Am I your friend or your brand?


By Mark Schaefer

I recently made a difficult decision. I’m conflicted about it and wanted to air it out today.

I frequently get approached to promote books, or even provide testimonies for book covers. It’s sort of become a game in the publishing industry. Often, an author will actually write a testimony for you and ask if it is OK (so you appear on the book without having read the book).

I don’t get into that stuff. I don’t do testimonies unless I have actually read the book. It has to be a pretty good book for me to get behind it and recommend it to my audience. However most of my colleagues just go with the game.

On my most recent books, I don’t even have blurbs and testimonies. I recognize the value of “social proof” but in the long run, I doubt anybody is going to buy my book or recommend it because Seth Godin gave me a quote for the cover. I know a guy that wrote a book with four pages of testimonies at the beginning and the book still tanked. Social proof only carries you so far.

Any way, an acquaintance (not a close friend) who has circled around me over the years wrote a book and asked me to promote it.

I browsed though most of it and the book was terrible. It might have been OK five years ago but it rambled all over the place and did not offer anything new. In fact, it was far behind the times.

I told him that I could not get behind it and honestly and politely told him why.

Here is my conflict.

  1. I feel I have established a personal brand of honesty and trust in the marketing space. In my mind and heart, every time I recommend something I don’t truly believe in, it makes me die a little inside. It makes me feel like I’m lying to you.
  2. In the big picture, who cares? Maybe I could do more good for the world by supporting this friend and helping his book get off the ground. Perhaps my loyalty to him would result in a business opportunity some day. I have a platform. Shouldn’t I use it to help people just starting out? Maybe I am too full of myself as “the brand” and I need to be less critical.

I think there are interesting implications to this dilemma that extends to big brands too. We are moving into a marketing era that demands more emotional connection, transparency, and humanity. We want companies to act like friends … not brands.

Am I your friend or am I your brand? Am I your friend because I am your brand?

How would you decide?

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world.  Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

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