Likability: The Key to Success. In Advertising. In Business. In Life.

likeIn growing up in the ad business in the 70s and 80s I recall we used to test commercials using now antiquated Burke (recall), and ASI (forced exposure) methods to “determine” a commercial’s potential effectiveness. There were norms established for categories and commercials were evaluated against these norms. As a result of this science, bad ineffective spots would often air, and good ones often never saw the light of day.

Over time however I realized that there was little correlation between the “test scores” and effectiveness. However there was one element that stood above all others. It is trait that stands the test of time


Likability was ultimately the most important measure in determining an ad’s effectiveness. Ads one likes are far more effective than ads that may ring the short term memorability bell, but fall short on likeability. Irritating ads can be memorable, but do they sell?

But ads you like and want to see again surely influences attitudes and sales. Ads are uninvited guests to the programming you watch and in today’s DVR-laden world easy to fast forward and dismiss. But great ads are powerful, they lure the viewer and the viewer seeks to watch them.

Likability is a concept that has far greater influence than advertising. Along with competence and hard work, it is the factor that can accelerate one’s career (or not). The Wall Street Journal recently had an article on this subject, Why Likability Matters More. Smart stuff. Here’s a key excerpt:

“Likability” is becoming a bigger factor for success at work as social networks and videoconferencing grow. The impact goes beyond a high-school popularity contest. The ability to come across as likable is shaping how people are sized up and treated by bosses and co-workers.

Likable people are more apt to be hired, get help at work, get useful information from others and have mistakes forgiven. A study of 133 managers last year by researchers at the University of Massachusetts found that if an auditor is likable and gives a well-organized argument, managers tend to comply with his suggestions, even if they disagree and the auditor lacks supporting evidence.

Being smart helps. Working hard helps. Being likable helps even more. Put them all  together and go to the head of the class.

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