Likeonomics: A Book Review

August 27, 2012 Content Marketing no comments


Rohit Bhargava and Likeonomics (source of image)

We are facing a crisis of believability in big businesses and brands.

Triggered by the collapse of the financial system in 2008, widespread deceit by big corporate brands and sheer volume of advertising “clutter”, consumers distrust big brands, companies and governments more than ever before.

Against such a backdrop, what can your business do to differentiate itself from the rest? How can you earn the trust and love of your customers in the social and digital age?

The answer, according to Ogilvy’s Rohit Bhargava, is to be more likeable.

With the subtitle The Unexpected Truth Behind Earning Trust, Influencing Behavior, And Inspiring Action, Rohit’s latest volume Likeonomics proposed that companies should move from analytics to altruism in their bid to win the hearts of their customers. To do so, they should embrace the five principles of Likeonomics, namely Truth, Relevance, Unselfishness, Simplicity, and Timing (ie TRUST).

Let us go through each of these principles in detail.

#1 Truth

The first principle Truth comprises the three vital elements of Unexpected Honesty, Unbiased Fact and Proactive Integrity. With information becoming freely and readily available online, fudging the truth is probably the worst thing which you can do.

Did you know that Oprah Winfrey was raped by a relative when she was nine? Shaking us up with that rather sordid story, Rohit demonstrated how being open about an “inconvenient truth” helped Oprah to gain extensive credibility and mileage. Similarly, doing so could also help you to forge an instant connection with your customers.

Beyond being open about your past, being truthful also meant that you should stick to your guns and live up to high ethical standards when conducting your business. You need to walk the talk and practice what your business preaches.

#2 Relevance

The second principle of Relevance brought to mind Stephen Covey’s 7 Habit philosophy of “seeking first to understand and then to be understood”.

Citing the example of the World Bank, Rohit narrated how being relevant drove the International Organisation to deploy its bankers to client economies so that they’re closer to the action and the people whom they’re helping. Doing so also helped them to develop policies and programmes which could better help developing economies to scale up the ladder.

To become highly relevant in the social age, consider adopting the following key behaviours:

  • Actively listen to your customers and prospects to discern their needs, wants and desires;
  • Have a Meaningful Point of View which can resonate with them; and
  • Know your Surrounding Context.

#3 Unselfishness

The third principle of Unselfishness debunked the myth proposed by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins that we human beings are naturally genetically predisposed towards “Social Darwinism“. In other words, Dawkins point of “every man for himself” crumbles in the social age.

Brimming with optimism, Rohit proposed that the rise of “Wikinomics” and a new movement of compassion have changed how businesses should behave. This would be driven by three world changing attributes: Human empathy; Giving freely and offering value.

This rose-tinted view of the world was elegantly narrated by the stoicism of the Japanese people after the devastating March 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Reading about it from the book, I was amazed by their incredible altruism and honesty. Amidst the rubble, citizens who found cash returned tens of millions of yen to the government to rebuilt the city rather than pocket them!

#4 Simplicity

The fourth principle, Simplicity, was neatly embodied by this quotation which Rohit used, taken from the book “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery:

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

Both Google and Apple were well documented cases of companies obsessed with keeping things simple. These technology giants kept the user interfaces of their online tools or devices as simple and clutter-free as possible.

Like the first three points, Simplicity also comprised three elements. In this case, these points were:

  • Focus on a Core Concept. Pare down your product and service features to the minimum.
  • Ensure that your ideas are Highly Shareable; and
  • Speak in a Natural Language which your customers can appreciate – skip the jargon (I especially love this point!)

#5 Timeliness

The fifth and final principle of Timeliness was probably the hardest to control.

In a time-shifting culture your customers could choose whichever time they wish to conduct their activities. Since obvious seasons and timings may become fiercely competitive (eg selling flowers 2 weeks before Valentine’s Day), you needs to go beyond pure luck to move your prospects to buy from you.

Here Rohit offered three elements to improve your timeliness factor:

  • Necessary Urgency: Find a way to get people to act or pay attention in the moment;
  • Habitual Connection: Coincide your activity with people’s current habits;
  • Current Events: Make use of strategies such as newsjacking to get people to take note of your offer.

Feel Good Stories

Unfortunately, the final sections of the book were a little skimpy, sprinkled with a couple of “feel good” stories.

They include how Bhutan (the “Happiest Place on Earth”) chose to restrict tourism to protect their environment and people’s lifestyles, and how Yanik Silver’s Maverick1000 network (starring uber CEO Richard Branson) brought value to members.

I felt that these examples weren’t as strong nor as compelling as those that were woven into the earlier chapters of the book.

A Guide to Building Trusted Businesses

Like his previous book “Personality Not Included”, Likeonomics was written in a highly readable and conversational narrative. Its central tenets were somewhat simple, straightforward, and presented in a clever acronym which made them easy to remember.

The challenge, however, lies in applying these principles. Here, the additional resources from the Likeonomics website would come in helpful.

Likeonomics provides a good guide to businesses keen to earn the trust of their customers. It also helps businesses to “clean up their act” so that they could be more relevant to the lives of their customers. Despite being short and succinct, the book was loaded with useful ideas and concepts that one can apply immediately wherever one is.


By Walter
Founder of Cooler Insights, I am a geek marketer with almost 24 years of senior management experience in marketing, public relations and strategic planning. Since becoming an entrepreneur 5 years ago, my team and I have helped 58 companies and over 2,200 trainees in digital marketing, focusing on content, social media and brand storytelling.

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