Respect and Earning It

A message from Dan Kennedy.

I received an email from Dan Kennedy this week that was so powerful, I share it here in its entirety.

I’ve added links to two of Dan’s books… he’s written many.
And there are links at the end of the article if you want to receive more from Dan Kennedy.

I’ve had the pleasure of listening to Dan Kennedy speak in the USA numerous times…

Once you’ve read this message, I want you to read it again… it’s very powerful.


One day on Veteran’s Day, I’m sitting at the end of a cubicle in a bank, waiting while a cashier’s check is obtained from closing a CD – which is now an act of Congress, and I watch an elderly fellow get out of his car in handicapped parking and come in, slowly, then up to the counter. The teller calls him by name and asks how his Veteran’s Day was. He answers “Great” and describes going out for a meal with his family to Bob Evans Restaurant, where his meal was free. The young millennial teller says that she noticed everywhere she went on Veterans Day that restaurants were giving discounts or free meals to vets, ending with:

“I’d sure like some free food too.”

He did not respond. Just hobbled to his car. I refrained from going over and educating her, but it was not easy. I hopefully do not need to tell you what I would love to have told her: all she needs to do is give up 4 or more years of her young life to risk that life or at least a limb, crawl around in filthy foxholes, maybe kill some people on battlefields, survive it all, have a permanent limp, and she can score free breakfast from I-Hop once a year too.

This, the patient and polite version of what I would have told her. And I am mostly patient and polite, even though I often am not credited as such – but that’s only because people don’t get to compare my patient and polite to my impatient and impolite.

It is like Charlie Jarvis’ old joke about phoning home from the airport and confessing to his wife that he’d cheated – on his diet, by eating a Snickers bar. After she roundly criticized him, he said:

“But you don’t understand. I wanted to eat all of the Snickers bars.” ….

Anyway, I got my check and left, silent on the little tragedy played out before me.

There are morality and business success lessons in this story.

A generation of parents and our entire public and collegiate educational system has almost entirely – and mostly, deliberately – failed at teaching young people about their debts. To their grandparents and parents, to all those who served in the military, to the great capitalists who built America, and generally, to the nation they live in. They owe and do not know. The draft ended just before my number could have come up and I did not serve, but my father was a World War II vet who saw combat, and I sort of got the picture from him and from several of his friends and my overhearing their poker table-in-the-basement conversations.

I am of the time of the Vietnam war. A few friends from high school came home from it in body bags. I have six grandkids. But I still think ending compulsory military service was one of the greatest, if not the greatest political and societal mistake of our nation. Today’s Democrat Party would ostracize JFK, once its greatest hero, for his insistence each person should not ask what their country can do for them but instead ask what they can do for their country. Imagine that speech, wedged between the new whack-job socialism-loving senator from Brooklyn and Liz Warren at the Democratic convention.

The big issue here is: respect. 

And I am here to tell you that it offers enormous political as well as advertising, marketing and selling leverage.

We live in a monstrously disrespectful culture. Everywhere you turn. The outliers who actually are and who exhibit respect towards their customers profit enormously. The insurance company for veterans actually emphasizes it in their advertising – because it is sadly rare. Trump is a recklessly disrespectful guy in many ways, but he put himself into the White House by showering respect on disrespected constituencies. Hillary oozed her disrespect for those same people out of every pore in her pant-suited body. I wrote about this in my book No B.S. Guide to Marketing to Boomers and Seniors. I’ve included it in the new 3rd edition of the Marketing to the Affluent book.

It is a currency: expressed, stated, and demonstrated respect for those you serve. You can’t just say it. You have to mean it. Then you have to figure out how to deliver on it. Some companies pull it off in their advertising but then can’t manage to deliver it in their stores or offices or on their phones.

“How may I help you today?”

is a good script only if the person understands that it is her job, for real, and wants it, and is empowered to be of help. I heard it the other day from somebody who then proved they meant was

“F@ you. I hate this job and I hate you. And you have to do business with us anyway.”

Which I don’t. And after the call, I immediately took steps to close my account, so as to never do business with them again.

Vance taught that if you sanction incompetence – and I think, disrespect – you only make things worse for the next fellow.

There’s a moral obligation to punish. If enough do, lousy employees do get fired, crappy companies do go out of business.

The marketing lesson is simple: promise and craft and deliver the rare.”

“A generation of parents and our entire public and collegiate educational system has almost entirely – and mostly, deliberately – failed at teaching young people about their debts.”


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