Why Am I Listening to You?


The other day, I caught a rerun of the iconic 1987 hit Wall Street, starring Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen. Always one to glean a fresh insight with every repeat of a great movie, I found in this screening a branding gem.

Bud Fox (Sheen), a trader in a brokerage house, had tried but failed for 59 consecutive days to make a face-to-face appointment with Gordon Gekko (Douglas), the master investment banker. But, on Gekko’s birthday, Fox prevailed, Cuban cigars in tow.

After exchanging a few awkward pleasantries about the young trader’s admirable persistence, Gekko gave Fox an immutable lesson in Branding 101 by asking, “Why am I listening to you?” Indeed.

Why should any prospect listen to a vendor? Inherent in Gekko’s question was a more-fundamental, unspoken question: What do you know about me?

Gekko didn’t ask about Fox’s company or products. As the prospect, he wanted to talk only about himself and his needs — in this case, illegal insider information. Once Fox realized and addressed that, he got Gekko’s attention — and cash. No kidding.

Will vendors ever grasp this simple branding truth? Customers want you to talk about them — not about cloud this and social-networking that. Really.

Alas, judging by their supplier-centric, buzzword-laced homepages, vendors still don’t get it — and this is precisely the point I made in “Use Mirrors to Attract Customers.”

Rx from The WhiteNoise Doctor

Branding supersedes all other business activities; it is the first priority, predicated on a deep knowledge of the customer.

The brand is the stone in the pond — it begets all subordinate ripples: fundraising, marketing, building, and selling. The stone creates the ripples; the ripples don’t create the stone!

When talking to a prospect — face-to-face, over the phone, or via your homepage — note that he’ll be asking himself, from the outset, Why am I listening to you? If you think it’s because of your products, congratulations! You’re in the white noise. Hissss.


About the Author

Marc Rudov is a branding advisor to CEOs,
producer of MarcRudovTV, and author of the book,
Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.


© 2010 Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.


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