Last week, renowned media critic and author Bob Garfield spoke at the monthly meeting of Dayton’s American Advertising Federation (AAF).

Bob co-hosts On the Media on NPR news, and for 25 years, wrote the “AdReview” column in Advertising Age. He’s the author of several books on advertising and media, including this year’s Can’t Buy Me Like, which he co-authored with leading creative strategist Doug Levy. Bob’s one of the most influential marketing and advertising commentators in the world.

The evening prior to his talk for AAF, WYSO (91.3 FM, our local NPR Affiliate) was kind enough to host a reception where Bob also spoke and signed books. I enjoyed it because I was able to spend some time driving Bob to these events and picking his brain a little. That was a lot of fun, and allowed me to understand or at least talk about the process that goes into producing a national weekly radio show, writing multiple books and still keeping up with regular magazine columns.

The book (whose full title is Can’t Buy Me Like: How Authentic Customer Connections Drive Superior Results) is getting serious press. It’s been reviewed everywhere from the Huffington Post and USA Today to Fast Company and Forbes. That might be because it provides explanations—and solutions—for what marketers have long known and feared: the world of marketing ain’t what it used to be.

Garfield and Levy give four reasons that’s so:

  • A collapse of mass media. Increased fragmentation has made old ad-selling models unsustainable.
  • More transparency. The speed and power of the Internet means no brand can get away with shady behavior. Companies’ achievements—but mostly, their gross oversights and scandals—are now everybody’s business.
  • Social media. Thanks to improved sharing tools, word spreads faster than we could have ever imagined possible.
  • An emphasis on trust. A good product is no longer good enough. Consumers now care deeply about the values behind the brands they buy—sometimes even more than they care about quality or price.

These factors, the authors tell us, have led to a shift away from a “Consumer Era” of marketing, and towards a new age—a “Relationship Era.” Garfield and Levy define the Relationship Era like this:

“Relationship Era marketers do not see purchasers as conquests to seduce, or even persuade. They see them as friends—members of a community dedicated not only to the same stuff but to the same ideals. …In short: Across every function of an enterprise, corporations and their brands now can and must behave with their various constituencies in ways exactly parallel to human relationships.”

With Bob at AAF Luncheon

Most importantly, Garfield and Levy say, this new era should be embraced not only by big-time consumer products brands, but also small businesses and professional services providers. Gone are the days of hiding behind catchy ad slogans, of saying one thing and doing another. Now, brands must live their missions and values in every aspect of how they operate.

If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering, well, how am I supposed to do that? Fortunately, Garfield and Levy explain how, step by step. But I won’t give it all away—you can learn more about the book, download an excerpt, and find out where the authors are speaking next here.

In the meantime, I’ll be starting to apply the lessons of Can’t Buy Me Like to the way we work here at Oregon. Give the book a read, and you might just be inspired, too.