Face-to-face, personal and unexpected loosens tongues

Being talked about by tapping into emotions

I’m reading The Face-to-Face Book by Ed Keller and Brad Fay, all about the joys of word of mouth marketing and how important the personal touch is – especially people talking to each other directly.  Conversations that takes place face-to-face, or on the phone, are bigger and better than, and different to, exchanges conducted online.

The book is a powerful antidote to over-hyped online social media and simplistic ‘buzz monitoring’.  It cautions against the idea that people will talk about brands with quirky viral campaigns.  To succeed you need a high quality and easily used product that people are proud to associate with, and which connects with the emotions of people who use it.

One case study is a fast-food chain called Chick-fil-A, a run-of-the-mill chicken-focused restaurant, which punches above its weight in terms of being talked about.  Like other chains, it has creative advertising, such as cows carrying signs saying ‘Eat Mor Chickin’.  But most of all it seems more personal and human – it closes on Sundays (to give staff and management a day off), and it has run special promotions such as ‘Daddy- Daughter Date Night’.  The restaurant closes for the evening, and the restaurants are dressed up with red carpets and live music, and other changes such as table service, and tray liners with suggested topics for conversation.

These evenings have short-term costs such as the effort involved, and the likelihood of annoying customers who are turned away.  But it works long-term for two reasons.  It surprises people who have a fixed image of what fast-food restaurants are like, and second, it creates an emotional connection; as they say ‘daughters may grow up and remember that special night every time they pass a Chick-fil-A as adults’.  It’s not only fathers and daughters who talk about these promotions – everyone does.

When I read about Chich-fil-A, I remembered why the daytime quiz Pointless works so joyously.  By celebrating obscure trivia over well-known OR worldly information it subverts our image of quizzes.  More important, the relationship of the contestants touches the viewer in an echo of the Chick-fil-A ‘Father and daughter date night’.  They aren’t quiz fanatics showing off but people who care for each other having an experience together.  The same applies to some co-hosts of breakfast programmes, Gregory House,  Cuddy and Wilson in House,  Sherlock and Watson in Sherlock, and Ant and Dec and other successful partnerships.  Authentic, real affection between characters – even if they argue – especially if they argue a little – is infectious.  And that’s why we share it with people we like.