I spent maybe 20 years as a Marketing Director – said so on my business card, so it must be true! And while it was a minor part of my job, for reasons related to the particular niche we marketed to, I did learn some truths that are not simply Machiavelli for weak people:
You are responsible for how people understand you. We had a marketing director prior to my taking on the job who used say stuff like: I explained it. If they refuse to understand, that’s their problem, not mine.
Nope, nope, a thousand times nope. If you get into marketing, you MUST own the understanding people in your target market have of your company. If there’s a disconnect, that most certainly IS your problem!
Another profession for which this is true is teacher. You can cover the white board with notes, drone on in lectures, hand out assignments, give tests – and it is very much YOUR problem if the kiddos don’t understand.
Next, we get to something a little more potentially Eeeeevil: people are going to process what you say and what you show them with their reptilian brain FIRST, THEN, MAYBE, you can reason with them. In more common language, first impressions matter. Your unconscious reactions are emotional and, at best, pre-logical. At worst, you find yourself liking or hating something without any real or even potential thought having taken place.
And here’s the key most people miss: this has nothing to do with intelligence! Even the most rational people are still seeing you or your marketing materials and forming ideas about them before their intellects kick in. The eeeeevil part: good, in the sense of effective, mass marketing recognizes the need to appeal to the reptilian brain, and strives to simply avoid any involvement of the intellect whatsoever. You show pictures of attractive, happy people using your products – and try to stop right there. Because, really, Fords and not materially better than Chevies (or visa-versa, your pick); Coke is not materially better than Pepsi; the Yankees are not more despicable than the Red Sox (they’re both equally loathsome – oops! that was my inner lizard speaking!). And so on, ad infinitum.
Politics are absolutely in this camp: the efforts to get you to trust/not trust one or the other political party is relentless, generational – and utterly mindless. The ability to tolerate cognitive dissonance to the point where it is literally unimaginable has been cultivated in us marks for a couple centuries now. (Archbishop Dolan, having finally awakened to the possibility Democrats were merely using Catholics and having a very hard time with this realization, says his Grandmother used to whisper: “We Catholics don’t trust those Republicans.” By his grandmother’s time, this had already been going on for generations.)
On a less evil basis, a marketing person has to work hard to make sure he doesn’t trigger any unconscious negative reactions in his target market, so that they can have a rational discussion. This truth is also widely applicable, from dating to apologetics.
Finally, of the transcendentals – the good, the true, and the beautiful – marketing is concerned first and primarily with the beautiful. The reptilian brain can, sometimes, sense the beautiful, or, rather, does not react negatively to the beautiful. Beauty both sooths, in a sense, our inner lizard, and quickly engages the intellect and the heart. Weirdly enough, when selling our highly niche analytic software, sometime an effective technique was to simply show a prospect a list of accounting reports – yes, accountants find nice tidy reports beautiful, and their inner lizards move quickly from there to the ‘one of us’ reaction. Since I can show them accounting reports and talk their language about them, I’m instantly one of the boys. You’d think they’d want to know if those reports are ‘right’, but that comes later, and the battle is all but won if we get to that point.
In summary, if you are trying to teach or convince anyone, you are responsible for how they understand you. First impressions matter. Lead with the beautiful.
And that’s all for today.