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Stop Selling to Me... PLEASE!

We're bombarded by marketing messages. Everywhere we turn someone is trying to sell us something. In an effort to compete, companies are turning up the volume of their advertising so loud that we can't hear anything else. Product placements, paid endorsements, ads in our credit card statements, etc. The noise is so loud that most of us have stopped listening.

There was a great article in Fast Company back in September of 2000, No-Brands-Land where FC profiled the author of No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies Naomi Klein.

The main message? "Our intellectual lives and our public spaces are being taken over by marketing..."

If you disagree, Klein says, just look around. We live in an age in which CBS newscasters wear Nike jackets on the air, in which Burger King and McDonald's open kiosks in elementary-school lunchrooms, in which schools like Stanford University are endowed with a Yahoo! Founders Chair. But as brands reach (and then overreach) into every aspect of our lives, the companies behind them invite more questions, deeper scrutiny — and an inevitable backlash by consumers. "When we go to a mall, we're on corporate turf," Klein says. "We are going to the brands. But when the brands come to our schools or to our community centers, they're coming into a civic sphere where other values prevail — and they get held to a much higher standard. Companies are taking the risk that people will decide to X-ray their practices."

Why you should care? There is a great quote in the article, from Keith Martin, an e-strategist in the e-business group at the Bank of Montreal:

"...if you're in a company and you want to understand the environment, the number-one thing that you want to get a hold of is why people are critical of your message. And the best way to do that is to listen to people who don't agree with you."

The takeaway? There is an old saying: People love to buy but hate to be sold. Every interaction with a consumer is not an opportunity for a sale - every interaction with a consumer is an opportunity to help them have a better life. See if you can find where your customers desires and the your "offering" intersect and treat people like.... well... people... like you would like to be treated... or you would like your mother/sister/daughter treated.

I'm reminded of that classic moment in the movie Miracle on 34th St, when 'Santa' keeps sending the customers over to Gimbels. He was helping people to buy. That's authenticity, it's the kind of selfless, endearing act that moves someone emotionally - "They care more about me than just a sale."

So, do you sell or help people to buy?

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