Yesterday, my application to participate in Seth Godin’s summer seminar, “The Agenda Session” was denied. I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t a little sad, because (as a marketer who believes that the acts and voices of businesses and organizations can be used for good and profound work) Seth Godin is my hero. I wouldn’t say that I was shocked when I read my rejection email, however. Only 15 people are accepted to the session every year, a lot of people look up to Seth Godin, and my application was a bit rushed because I wanted to be among the first to apply. All that said, I kind of saw it coming. But one can always dream.
People get rejected all of the time. From jobs. From people. From colleges and universities. What’s the big deal?
What was remarkable about this rejection (yes, his rejection email was worthy of remark) was how touching it was. We’ve all read the We regret to inform you‘s and Unfortunately you were not selected‘s time and time again. And typically we stop reading after we interpret that first sentence to the full intention of the communication. Not only that, but when we receive these rejections, whether it’s in response to a college application, job application or marriage proposal, it leaves a bad taste in our mouth about the organization/person that rejected you. Maybe Microsoft said you wouldn’t be a great fit for that role, so the next computer you buy is a Mac. Maybe USC said their MBA program was full, so you start rooting for the Sun Devils. Yet Seth Godin (as he is one to do) turned the common rejection letter on its head and found a way to create a personal connection with me through a presumably negative interaction. His rejection email was more moving than most acceptance letters and phone calls that I’ve received in my 27 years on Earth. It felt personal. It felt honest. It felt like Seth had called me into his office, closed the door, and with a solemn expression told me why I wasn’t going to get that promotion. And it built in me an even deeper and more profound level of respect for Mr. Godin.
The point is that we as marketers, advertisers and communicators often miss opportunities to create a stronger connection and greater engagement in these kinds of situations. Of course, we are all wonderful at celebrating the good stuff. That’s the easy part. But if you really want to stand out, we need to consider every touch point an opportunity to win more trust and more loyalty. If brands are becoming more like people every day, then think of your brand in terms of your best friends and acquaintances. Your acquaintances love to chat with you about the good stuff, the big stuff, the Super Bowl, the raise, the wedding. But only your best friends will sit down and have an honest conversation about the layoff, the troubled marriage, the loss of a loved one, the rejection from your dream job. That’s the conversation Seth just had with me, via email. And I’m a more loyal fan than ever, now.