Brands: Stop Trying to Be Cupids, Stupids

Marketers try and fail to be Cupid all the time, aiming to make people fall in love with them with a quick and piercing arrow to the heart. This Valentine’s Day, it’s time for brands to drop the Cupid act and resolved to build real, authentic relationships with their audiences.

Let’s start with this simple truth: it’s impossible to create deep and meaningful relationships in a crowded space, where everyone is courting everyone. Hanging out in a group is not the same thing as dating.

Consumers are seeking one-to-one contact. If you’re a brand, you need to muster the courage to ask people for their email addresses and to download your mobile app. You may be surprised by the results.

As a recent Forrester report notes, US online adults who want to stay in touch with brands are three times more likely to visit their site than to engage on Facebook. That same survey shows that US online adults who want to stay in touch with brands are almost twice as likely to sign up for their emails as to interact with them on social.

The next step is to actually follow through, not with a flagrant solicitation (“Hey, buy my product!”), but with some form of value exchange. After all, who doesn’t want to be wined and dined a little bit?

Using RebelMouse’s software, Time Inc’s millenial-oriented home decor site TheSnug.com allows registered visitors to personalize their content experiences and be part of the conversation by contributing their own photos and design ideas. They will then receive updates based on the topics and people they’ve chosen to follow. It’s a simple and scaleable way to build a real relationship with audiences.

The next step could be for Ikea, TheSnug’s exclusively sponsor, to actually take the relationship into the physical world. Mobile app notifications make it possible for brands to connect with people based on location at the point of purchase. Macy’s for example recently unveiled the largest rollout of iBeacon technology in the history of retail. 4000 locations will integrate with ShopKick to send shoppers real-time push notifications about deals while they’re in the store. It’s a great way to continue the relationship with people, moving from casual content and conversation into real commerce. But consumers won’t download your couponing app on the first ask — at least not the type of consumers most brands want to attract. Marketers need to ease into the “ask” a bit with content and conversation, and that’s exactly the point.

Tinder is great for meeting people, just as advertising on Facebook and Snapchat is great for brands looking to attract new audiences, but then it’s the relationship that ensues afterward that really counts.

Building relationships takes a lot of time and a little bit of luck, but more than anything it requires putting in the effort. Aim for love at first at sight and you’re likely to miss the mark.