My name is Stalnaker. Phil Stalnaker. Being as I have written a fictional short story before that was about a private detective, I feel overly qualified to write about being a spy. Not sure you believe me? Just ask Chuck Bartowski. That’s right. You don’t know how to find him…because he’s a spy too. You may try telling me that Chuck himself is a purely fictional character created by Chris Fedak and enjoyed five wonderful, spy filled years on television. That’s just what the government wants you to think. He is real. And so am I.
Ok, so in the spy since I am not real (word is still out on Chuck, though). While I admit that I have a penchant for vodka martinis (you know the rest), I do not live in the world of international espionage. Here’s why: the very things that make me successful in marketing make it impossible for me to be a spy. Simply put, I am too known. While I am positive the comment section will be filled with jokes about me for that line, the statement still holds true.
Even as far back as 2004, Gallup was publishing the importance of a truly relational, or emotional, connection with consumers. “Recent Gallup research has shown that the process of forming emotional connections doesn’t begin when consumers try the brand. Instead, emotional connections start to take shape with every brand encounter that leads up to trial.”1 This concept has become especially prevalent with the growth of social media, as it provides companies and brands the opportunity to be known on a personal level with their customers – or at least that is what the customers believe. Basically, if they don’t know you, they can’t like you. If they don’t like you, they can’t trust you. If they can’t trust you, they won’t buy from you. This has become as true for Nike today as it always has for the corner coffee shop. Your customers must know you.
This creates a problem. The idea of getting to know a person does not allow for pieces of the story to be missing; knowledge and trust are built on complete information. “If you try to fake who you are, it will show and it will work against you.”2 That’s not cool. That means gone are the days of polished, shiny, mistake-free commercials. When potential customers see your advertisement (whether it be in a magazine, direct mail piece, television commercial, online ad, or networking event) they must see an accurate portrait of you. “What they see in your marketing is ultimately what they get from your goods and services and that builds trust and rapport.”3 If their experience is inconsistent with the message they were presented, you could be in a heap of trouble, and this is where social media can really hurt. If one customer isn’t happy, they now have a mouthpiece to the entire world through their connections. Negative reviews will fly through cyberspace faster than the rage virus infected the whole of London.4
This is why a good marketer cannot be a spy (and vice versa). No matter how nice and good intentioned Austin Millbarge was, he still had to lie. A spy has to lie. A marketer, and entire company culture on that end, cannot. There will be no opportunity for redemption after filing bankruptcy. Thankfully, Jason Bourne figured it out before it was too late. Your company may be completely honest and forthright, giving your customers the ability to put their trust in you. If that’s the case, it is because your company has allowed itself to live in a glass hut and be seen in the true light of how it really is. Maybe, as a marketer (either personally or professionally), you are as well. Maybe not. Don’t allow yourself to fall into the trap. If you are open and honest with who you are, there is no need to withhold information. Transparency buys trust. Trust buys customers.
That is, unless you really are on a secret mission to stop SPECTRE’s plans for world domination by destroying the value of gold. Hopefully, your headquarters is not in Burbank.
(Image used from DeviantArt)