Likeonomics

I don’t read many marketing books these days. Unless they happen to be from one of my favorite authors, I wittingly avoid marketing literature. There was a time when the only books on my reading list used to be from marketing and related domains. That initial routine sharpened my b******t radar and over the time, I developed an intuitive ability – almost a natural filter – to sift drivel from quality. Truth be said, more than four-fifth of marketing literature (based solely on my experiences as a reader) barring a few research papers is a cruel waste of trees.

I stumbled upon Likeonomics through the social media and at first glance, the subject matter appealed to me. The big idea behind Likeonomics is that you cannot build trust without being likeable. Good things begin to happen only when people like you.

Likeability⇒Trust⇒Increased sales

Being believable is the toughest challenge for anyone today – a situation author Rohit Bhargava calls Modern believability crisis. Likeonomics aims to offer how anyone can build relationships that lead to personal or professional success.

Author, in introduction, repeatedly mentions numerous instances of how he ran his likeonomics’ idea past various experts to see how it flies. Apparently, initial assessment from his friends and colleagues galvanized Bhargava to work up his ideas into a book. His honest self-disclosure made my own expectations go up a notch or two.

Likeonomics brings to the fore some highly relevant issues such as the one pertaining to the increasingly widening wedge between modern corporations and consumers. This has led to what the author calls a ‘Modern Believability Crisis’. Marketing spinmeisters and PR publicists have consistently led the consumers on about their products. Armed with all the data, these unscrupulous schemers manipulate our minds; technology-savvy marketers install cookies in our computers without our permission hiking up pricing every time we visit a particular website and so forth. Consumers, on the other hand, have also turned into a damning authority equipped with the best anti-establishment apparatus available to them. Social media – consumers’ go-to weapon to dispel marketing fabrications – has turned into a staggering force that inflicts further damage on the worsening relationship between corporations and consumers.

Where ‘believability crisis’ offers relevant insight and is the high-point of the book, Rohit Bhargava then indulges in excessive spiel about the need to connect with other people on a human level. My problem with such chatter is that it sounds very mundane and brims with a strong sense of déjà vu. Author’s view is that when product differentiation is at all time low, when A is no longer different from B, the only reason why people would buy is because of personal relationships. Doesn’t that sound too good to be true?

A major part of the book comprises discussion on the five principles of Likeonomics, a framework author has acronymized:

TRUST = Truth + Relevance + Unselfishness + Simplicity + Timing

Author wants the money-spinning corporations to become more forthcoming when it comes to admitting unpalatable facts about them. Conventional wisdom tells us that such purges are a rarity and even if you hear about one, there is no way to tell if it’s propped with a marketing gimmick. Moreover, do you really expect the multi-billion dollar corporations to blurt out the unwholesome facts that if revealed could damage their reputations forever? Do you expect Coke or Pepsi CEO to come out and confess to the whole world that over the decades, their respective companies have made humongous profits by selling unhealthy, sugary drinks and that they feel sorry for that? What is the likelihood that such confessions can ever happen? Zilch!

Rohit bhargava firmly believes that people are inherently altruistic – again, a stand I find quite debatable. Selfless behavior without the expectation of a ‘karmic kickback’ is unrivaled in business and daily life. Mind you, I am not saying we are all self-seeking, individualistic entities. But there is always an element of fear, recognition, greed, and sometimes, dread of bad karma that drives our day-to-day generosity. Those who collaborate on Wikipedia may be doing so for recognition in their own circles; those who indulge in charity may be doing so for karmic reciprocity.

Likeonomics’ problem is that it doesn’t quite figure out what it intends to be – a marketing book or a behavioural memoir? For a major part, Rohit Bhargava vacillates between the two. His smug announcements of applying no-jargon and no mumbo-jumbo to his writing sound positive until he gets into a repetitive mode and makes a federal case out of it. There are parts in the book where Rohit Bhargava makes a wise point and then fizzles to align it with the idea of Likeonomics. For example, in one of the chapters, he analyzes the significance of context while studying data and how optimal decision-making hinges on both data and observations. As intelligent as this insight may sound to the reader, the author fails to explain it in the larger perspective of likeonomics. Finally, there is knowledge to be gleaned from some parts of the book, but to my disappointment, the proverbial whole falls shorter than the sum of its parts.