“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” Groucho Marx.
I’ve loved the Marx Brothers since I was in seventh grade. That was the year I switched from Catholic school to public school. It was a year I felt I could breathe again, met great friends and the Marx Brothers’ irreverent sense of humor seemed perfect for the jibes I wanted to send St. Mary Magdalen’s way. When my son was five or six I opened him up to “Duck Soup”, and the only time the clicker comes to rest in my hand is if I find a Marx Brothers movie or interview on TV.
The Marx Brothers were masters of poking fun at establishment figures. The characters they played were usually grifters who found themselves lauded by members of high society or government or academia, and their comedy came not because the Brothers set themselves against the establishment, but they became the establishment in its rawest, truest sense. And, in its rawest, truest sense, the establishment proved to be nothing more than artifice and pretense. Strip away the medals and the black ties and these “high falutin'” people were nothing more than low time grifters, street vendors or working stiffs; in other words, they were just people.
Last week, I was talking with a client. We were talking about coming up with a new campaign that recognized their members in a unique way, that viewed them as special, that offered them benefits normally reserved for high net worth individuals. We will look at developing strong creative and powerful messaging and that will be important. But, in the end, the creative is not the key; in fact the creative can run into the danger of just being pure artifice if we don’t recognize that the real key is having people on the phone who treat the caller as if they were a person. People don’t want to be built up or put down. They just want to be listened to, they want to be told up front what the deal is and they don’t want surprises. I can tell you we will spend more time shoring up our training than creating sexy urls.
To be successful in business, you need to channel your own internal Groucho: strip away the artifice and trappings that separates you from your customer (or employees, for that matter), treat them as a person, and they will never leave you.