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Don’t Just Market for Attention – Call for Devotion

This morning, I met a friend at our local Chick-fil-A and had the privilege of meeting the owner, Mark Hufford. We talked briefly about the company and its brand story as well as its leader, Dan Cathy. I then sent this tweet…

Being treated like royalty with @JoshuaRamsey at Bentonville @chickfila, store # 2234. Thanks @dancathy!!

For me, and for plenty of others, Chick-fil-A has my devotion. I’m a loyal supporter, and it’s more than liking a particular restaurant’s burger – I like the company, its message, and its people.

Mass marketing has traditionally afforded us the opportunity to get the attention of people. Whether with television and radio commercials, email marketing, or print advertisements, we’ve sought to get the word out and to get our imagery and verbiage before the eyes of society in as large a number as possible.

We’ve sought attention. Attention makes sales. But attention isn’t devotion. When I give a brand my attention, I tune in long enough to survey the offerings and see what appeals to me. If I like something, or need it, or just want it, I might buy it. When I give a brand my devotion, I become an evangelist for it in the same way Guy Kawasaki evangelized the Apple brand.

So a crucial question for marketers is, how do we move beyond grabbing attention and actually recruit devotees? I’ve given it some thought based on my own experiences. What motivates someone to be devoted to a brand?

A Great Product

You can’t skip the basics. Without a great product, great marketing is a moot point. I like Chick-fil-A’s chicken sandwiches, waffle fries, and sweet tea. It starts with the product (or service, depending on your industry).

A Great Story

Chick-fil-A is highly innovative, but has managed to anchor its brand in the past. Many people who eat there on a regular basis know that S. Truett Cathy revolutionized everything by creating a chicken sandwich in a little diner just outside of Atlanta. The rest is history, and people tell the story often.

Great People

A brand that gets people to be devoted needs relational leaders who will reach out and communicate. Mark Huffort, the owner and operator I mentioned earlier, came and sat at our table and had a chat with us. Mark is knowable. You can’t know a restaurant, but you can know Mark. And everyone that serves around Mark uses that signature phrase, “my pleasure.”

A Great Philosophy

Companies that gather devotees stand for certain values that get communicated through the distribution of their products, services, and marketing messages. I know that Chick-fil-A will strive for excellence and endeavor to go the second mile in serving the needs of its customers. From top to bottom, that core philosophy permeates the organization.

And how does all of this relate to social media? At its core, social media is more than a distribution channel, or a collection of channels. Instead it is a principle. You can use the tools (like Twitter, Facebook, etc.) to broadcast a marketing message and you’ll get attention in the same way you could get attention with traditional media. Or you can practice a different principle.

Social media affords us the unique ability to start a good rumor about ourselves and spread it through the crowd. We get to tell and frame our message and share it with loyal brand devotees who are more equipped than ever before (with those tools) to help us get the word out.

If you’re marketing for attention, you’re still going to sell products or recruit members. But if you want to future-proof your message, work for devotion instead.

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