A few years ago, I gave a talk at a marketing conference where I somewhat tongue in cheek outlined the two step process at the heart of “Satan’s Handbook of Effective Marketing”:
Step one: Tweak the insecure thinking of your potential customer or client
We all get insecure from time to time. And if someone wants to, chances are that they won’t have to try too hard to rile up our insecure thinking about some of the most common human “hot buttons”, like money, sex, power, loneliness, and death.
In and of itself having insecure thinking and the insecure feelings that come with it isn’t such a big deal. But because most people don’t realize that all insecurity comes from our thinking, not our circumstances, we open ourselves up to step two…
Step two: Offer relief in the form of your product or service
- “Worried about the flu in this cold and miserable weather where everyone in these pictures we’re showing you is getting sick and letting down their boss and upsetting their family and will inevitably wind up out of work, homeless, and alone? Don’t worry – all new Flubegone can help!”
- “Do you ever think about how awful it would be if your child died? Thank goodness the all new Folexota SUV has rear safety cameras so you don’t have to worry about that happening like it almost did to the actors in our commercial!”
- “Ever get jealous or insecure about the fact that everyone but you is having great sex with supermodels tonight? Not to fear, my friend – drink our beer/win our lottery/eat our ice cream and your luck is in!”
Now, I’m not suggesting that medicine is bad, or that rear safety cameras in cars aren’t a good idea. And if you’re a marketer, I’m not here to tell you that you mustn’t ever point out to people the real benefits of your product and service to their health, safety, or even sex appeal. But there’s a kind of “lowest common denominator” cynicism that sometimes underlies this kind of marketing. It perpetuates the outside-in mythology of where our experience comes from and ignores our higher potential for creating lives built on a foundation of something more than survival and personal comfort as our only goals.
As the spiritual teacher Gangaji points out:
[themify_box style=”rounded light-gray” ]”Right now you have the capacity in your life to recognize that this lifestream, through whatever blessings and luck, has food and shelter, has leisure time, and has the support to actually consider what is deeper and even more meaningful than survival, procreation, and power. This is a rare and most precious treasure. Throughout our history, and in the world situation today, most people don’t have this opportunity. But for you, in the midst of plenty, survival is not the issue.Of course, you can make it the issue. You can concern yourself with better and better survival, with more and more guarantees of survival, but if you tell the truth, survival is really not an issue for you. You have to make it an issue. You have to perpetuate the striving, the elbowing, the crying, the suffering, the demanding of guarantees. That perpetuation is the practice of telling the story over and over and over – past, present, and future – evaluating, checking, weighing, and fixating.”[/themify_box]
So what might “Highest Common Denominator” marketing look like?
Well, it would be an evocation of and appeal to people’s deeper intelligence, creativity, and awesomeness. We would do our best to connect potential customers and clients to their highest potential, not their habitual insecure thinking. And in surfacing their intelligence, humanity, and heart, we would get customers and clients to choose to work with us from a place of inner knowing, not “need” to work with us from a place of inner fear.
I can hear the cynical thinking in my own head as I write this, as it sings John Lennon’s “Imagine” and waves an American flag from the 1950’s in the background. But the truth is, just because we’ve gotten used to doing things a certain way doesn’t mean it’s the only way, and certainly doesn’t mean it’s the best way. The unhealthy norm does not negate the possibility of bringing out the best in others as we invite them into our world.
And as they join us in that world of shared humanity and deeper feeling, our clients and customers become raving fans, not only because of the quality of what we offer but because how we sell it to them reminds them of who and what they really are…
With all my love,