Ogilvy Vice President and PR Guru Rohit Bhargava first mentioned our blog about two years ago (click here to read the mention).
That may be a shameless plug. But what is not shameless is that since that mention, Rohit has become a social networking expert, and he's penned his first book, Personality Not Included. The books arrives in bookstores right about *now* and we're excited to share an exclusive interview with our readers.
What makes the book so special is that Rohit is introducing companies to the importance of transparent marketing, which is designed to encourage companies to connect with customers in a more interactive, authentic way. Brands are able to use their personalities, have employees that talk like real people, and manage to have a real conversation with those that love their brand.
Below are our 5 exclusive questions as they pertain to the world of professional organizing, along with Rohit’s very thoughtful responses. You can also read some other interviews by visiting his website. Rohit's answers shed some light on how your purchasing habits may be influenced in the future, in a good way.
1.) Retail Stores like The Container Store seem to know how to connect with their customers in-store. Their employees are encouraged to engage with their clientele and "hear" their story. Why are the customers shopping there? What clues are they giving to the employee for their next project and how can the employee encourage the customer to return for the next solution? Sometimes the conversations turn into counseling or therapy. How do you explain that and what value does this conversation provide to retail personalities like The Container Store?
"I think this is a great example of the power of personality. Essentially, what The Container Store manages to do is have their employees sharing their real voices and all adding to the public perception of the brand. There are some other great examples in the book of brands that manage to do this, from Trader Joe's to Zappos.com. All have realized similar lessons in the power of giving your employees the chance to have a real voice."
2.) Some larger, more successful design blogs have completely stopped moderating their comment sections leaving room for angry rants, negativity and belittling of anyone not agreeing with other commenters. When it comes to personality marketing, when and how much negativity and opposing opinions are appropriate? How does that affect the brand?
"This is a big issue and I'm glad you asked about it. I wouldn't say there is a single secret balance level that is appropriate for all blogs. Some blogs that are for more traditional organizations may not tolerate any rants. Others may do so but remove language. The example you shared sounds like neglecting comments altogether and that is usually a bad move for two reasons. The first is that the conversation tends to devolve (as your example shows), and the second is that it demonstrates an indifference towards your customers and readers that borders on being rude."
3.) More and more service oriented professionals are creating an online presence through blogging and social media. Even high-profile upscale design and decor magazines, interior designers and national retail chains are adding these online communication services to compliment their businesses. Martha Stewart's official gardening blog opened and was abandoned for months and months without any explanation. Kenneth Brown, a young interior designer on television has a successful blog/journal but he turned off the comments and now he just just seems to talk to himself. How can the smaller business learn from these larger companies?
"I'm not sure that the larger companies are the ones that are always in a position to teach the smaller ones. There is a lot to learn by how small businesses interact - and large companies need to pay better attention. To get to the main point of your question, it also seems like the key to being successful with some of these more experiential ideas is to set the right expectation up front."
4.) In our opinion, the 'net has forced Interior Designers to scramble and change their operating model. Products and services are no longer exclusively distributed through secret "sources" anymore. With the proliferation of "world trade" - what role do you think personality plays with product availability?
"It definitely does make it more difficult to find your originality when everything is available to everyone. I think the challenge for interior designers, or anyone else, will be to have a style that doesn't depend on having insider sources that no one else has. In some cases, this might require more creativity than some of these professionals are used to using. That's probably a good thing."
5.) In 2000 when John worked at Disney, a colleague was practically fired for creating an online journal about the day-to-day activities he encountered at the animation studio, including writing about famous company figureheads attending screenings and meetings. Do you feel large corporations will ever wake up and see the value of online the personality culture? How do companies use and value online communication without compromising trade secrets?
"Thankfully, I think large companies are already waking up to see this. In part, the book is about helping more companies to do this, so I definitely feel like it is possible. The second part of your question, how they can do this without giving away secrets, is a point that many of them are likely to worry about but it's a false fear because you usually end up gaining more than you give away. The idea of control is at the heart of this and brands are realizing there is a benefit to sharing control versus feeling like they can hold on to it."
We appreciate the time Rohit took to be interviewed. You can read more about Personality Not Included on Rohit's website, by clicking here.
Readers, have you ever sent any feedback to a company and received a response back? How did that make you feel? Did you make additional purchases? Did you feel a sense of ownership with the things you like to buy?