Spanning the globe for insights into human behavior and persuasion.



How to Get Rich Slow

As I've stated earlier, I believe great persuasive power comes from appealing to an audience's higher motivations with unchangeable truth. What I haven't written about is how to do this effectively.

The fact is, finding the nuggets of truth that appeal to people's most important values is extremely difficult. Putting those truths to use is even harder. It's much easier to market to our lower motivations -- greed, power, lust, etc.

A few years ago I worked for a Salt Lake City publisher/retailer called Deseret Book. They produce books, music and other products primarily for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Back in 2000 or 2001, they retained the services of a national research firm to help them understand what their audience valued most. The idea was that if they could know what was most important to their audience, they could use that information in their operations, their publishing, their retailing and, most importantly, their marketing.

They got some great data from that research (however, I'm honor-bound not to share it). But, in my opinion, they have yet to put the research into effective practice. They've come close. In 2002, after I had left the company, they introduced a new slogan -- What Matters to You Matters to Us. I believe they were trying to communicate that their audience could find books, music, video, software and other products that matched with their core values. Brilliant, I thought. But it wasn't more than a few months later that I saw them using a different slogan -- We price match for you.

Talk about an about face. Why move from a classy, meaningful slogan to one that is so... bleah?

Since I wasn't with the company at the time, I'm not certain why they made such an abrupt switch. I have a few theories, though. The execs at the time I worked there were infamously impatient. Maybe they didn't see immediate impact in cash flow. What's more likely is they were looking over their shoulder at the competitor, Seagull Book (yes, as wacked as it sounds, there's competition in the LDS book market). Seagull had been making steady inroads into Deseret Book's customer base, staking the claim as the place where you'd never pay full price. When I worked at Deseret Book, Seagull was hated, jeered ... and feared.

DB executives would do well to take the advice of Howard Mann of DIG Tank -- Lose Your Nemesis.

If I knew how to mass produce value appeals, I'd be a millionaire. Honestly, I don't know that there are seven habits or 12 steps that any company can use to even slowly produce value appeals. I believe the journey will be different for every company. But like any branding effort, value appeals are definitely NOT a get-rich-quick solution.



New Gig

Just started a new job today with Intermountain Health care, an integrated, non-profit health system in Salt Lake City that includes hospitals, clinics, physician groups and health plans. I'll be in the corporate communications department working as a writer.

I have a history with IHC -- I worked my way through college as a clerk at one of their hospitals, then, during my senior year, I interned in the hospital's PR department. This is a company I believe in. I believed in them even as I was delivering carts filled with rubber gloves and sharps containers to the medical floors.

Remember the story of the reporter who asked a janitor at the Kennedy Space Center what his job was? The janitor answered, "I'm helping to put a man on the moon." I was that guy at Logan Regional Hospital. My first job there was to make certain the medical staff had all the supplies they needed. In my eyes, I was helping the hospital staff provide high-quality, efficient, affordable care. I organized the supply rooms to be orderly and easy to access, and I made sure they were fully stocked and that the supplies were rotated. Maybe I wasn't the key cog, but I made the jobs of the key cogs easier.

Working in the hospital PR department was tremendous. I interviewed and wrote stories about people who benefited from the charity care the hospital provided. I publicized a community health fair. I even wrote a series of articles on interpersonal communications for the hospital newsletter. I've always hoped I could return to work for IHC. It's been eight years, but I got my wish.

IHC has PR issues. A handful of Utah legislators during the February legislative session were pushing first to tax the system, and then introduced a bill to break it up. By the end of the session, the legislature voted to form a task force (link may break... sorry) to study whether IHC's tax exempt status gives it monopolistic power.

I don't know if I'll be spending my time on these issues, but I hope so. This is the type of environment that PR practitioners crave. No, it's not about spin. It's about persuasion. It's about fact and solid arguments winning over hype and fear. Looking forward to it. I'll share as much as I can here...



Facing the Truth

I closed Power of Truth post stating my desire to explore the practical ways the truth can be applied to marketing. There's a lot to learn in the blogosphere about this subject.

One of the blogs I enjoy reading is DIG Tank, written by marketing consultant Howard Mann. Mann's mantra is "Truth, Creativity & Power," and he regularly blogs on how businesses can benefit just by facing and acting upon the truth about themselves, their competitors and their customers.

His March 13 post titled "Losing Your Story" makes a great point. The "story" Mann refers to consists of "the lies and rationalizations we tell ourselves that prove ourselves right or wrong about things that happen to us." In other words, business people frequently delude themselves into thinking their failures are someone else's fault. Says Mann...

The interesting fact about one's story, is that it typically is the result of years of old (and often incorrect) thinking and, therefore, makes the story false (or misleading at best). All too often, they simply serve to protect ourselves from some painful truth...

What if you told yourself that you lost a piece of business because the competition is really better than you? That you really didn't pay proper attention to the personalized service you touted in your brochure? You simply got beat from someone who had something better to offer.

Facing the truth can help us see where our strategy or our execution is lacking. It won't make it all better, but it's a start on the road to recovery.



The Persuasive Power of Truth

Wow, it's been almost a month since I've blogged. Yet no one's complaining...

Back to marketing to higher motivations...

Let's face it. We work because we have to. Not that marketing and communications isn't rewarding, but I know I'd be writing books (or blogging more) if I had all the money I needed. We all need to provide for ourselves and those who depend on us. True, many of us have gone beyond need to greed, but it all stems from the same root.

How can we market to the highest of motivations if we don't have high motivations ourselves?

I don't classify providing for one's self as a "high" motivation. Why? A high motivation is, by my definition, one that prompts us to live outside ourselves -- to accept a world view that doesn't have "me" at the center. Think Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Anytime that we are self-focused we are meeting the lower needs on the hierarchy. Only when we are self-actualized do we start focusing on others.

Thinking past ourselves means more than just putting ourselves in our audience's shoes. So many times when I do that, I'm really saying, "What would I do or think or say if I were them?" All I'm doing is projecting myself on my audience.

The key to marketing to higher motivations? Truth. I'm not referring to the fuzzy, relativistic "truth." That type of truth subscribes to the mantra, "What's true for you may not be true for me." That isn't really truth at all. That's a self-focused world view.

Philosopher Terry Warner wrote a book called "Bonds That Make Us Free," a book that was the result of his years of studying human relationships. The book completely changed my outlook on life. His idea of truth is one where truths are independent, meaning truths don't change based on our experience. Our experiences may bring us closer to or move us away from independent truths, but our experiences will not -- can not -- change truth.

The problem with humans and truth is the walls that we build up around ourselves, according to Warner. These walls act as filters and keep us from truly seeing, feeling, experiencing the truth. We may come close to understanding. But true understanding only comes when we get outside those walls and see things, people, events as they truly are.

That is the type of truth that makes a difference. That is the type of truth that alters an opinion, that moves one to action, that brings about a change of heart. That is the type of truth that makes true persuasion possible.

What is the practical application for this? That is something I'd like to explore here...


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