Meet Rohit Bhargava, second-time author and Senior Vice President of Ogilvy.
WashingtonExec interviewed this marketing guru about his latest book: Likeonomics: The Unexpected Truth Behind Earning Trust, Influencing Behavior, and Inspiring Action. Bhargava tells WashingtonExec why he wrote the book and why social media is the greatest change to ever happen to the marketing world.
An interesting read, Bhargava also explains the most common mistake executives make while attempting to effectively network.
WashingtonExec: Can you tell us a little about your background?
Rohit Bhargava: I’ve always been a marketing guy and a writer, but what interests me most is trying to understand why we make the decisions that we make. I’ve spent a lot of time as a consultant working with a lot of different sized businesses. All of the ideas I’ve written about; whether it was in my first book Personality Not Included or in this one (Likeonomics) are based on what I’ve seen in working with companies. It’s based on real life. My path toward writing a book was to try and share what I felt was a big idea.
“I think [social media] has had a profound effect around the world. The biggest change is that anyone can be an expert in something they DON’T do as a career. That is a huge change. It means that any of us can take our passion … that thing that you minored in in college and share your expertise in that.”
WashingtonExec: How has social media changed in professional marketing or in business around the world or in the United States in general?
Rohit Bhargava: I think it has had a profound effect around the world. The biggest change is that anyone can be an expert in something they DON’T do as a career. That is a huge change. It means that any of us can take our passion … that thing that you minored in in college and share your expertise in that. I think that’s really powerful and so for me I’ve always wanted to be in marketing. Social media has fundamentally shifted not only how we interact, but also what we can interact about. Each one of us now has the ability to share and engage with people on anything that we are passionate about.
WashingtonExec: I’m looking at your slide deck and I like the visual of your first book of the birds . . .
Rohit Bhargava: Yes, we called it the crazy chicken. As I was writing the second one, I have two little boys and they would always say “Daddy are you finished with your second chicken book yet?”
WashingtonExec: What kind of person or what country do you think is better at honing in on the new wave of “Likeonomics” or way of marketing?
Rohit Bhargava: I think what I really tried to write about in the book was why successful people are successful. The target audience for that message could really be anyone – so its intentionally broad. It’s the person who wants to get ahead; whether they are trying to launch their own business or just trying to get a new job or on a personal level, they are trying to build better relationships with people around them. I think what I really started to find out and uncover through the process of researching the book was just how powerful these personal connections can be when it comes to why we achieve success and thus become successful.
“I’ve spent a lot of time trying to inspire companies to be more human and create better marketing because I firmly believe that better marketing can actually change the world. That’s my elevator pitch for my philosophy of why I do what I do.”
WashingtonExec: What elevator speech or pitch do you usually give?
Rohit Bhargava: I’ve spent a lot of time trying to inspire companies to be more human and create better marketing because I firmly believe that better marketing can actually change the world. That’s my elevator pitch for my philosophy of why I do what I do. I believe marketing on some level is always behind whether great ideas succeed or they don’t. If you imagine a world changing idea that fails – it usually fails because of bad marketing. There are plenty of great nonprofits, for example, and there’s plenty of amazing, world changing people … if they just had better marketing and better communications they would be able to have such a greater impact. I try to inspire that personally. That is my personal mission. I think the elevator pitch for the book is that we do business or build relationships with people we like and so using likeability to build trust is the real secret of success.
WashingtonExec: How would you describe your personal brand?
Rohit Bhargava: There are a couple of words I often use, and the first is “non-obvious” because I think there are a lot of people in business who are laser focused on the obvious. I don’t think that adds value for anybody so I try to take a different point of view on anything that I do. I try to say things that are not what everybody says. I think the other thing is that I focus a lot on being approachable. I try to be very approachable so that people feel like they can come up to me and ask me something. The last thing is I try to be proactively helpful. If someone asks me for help or advice I usually try to make the time and do it. I think that part of that has to do with this personal philosophy that you are going to get out of the world what you put back into it. What I hope people will see in the book, but also what I’m trying to live, is this idea that if you can be more approachable and can put more things out there and add value then people will build that relationship with you and everything else will kind of take care of itself.
WashingtonExec: What is something most executives do not understand about networking?
Rohit Bhargava: I could go with the obvious point of being a better listener and not focusing on yourself, but I think what a lot of people tend to think listening means is “I’ll nod my head for an appropriate enough time until you are done talking and then I will respond.” When actually what “trained listeners” liketherapists are taught to do is not listening – it’s active listening. Active listening means that you are interacting with someone. You are asking them questions based on what they’ve told you. You are “interviewing” them in a sense but not in a grilling them kind of a way. That, I think, is what a lot of people don’t get about networking because the general sense is that ‘if I try to do that it will take too long’ and ‘if I only have a half an hour to meet as many people as possible and I’ve got to keep score in my head and collect lots of business cards’. The problem with that mentality is the no one remembers you and very few relationships blossom. Instead, we you met fewer people but had a deeper connection with each one – that might lead them to introduce you to others in their network you may benefit from knowing, and all of a sudden your “ROI” in terms of meeting the right people is way higher from a single conversation than from the dozen business cards sitting in the bottom of your desk drawer.
WashingtonExec: If you had one piece of advice for someone debating writing their own book what would it be?
Rohit Bhargava: I would say to think about your big idea early and collect all of the sources of information because you can find over time. It’s very difficult to say ‘now I’m going to write a book’ and start from a blank piece of paper. I don’t think anyone can ever do that. Instead . . . on some level I was “researching” my first book that came out in 2008 for years before. In fact I accidentally wrote a blog post about the core idea (that brands need to have a personality) more than two years before I even published Personality Not Included. But before I even had the idea, I was collecting things and I was saving them. What I think that forces you to do is take a moment out of your day to day life and think about the big picture. If I take a magazine article and I rip it out or print out an online article and I stick it in a folder and three weeks later I stick something else in the folder and then two days later I stick something else in there (and this is actually one of the things that I did), what you end up with after a year is this folder filled with 50 things and now you spread those out and you look at them and you’ve got this long term vision of the things that you found interesting throughout the year that you wouldn’t have had otherwise. I really spent four or five months researching and thinking before I even wrote anything.
WashingtonExec: It sounds tedious.
Rohit Bhargava: [laughs] Yes, but I know that the word “researching” brings up this idea of sitting in the library doing really boring stuff when actually what I was doing was learning about the history of cartography and how Roman orators used their body language to tell a story because in a huge stadium with no microphones nobody could hear them. My process was to put these pieces together and to look at that and look at what Oprah did to become Oprah and how the Japanese responded to earthquakes and how the World Bank President was chosen . . . these are all stories that I ended up researching and writing about in Likeonomics. To put the pieces together of a story flow like that and try to tell one narrative around so many different ideas – that’s what I’m passionate about.