Out With Einstein, in with Columbo. Making Brand Connections

September 16, 2015 Deb Broderson

This past week, the Perks marketing team took its operation to Boston for the Hubspot Inbound Marketing Conference. Amidst the chatter of the thousands of attendees, and despite the frigid temperatures inside the Boston Convention Center, we’ve been able to hear all about how leading companies are acquiring and retaining customers and how to make brand connections.

There’s a prevailing idea in marketing and sales that terrific companies have to ‘wow’ their customers with elaborate pitches, plenty of sweet talk, and even a dozen roses to gain a client. The “customer is always right” mentality certainly has its place – but according to Jack Vincent, (Author of A Sale is a Love Affair.), that really isn’t where our focus should lie. Jack says that great brands and top performing companies create emotional connections with their end customers. He emphasizes the first impression you make on your reader or customer is critical.

How thinking like Columbo helps to create brand connections.

how columbo makes brand connections“Customers want Columbo, not Einstein”, says Vincent. What he means is that customers want salespeople and marketing messaging that asks the right questions. Force customers to engage with the buying process, and learn as much as you can about them as you go. Columbo is a remarkable and memorable character because he is tactfully inquisitive. Columbo is able to empathize with his suspects and put himself in their shoes. While searching for the truth, Columbo asks the right questions, and doesn’t talk down to his targets. Although he’ll probably stick to detective work, Columbo would have made a terrific salesman.

Forming an emotional connection with your audience the way Columbo did can be challenging because let’s face it, it’s not always easy to get emotional about tax codes, or CRM tools. Honesty and authenticity (talking to your customers like human beings) sets top performing companies apart from their competitors. HubSpot (sponsor of Inbound 2015) provides an excellent list of seemingly uninteresting businesses with creative and noteworthy messaging: here are two examples from their list:

First: Zendesk is a customer service software that has done a great job incorporating storytelling into their messaging in this ad “The story of support ticket #24”


This ad is an excellent example of a message that forms an immediate emotional connection with its customers. By putting a face to the customer and sales rep, it’s easier for potential clients to project themselves onto the product. This ad also demonstrates a good understanding of both the customer, and the support agent’s perspective and shows the entire brand connections lifecycle.

Making brand connections

Some folks may recognize this messaging below as a play of the popular Ryan Gosling ‘hey girl’ memes. On Pinterest GE has found a clever way to incorporate this theme into their marketing, which effectively delivers their message in context with popular culture. Remember that customer don’t hate advertising, they hate being bombarded with thoughtless messaging. People like it when companies are willing to take themselves less seriously.

brand connections brand connections 2


A successful sales and marketing strategy shouldn’t overwhelm its audience with information they don’t need. Well-designed strategy shouldn’t just “prove” that your solution is the best solution to solve the customer’s problem, it should invite the audience to become an active participant, and project themselves onto your pitch. As you craft your sales and marketing think to yourself: what would Columbo do?

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  1. Corey Eridon, 7 Great Examples of ‘Boring’ Businesses That Act Like Humans in Their Marketing
  2. http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/34186/7-Great-Examples-of-Boring-Businesses-That-Act-Like-Humans-in-Their-Marketing.aspx
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