First impressions are key; everyone knows that. What most people don't realize, though, is that first impressions are almost never made during a first introduction. First impressions can be made at any point for any reason. For each person it's a little different. Conventional wisdom would say to always be on your best behavior. Seth Godin says to be, "authentic and consistent." And all of that is good advice. Still the fact remains that you are spending ad dollars here. So you may as well get your money's worth out of it. The only way to do that is to be proactive. Literally make a first impression. Do something that makes people form an opinion.
Meeting the Family
Shortly before I proposed to my wife I met her extended family ... on her mother's side. Her family is very extensive and fairly convoluted. To make matters more confusing they don't use helpful prefixes and suffixes like step-, half-, second-, -inlaw or -removed. In fact, the title assigned is usually based on relative age as opposed to biological relation, and at times no such connection exists at all. One more thing: they take pride in confusing the pants off of us new people.
The Rock and the Hard Place
It would have been easy enough to fade into the background, shake hands, nod heads and just get through the day. No one would have formed really any opinion of me. That's just not my way. It would have been conceivable to memorize the names and relations of everyone there and show off, but that's really more of a double-edged sword. If I was wrong (at any point) then I would lose; if I was right (the entire time) then I'd be a jerk. Either way the opinion formed would have been a negative one.
I really wanted all of these people to like me. So, what was I to do? They took pride in their family structure. So, I made it a goal to understand it. As individuals would introduce themselves, I would ask about their relation to one another. Once it started to get confusing I pulled out my notebook and began to chart their family tree, from the 93 year old matriarch to the 3 year old Azeri. I asked for accuracy and clarification from those around me who then started charting with me people who weren't even there. Before long I could venture a few guesses about who was coming in the door and basically introduce them to myself.
What Just Happened?
Needless to say they loved me. Some of them left with a stronger opinion of me than they had of some of their cousins who had shown up every year. How did I do that? Better still: how can that be applied to advertising? Good questions.
Promote their Worldview
They thought their family is something else. So did I. I thought it was such a great family that I took the time and energy to understand and appreciate it. I agreed with and elevated their view. Advertising should do that. It's not enough to just casually agree with your audience. You must elevate their worldview, bolster it, defend it, proselytize it!
You ever wonder how the "Green Movement" got so much traction? Think about it. A small percentage of the population actually cares about being green. Yet, somehow being green has become cool. Even those who want to not be green find themselves feeling good about themselves when they do something environmentally friendly! It's not because it's a moral imperative; it's because green advertisers don't just agree with the green worldview, they promote it.
Request their Involvement
If you ever want someone to feel like you are on their team, ask them for help. It works every time. Even if they don't end up helping you, they feel needed. People like feeling needed. If you want to serve someone ask how you can help them. If you want to sell someone ask them to help you. Don't wait for them. You and your advertising should be proactive.