When I was a teenager, I never grasped the concept of the slow kiss. Back then, I thought walks in the park, mini-golf and dates that included soft ice-cream were for sissies. 

You see, as a young man I didn’t understand the subtly of dating. Hormones and a surge of testosterone clouded my judgement and negated me from getting to know someone before I tried to ‘score’. It was the 80’s and I was reared on a lean diet of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Porky’s and MTV, so what would you expect.

Fortunately, this dark period of my life was fleeting. Over the years, I matured. I learned that taking it slow and getting to know someone is more gratifying than rushing to the finish line. But good luck explaining that to a teenager.

Why then are so many marketers emulating teenage behavior and trying to force brand copulation on consumers without first getting to know them? ‘Brand copulation’ you say? Yes, it is the intimate union of a brand and a consumer — only in this case, the brand often forces itself on the consumer.

This is especially true online. Look no further than Facebook to examine the bizarre behavior of frightened marketers looking for an edge over their competitors and thrusting brands onto them without context or rationale. Marketers with no logical reason for being on this site are posting Facebook pages and applications with reckless abandonment.

My friend, Alan Wolk, articulated the unnatural union between brands and consumers on sites like Facebook in his article, ‘Your Brand Is Not My Friend‘. He stated:

“…And while they’re busy Facebooking and Twittering, the absolute last person they want to hear from is an advertiser. I mean when you think of it, it’s kind of creepy. Facebook is the 21st century malt shop. It’s where people go to hang out. And the last thing they want is some salesperson trying to have a “conversation” with them while they’re figuring out what movie they’re going to see. They don’t want to talk to you. They want to talk to their friends.

The whole appeal of social media sites is their independence from advertising. People like the fact that they can say whatever they want to other people without becoming targets. Yes, they’ll tolerate banner ads or search ads on the page, the same way that in the malt shop they tolerated place mats with ads on them or a Coke sign on the soda machine: That sort of advertising is innocuous and quickly becomes part of the general scenery…”

Matt Rhodes, another blogger, recently posted a story called, ‘How Not to Use Facebook for Marketing‘ where he said:

“Facebook is a very personal space. It’s the place I go to to find out about my friends, post my photos and read my messages. This can be a very difficult context for brands, or anybody trying to market a product, to enter. You are interrupting a user’s experience and need to do it sensibly and sensitively. Whilst some people will be happy to receive your updates to their news-feed, others will see this as an intrusion.”

In other words, stop humping your consumers’ legs and start holding their hands if you want to build affinity towards your brand (and a relationship with consumers). Marketers need to think in the following terms to successfully integrate their brands into consumers lives online:

  1. Meet
  2. Hold hands
  3. Get to know each other
  4. Date
  5. …and EVENTUALLY make love (the sale)

It’s that simple. You can’t skip steps 2-4 to develop a meaningful relationship. It doesn’t work that way –never has (read the dating rules). Not for me at least. Relationships are built over time, never forced, so take it slow. 

To be effective in today’s tapestry of online marketing communications, brands need to do some obvious things first:

  • Provide value
  • Tell a story
  • Allow consumers to become a part of that story
  • Allow consumers to use their own language, words and rituals to communicate about the brand
  • Be authentic
  • Take time to establish credibility

And remember that old saying, ‘Kiss Me Before You F**k* Me’ before you create fake aliases on Facebook and try to become someones ‘friend’ that you don’t even know.