Do we have to feed the customer’s egos?

A start-up friend shared with me this awesome concept about how to better market to customers: make them feel like they’re the hero of the story, not you. Even for her, there were some early business metric signs that this strategy was working.

To be clear, before I start complaining, I like this strategy, and I’m going to do it. But all the while, I’m going to feel a little bit bad. Like how the Ice Bucket Challenge stirred up a little controversy for its promotion of hashtag activism or slacktivism.

When I was at my last job, a recruiter and I were chatting. She told me this story about how people are now so eager with “face time” with everyone at their desired company that she had a swarm of students trying to chat with her. Never mind that the event was over, she’d been standing up for 2 hours, and was clearly pregnant.

We overly ambitious business students have bid up the expectations for recruitment so much that now, it’s no longer enough to have an internship your junior year, because you need to have had an awesome internship your sophomore year to get that junior year internship. I’ve talked with elementary school kids who are thinking about summer internships. In some ways, this is a virtuous cycle, but in other ways, I also see it as a vicious cycle. Where will it end?

Similarly, I wonder what will be the outcome of generations of customer-centric marketing. As if it wasn’t enough to constantly emphasis how much you will save, how cool you will look, now we have to position the customer as a hero? When all they’re doing is clicking a button?

It’s the “everyone gets a trophy” philosophy for adults & consumerism. If it becomes the baseline for marketing, I think it’s something that should be closely watched. But as my friend who shared the podcast initially pointed out, you can also view it as this: if you focus on someone else as the hero, you’re also simultaneously removing yourself (and your business) from the spotlight. So maybe it balances out?