I mentioned a couple of posts ago how advertising is one-on-one communication. And how your goal is to connect with your audience on an emotional level so you can begin to establish a relationship. But there is such a thing as being an annoying brand.
Those companies who send you too many emails are one example. I like Papa John’s, but they send way too many emails. I get one from them every day. “The Lakers won! Two pizzas for the price of one!” “The Kings won!” “The Ducks won!” The Ducks lost!” “The sun rose today!” “You have a pulse! Sort of!” Papa John’s has gone from occupying a position in my mind of a pretty decent take-out pizza to a desperate, clingy ex. Geez, leave me alone.
Avoiding emails is pretty easy, though. I can just send them to junk. Or I can unsubscribe altogether. But what if I miss that one email I’ve been waiting most of my life for? “The Chargers won the Super Bowl! Free breadsticks all around!” FOMO is real.
It’s a bit tougher, though, when the brand that acts like a person actually is a person.
There used to be a place around the corner from where I worked. It was a soup and salad and sandwich place that I called Healthy Lady. That wasn’t the real name of the place, but it’s what I called it. “I don’t feel like tacos. I don’t feel like chicken bowl. I don’t feel like fast food. I guess I’ll go to Healthy Lady and have a salad.”
The actual healthy lady ignored me at first. I was just another customer. Then I went over there once with my old boss, Joe. Wow, she lit up when she saw him. “Oh hi Joe!” You have to say that with an enthusiastic Korean accent. Not for any particular reason. Healthy Lady was Jewish.
Just kidding. She was Korean.
The next time I went over there, I figured she’d be friendly to me. Nope. Treated me like a civilian as usual.
When I went back to the office, I told Joe, “Man, she really likes you.”
He said, “No she doesn’t. She treats me just like everyone else.”
The next time we went over there together, we were a couple of people back in line. I was behind Joe. I said, “Watch this.” I stepped around Joe and stood in front of him.
When it was our turn in line, I stepped up to the counter. She looked up from the register, and a big smile creased her face. She looked right past me and said happily, “Oh hi Joe!”
Of course that instantly became the new way I would greet him. In the morning. On the phone. In emails. Leaving for the day. (Of course I had to modify it. “Oh bye Joe.”)
Eventually, some of Joe’s stardust rubbed off on me, because she started greeting me. “Oh hi Doug!”
It was nice at first, because everyone likes to be recognized. But then she started asking me about Joe. “Oh hi Doug. Where Joe today?” I don’t know, eating somewhere else, I guess. Every time I went over. “Oh hi Doug. I not see Joe in long time.”
I had to tell Joe, “Geez, would you put in an appearance once in awhile?” Eventually she started connecting the dots, and realized that I worked with a bunch of her other customers.
“Oh hi Doug. Where Joe today? And Donna? And Pola? And Shawn? And…?” It started getting really annoying. And she would look at me like it was somehow my fault that no one was showing up as often as she liked. In fact, if I hadn’t been in for a few days, she would say, “I not see you in long time.” And look at me accusingly.
And the thing is, we would go in pretty often. I even said to her one time, “You know, there are a lot of places to eat around here. I think us coming in here two or three times a week is doing pretty good.”
But no. It wasn’t good enough.
Now, I realize she was just asking and trying to make a living, and it wasn’t that big of a deal at first. But this went on for a couple of years, and it started to bug me.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was when I went on vacation. I was gone for two weeks. I got back to work on a Monday, and went into Healthy Lady the next day.
I walked in. “Oh hi Doug! Where you been?”
I smiled and said “Hi! Oh, I was on vacation for a couple of weeks. I just got back.”
And she said quickly and angrily, “No you didn’t, you got back yesterday. Donna told me.” Like she caught me in a lie or something! I was stunned. And I was pissed. I decided right then, that’s the last time I’m coming in.
And it was. I never went in again. After a few months, Joe was begging me to go over there. She wouldn’t leave him alone. “Where Doug? I not see him in long time.” Eventually, Joe had to stop going over because she would nag him about me so badly.
She started bugging everybody. “Oh hi Donna, where Doug?”
One day she even showed up in our office for something. I have no idea why. But she leaned over the reception desk so she could look around the corner and see us, and she yelled to me, “Oh hi Doug! We have corn chowder today!”
I just smiled and waved.
Eventually, a year or so later, she went out of business. I was sad to hear it. I don’t like to see anyone go out of business or struggle to earn a living.
Shortly after she closed, I was talking to the lady who owned the business next door to her. She was taking the space over, and let us in to show us how she was going to remodel the place. That’s when I posed for the picture at the end of this post.
The lady told us that she had to throw out all the refrigeration and other equipment because they were so filthy. She said Healthy Lady would unplug the refrigerator on Friday, then plug it in again on Monday to save electricity. This is the refrigerator full of chicken and other meats and dairy and everything else that needed to be kept cold. Suddenly I didn’t feel so bad about not ever going there again. Healthy Lady? Not so much.
So remember: Be a good brand. Be attentive. Be personal. Don’t be annoying. And for goodness’ sake, whatever you do, keep the refrigerator plugged in.