers feel brands score against them. With this in mind, Wunderman has looked at the three components of experience – performance, treatment and community, and measured them for thousands of brands across the world.

For performance, Wunderman asked whether the brand:
  • meets my needs completely
  • is the best option available
  • is the sort of brand I’d recommend to a friend
  • is high performance
  • is unique
For treatment, we asked whether the brand:
  • adapts to my needs
  • goes out of its way for me
  • cares about its customers
  • wants my business
  • resolves conflict well
For community we asked whether the brand’s user:
  • feels like they belong in a club with other users
  • identifies with other users of the brand
Are these the right questions?
We knew that we had asked the right questions, because when we looked at occasional, disloyal users of brands, we found that whilst they might achieve good levels of performance, they scored low on treatment and community.

On the other hand, when we looked at core loyal users of brands – people who love the brand and say they would miss it if it went away – they gave us much stronger levels of treatment and community as well as a good level of performance.

In the jargon, the core users are highly prized ‘Level 3’ loyalists, who are likely to believe the brand is worth a premium, and who account for the bulk of the brand’s volume.

Improving a brand’s treatment of consumers and building up a sense of community with them, therefore, translates directly into sales.

Simon Silvester
Y&R/Wunderman EMEA London,
How to Make Someone Fall for You

Download the full document (pdf)

This article originally appeared in volume 10 of WPP's Atticus Journal.

Tools Print page E-mail page Reading Room Get Acrobat Reader


Full report (pdf)
About the author

Simon Silvester
Executive Planning Director