Thursday, January 22, 2009

true friends are hard to find

Brands need friends, loyal friends and lots of ‘em. But making friends is a scary task, just ask the new kid in school. Making friends in a society where “face-time” is less and texts are more. Where the old adage: “actions are greater than words” is losing it’s value. Our own ability to make and keep friends depends upon how well we communicate through words, our writing style and the frequency of our written communications.

I recently read an article in GOOD Magazine where an angry mom ranted that teachers needed to stop teaching kids handwriting skills because her child couldn’t do it and was becoming frustrated. She said that it was causing his self-esteem to go down and would cause him to hate writing (talk about helicopter-parenting). Although it may be true that most of us threw out our pencil sharpeners after 1997, communication through means other than typing allows us to find new means of expression.

Why do you look in your mailbox everyday? Aside from getting your favorite magazine or a flick from Netflix, there is always that giddy hope in the back of your skull that you’ll receive a letter. Now that’s the sign of a true friend. Getting a letter from a friend is better than bathing in holy water with the pope. You know, I know it, the Pope knows it. Writing a letter takes time, it’s got the physical connection of the paper to it, perhaps a smell, a smiley face. Its got permanence.

Now let’s look at this from a branding perspective (yes, this does tie in and have a point, I promise). You’ve got your target audience, a mass of face-less drones. Can you imagine if your friend thought of you that way? That is not a friend you write a letter to.

Here’s a challenge: call Netflix. Just do it. Even if you don’t have a reason to. You know what you won’t get – that mechanic recorded voice that makes you press numbers like a monkey to talk to someone who is half-asleep and getting paid less per month than your phone bill costs. Your call to Netflix will be answered in less than one minute by a customer service person in Portland, Oregon. The company purposely put their customer service department in Portland because they knew the people there were nice. Every written or spoken communication I've had with Netflix has been positive and personal. And although we may not post on one another’s Facebook walls, we’re friends.

And that my friends, is money in their bank. Amen.

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