Bloggers are a fairly idealisitic bunch. When you talk about spirituality within a brand context they often get a bit twitchy. I guess some kind of self-imposed purity law is being messed with. - Hugh at GapingVoid.com)
As for moi, I - as a customer - only get twitchy in two instances (and it has nothing to do with purity but with, first, what your underlying message when I read-between-the-lines says about what you really think of me and, secondly, trust):
1) When a product tries to tell me somehow that "it" is going to "save" me or some other equally patronizing attitude.
2) Or it tries to appropriate loving messages or behavior superficially but its interactions with 'consumers' scream out just the opposite. Just like green-washing backfires, crystal-washing (ok, I need help here with a catchy term) can create a backlash. This I call putting lipstick on a pig. This I call brand dissonance. This I call a gaping trust gap.
Most branding gets a neutral/lukewarm response from me; but I bristle at brand dissonance. For instance, a while back at a bookstore my eyes picked up on the Olympic Committee's music CD. This is soon after reading about its ban on bloggers and its gatekeeper linking policy. The CD's title is ironically titled: "UNITY." (Strike out on #2)
Then last night I'm at a bookstore checking out the October issues of business magazines and a woman strikes up a conversation with me. You'd think this isn't unusual but it is because last week a woman strikes up a conversation with me at a different bookstore while I'm perusing the business book aisle. I hang out at a lot of bookstores and bookstore cafes - and it's rare that anyone talks to you (coffee shops appear to be different - meet people there all the time). These engage in small talk with me. It's just a little too much synchronicity that they both just happen to work for the (surprise, surprise) same MLM company. This I surmise is their lead generation strategy to find new recruits. They are tapping into people's innate needs for validation, connection, conversation, relationship - for Love.
We want to talk about Love in brands - and I mean mature love not the constraining possessive warped image we tend to have of love.
"Love is not calculating," says the Sufi poet Rumi (who's still the number one selling poet in America). This recruiting strategy reeks of "very very calculated." I have absolutely no problem with people trying to make a decent living and selling. Being straightforward works so much better with me. And then we have somewhere to establish a relationship from -- a foundation built on honesty. Trust is crucial in any business relationship. (Strike out on #2)
I've read mixed reactions about Mark Cuban's The Benefactor (and I don't watch TV, so can't comment first-hand.) An analyst at Jupiter Research says that he was icked out by Mark Cuban which corroborates similar responses. One line stood out: "Mark talks about how he has the power to change someone's life." Megalomaniac is not exactly the position you want to own in the mind of the customer. This is the Martha Stewart school of branding: Be like me. (Or you really, really need me.) Oprah resonates because her message is you have the power: Be like you. (Strike out on #1)
I got an interesting email recently from someone who had read my book. He must have been a student of Jungian theory or something, but he was totally into Maslow's hierarchy of needs. But this particular guy ran an organization that provided spiritual training for people, including CEOs. He said, "You know, in your book you say that no brand can deliver the top of Maslow's pyramid, no brand can promise anyone self-actualization." But he said, "But my company can do that." [Strike out on #1]
I just said, "I'm sorry. You may have a very noble process going on there. But what I meant by what I wrote in the book is that you get to the top only by your own means. You may be inspired by what brands can provide, but no company, no product, no service, no religion, can take you there. It's not like buying a plane ticket. If anything, total peace and acceptance is more likely to happen when every eternal element -- including brands and religious formalities -- take a supporting, rather than defining, role in how you find happiness. You get to that special place on your own."
Brands that suggest they can do this face a real credibility issue.
I'm not asking for that much really. Just a brand that acknowledges and recognizes that I am ALREADY a "spiritual being having a human experience" (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin) and then connects and communicates authentically in a straightforward manner with me at that level. In the Hughtrain Manifesto example, you wouldn't insinuate that Gerber makes me a better mother. I'd like acknowledgement that I am a good mother - thanks so much for noticing and respecting that and being my ally.