The social branding scene

How to create meaningful brand love and engagement as explained by the dating game

Everyone wants to get noticed in the digital scene. With digital advertising up +13% to $6.2 billion in Canada for 2017, getting noticed in the online sphere is essential to any brand’s livelihood. Failure to do so means getting lost in the noise.

With the importance of digital growing, the number of philosophies for getting noticed and building engagement are growing too. More often than not, brands need to try and sort through these approaches to determine what’s right for them.

As a 30-something single guy I can’t help but see the similarities between building awareness on digital and the dating scene. So let’s explain digital marketing with a simple analogy:

Going to a bar, looking for love—where you’ll usually find four kinds of guys looking for attention.

1. The peacock

The guy who wants to flex his abs, flash his expensive watch, and ultimately spend the night telling people how great they are—especially if no one asked.

It’s a Blitzkrieg of charm. And let’s be real: for a time, this approach works. It can seem shiny, new and might even be fun. We can all admit to being seduced by this approach. But at some point, shirtless selfies lack substance and you forget why you cared in the first place.

With digital marketing, consumers may be impressed with flashy, bragadocious content in the beginning. But if it’s all you do, without offering substance to back it up—chances are your customers will lose interest once they look past the smoke and mirrors.

2. The success-by-numbers guy

This guy gets to the point… with everyone. He’s the guy who walks up to everyone at the bar, whether they’re his type or not, says “let’s get out of here” and hopes for the best.

It’s the guy who always swipes right. This is all a numbers game for him. He knows he’s going to get shot down 90 per cent of the time but doesn’t care. He’s here for a good time, not a long time and is happy so long as he gets a number.

And sure, this approach works too but we all know it can feel grimy and leave you with buyer’s remorse.

You’ve probably already guessed it, but this is your reach frequency play. If you reach enough people someone will buy your product, whether they understand if they actually want it or not. You will drive some sales in the short term, but it’s not the right way to build brand loyalty in the long term. In the end, you spend a lot of time and energy to eke out weak results that peter out.

3. The guy who buys your love

This is “that guy” who is buying everyone drinks. He thinks if you accept the drink, he’s got your dedicated attention. He spends a lot of money on getting you to hang with him, but at the end of the day isn’t sure if it’s him or his freebies you’re into. Much like the numbers guy, he’s hoping people will give him phone numbers. Only this time he either keeps investing so you feel bad or gets upset if you don’t say yes and ‘loses’ your number.

This guy is often disingenuous and isn’t someone you keep around in the long run. He’s spending, but it’s not an investment with long-term pay-off. Much like brands who buy your love, you may support for a while but ultimately won’t see a future with them without the freebies or constant guilt.

4. The engaged talker

Usually charming and genuine this guy is not looking at numbers, he’s thinking long term. If he likes you, he’ll spend the night hanging out with you. He may buy you a drink and ask for your number but doesn’t expect you to stick around…he just REALLY HOPES YOU DO.

He’s looking to call you in a couple of days, reconnect and see if there is a spark worth fanning. Although time-consuming and limiting, this is the most engaging approach and builds the best hope for a long-term relationship.

For marketers, this appears to be the most solid approach. Building a personal connection with a brand is priceless. You potentially have a repeat customer for life and more often than not, they tell their friends how great you are for organic new business growth.

So, of the four guys at the bar you want to be The Engaged Talker, right?


The point of this analogy isn’t to tell you which guy you want to be. It’s to show you that limiting yourself to an archetypal model is a recipe for disaster. Although each will try to show you data to support the approach, in every scenario it has limitations. There is always a greater chance for failure with siloed approaches.

As you read the above scenario examples, you likely thought it was dated and didn’t take into account innovations like Bumble and Tinder. You would have been right.

Like the dating scene, the marketing mix has changed. The siloed approach to digital doesn’t make sense, nor does it with dating. Pushing one philosophy over another is a tired approach.

Whether you are creating engagement at the bar IRL or on digital one swipe at a time, the key to success isn’t limiting yourself – it’s taking on aspects of all four guys.

While you should calibrate based on your strengths, for best results you need to integrate elements of each approach. Yes, flex your strengths and tell people about it. Don’t be shy, talk to lots of people. Buy people a few drinks and lastly, invest in the right people and engage with them in a meaningful way.

Hell, even call them in a day or two.

The right way to build digital engagement is through a strong, integrated digital strategy. You would stop listening to your friend’s dating advice if they advocate for the three-day rule – or worse, negging – so why would you listen to anyone who still pushes one digital strategy over another?

You can either be like one of the four guys in the bar and hope for the best or take elements of each and be the most interesting man in the room.

The choice is yours.