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Recently it occurred to me, that great marketing and successful flirting have a lot in common. Flirting is a kind of playful game, where over a period of time you hopefully lure someone into choosing you. Sounds a lot like marketing no? Very similar, neither marketing nor flirting have a fixed set of rules per se, however both share some similar really good rules of thumb:

marketing crush

Keep it lighthearted and playful: Think about good flirting-it's playful, bordering on silly sometimes, anything but taking itself too seriously. In good flirting you create an element that's carefree, where it's as though in that moment, there's little problems in the world—so should it be with marketing. Remember when the Segway came out? Founder Dean Kamen promised it would revolutionize transportation as we knew it. Big expectations to deliver on, and a little too serious, so when it came out and couldn't turn dirt into gold as it were, people yawned.

Let them find out about you from a friend (Hint-Good PR): Ever been in a situation where you were already in good standing with a love interest you had your eye on, and it was because there had been a good testimonial from a friend beforehand? People put a precedence on any testimonial that is not a paid endorsement because they know people are picky about what and who they endorse. The same way a man or woman knows you are putting your neck on the line endorsing someone, marketers can improve their chances of action from PR substantially over advertising. Like with people endorsing people, media outlets write stories about business because those businesses are authentic and captivating, and this is inherently more interesting to a third party than almost any print ad or TV commercials will ever be. Equal to good PR is that of happy customers who tell their friends of course. The new norm in digital marketing, like startup Kapture, is to give your customers the chance to share their happy experience even at the moment of purchase, just don't be too in your face about it.

Leaving them wanting a little more and go slow: When you are out on a date, you don't read off a rap sheet of okay sodaeverything there is to know about yourself, instead, likely you trade and share aspects of yourself over time in discussion. Doing this trading of stories about yourself helps generate interest from the other to find out more, it's done in a slow dance over time. It's like how any business should expect realistically on average that it will take about eight to nine times of the customer hearing your name before pulling the trigger to buy.

Although it was ultimately a failed brand, OK Soda of the early 90's was on to something with it's buzz generating marketing campaign, where they had everyone asking "what the heck is OK Soda?" You may recall that they had TV commercials that had everyone talking, because they were reticent on the verge of being vague.

Not being too forward too soon, (think social media): Ever met someone once, and then that night they are adding you on facebook? Depending on the situation, it can sometimes come off as a little weird. So can it with social media marketing. Desperation is anti-seductive. I know of a local pizza and sub shop that delivered their menu to my friends doorstep, and they had hand written in pencil on a folded up piece of paper "like us on facebook". A bit sad. Or have you ever posted something on a social networking site like Twitter, and 10 minutes later the company is tweeting at you? Feel this sort of thing out and how it will come off before you do it. Customers may be uncomfortable with you inviting them to do anything by e-mail or social media too soon after they engage with you. Companies need to feel this out. dominos pizza

Don't BS. Show a little humility: “Flirting is never at someone’s expense” explained Fran Greene, flirting expert and author of The Flirting Bible. Marketers need to perpetually question their own motives in their campaigns to screen for areas where they are blatantly misleading people. Papa Johns Pizza® and Dominos® are two pizza names we all know, where it is the kind of pizza you might order late at night (after some drinks perhaps?) and few other options for pizza. Well, while Papa Johns touts a motto of "Better ingredients, Better Pizza"—which is enough BS to start a manure farm—Dominos® has had much success in recent years endearing their market with their counter intuitive campaign admitting that their pizza just isn't that great.

Show your vulnerability

Being a little bit vulnerable is good, because it shows people that you are real, and human, and that makes you all the more approachable and lovable, and this works for a Fortune 500 company same as with flirting and courtship (just see Dominos example in last paragraph!)

Be a little provocative but not over the top Fuck Cancer the non profit organization is a great case study in provocative monikers for a business. You don't forget a name like "Fuck Cancer", and where this would likely come across as tacky for many other businesses ("Fuck tartar build up" doesn't quite seem as legit), given the emotion behind the concept of cancer, people who would be otherwise offended are actually cool with the name in this case. Sometimes provocative marketing becomes a story in and of itself, which is a form of Meta PR like I talked about in Bonobo's Pants, a Case Study In Marketing.

oreo superbowl tweetBe spontaneous: Men and women alike often complain when their significant other looses their spontaneity. A capricious attitude in life brings us back to childhood, it is fun, and it is exciting. Companies all too often are restrained in their marketing, like taking months to plan a campaign. The best example of a marketing spontaneity success story by far is that of Nabisco® with their Oreo® brand during the Superbowl. In the 2013 Superblow when the power went out at the New Orleans Superdome, within minutes Nabisco had tweeted that you could still eat Oreos in the dark. Their tweet was re-tweeted thousands of times from this playful burst of whim that would never have happened from a more restrained brand.

Show your substance unpretentiously: Everyone has some strong suits, and flaunting them conspicuously can often be a turn off. Which do you think impresses a date more? Blurting out "Oh oh I can speak Spanish!" because they said they've been to Spain, or subtly dropping some lines to a relevant 3rd party in your best Spanish when the time is right. So it is with a business that there is a right and wrong way to brag. For example, any paid advertisement boasting your success will never be as substantial as a news piece on your success.

Give them something to talk about. Use a prop: Fran explains to me about the benefit of having a subtle prop trader joes t shirtsas a it reaps the benefit of giving people a conversation starter with yourself: “It could be a tie, a shirt, jewelry, perfume, anything interesting really”  Your business, no matter large or small can benefit from the same thing—branding. A prop could be part of your store’s experience, which is a crucial part of the marketing mix. Fran points out to me about Trader Joe's, and their Hawaiian Shirts (which are pretty much the clothing staple of not taking yourself too seriously). I don’t doubt that decades into it, people still comment about Trader Joe's Hawaiian shirts, the bell they ring for a return, and a bushel of other polices they have that are indeed a kind of "flirting with the customer."

Always throwing something new into the mix: Lastly, not only do consummate flirters flirt constantly and almost for the sheer sake of it at times, but the best ones are constantly putting themselves out there in different places and different ways. So should companies perpetually seek to expand their marketing mix, this is especially important in the digital space as things change fast.

As Greene points out to me "Opportunity won't always just knock on your door, you've got to make it happen".

Dabbling in something new can take a tiny investment to test the waters, and if it doesn't work, it's no big deal. Oh yeah, if you make a mistake in flirting or in marketing, roll with it. When the pros botch flirting they know it's not a big deal, and they transition smoothly into the next move, as naturally as a ordering that ever romantic Dominos pizza because the oven broke.

Here are some great books on flirting to brush up on your marketing!

flirting bible flirting


Brad Hines photo picture imageAbout the author: Brad Hines is the president of YumDomains.com, and the founder of HungryKids.org. He is a digital marketing and social media strategist. A writer as well, he typically writes about internet, business, and science trends. He has been known to get his flirt on, especially with companies he helps market better. He can be followed on Twitter:


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