When you think of business, or marketing more specifically, what do you envision? Professionalism? Tight suits and black heels? Charts, graphs, marketing analytics on the “Who” and “Why” for certain products and services? Maybe you think of wealth and luxury once you get to the top of the business world.
Imagine that, you’re the CEO of a marketing firm. You’re making millions of dollars and you can live your life however you please. Now you can change the world with your contributions. Donate to charities around the world and watch people benefit from your generosity. You can make a good life for your family and make sure your children grow up happy and fulfilled without a struggle. You could travel the world and explore the finest places on Earth. You could bask in the sun and breeze of Southern France for a couple of weeks every now and again.
So where do you begin? How do we make this dream a reality?
First thing’s first, you need to be able to see when you are being marketed to.
Marketing is a broad term but it can be simplified as the promotion and selling of products or services. I marketed the dream of being wealthy, “living the good life” so to speak. I did this by using descriptive words that tie to your emotions. This kind of connection can be done easily and is happening whether you know it or not.
This emotional tie is what makes marketing such a special part of businesses. It isn’t done solely through charts, graphs, and numbers. To be successful in the field, you need to know people. You need to know how they think and where their emotions lie.
One of my all-time favorite books is “The Art of Thinking Clearly” by Rolf Dobelli. Each chapter of this book contains a different logical fallacy to address the issues of human reasoning. This is not a marketing or a business book at all, but many of these decision-making biases can explain why people do what they do which is a huge part of making marketing successful.
While there are hundreds of different schools of thought, logical fallacies, and cognitive biases that make up how and why people think as we do, I will only go over a couple from the book.
This is one of the most common mental shortcuts people use while making decisions. It is tied to language and has different effects in each culture, but overall is the same thing. An affect heuristic is an often impulsive momentary judgment on whether or not you like or dislike something. If I were to say the word “Rebellious” you get a certain feeling from that word- typically it has a connotation to it. Now, if I use the word “Innovative”, it automatically brings a new light to it.
Both words mean to create new ideas and challenge the current structure/authority, but they mean very different things to people. If I were rebellious rather than innovative, to a hiring manager, the risk is now potentially much higher than the reward.
Motorcycles Aren’t THAT Dangerous
Now here’s where it gets interesting. If you like something more, then the benefits tend to outweigh the risks without thought. Dobelli makes a great example of using a motorcycle. Suppose you own a motorcycle and love riding it, but came across a study that says they are much more dangerous than previously thought. Upon learning this, you will subconsciously tweak how you rate the benefits now. All of a sudden it is more dangerous, but your sense of freedom and the amazing way you feel on the bike is so much greater now; ultimately outweighing the new information.
Marketers know how this method works and use it to their advantage all the time. They use overly positive words and images to make their product seem fantastic. They create a certain aesthetic for their product or service and use the same words and feelings for them. For example when you think of Louis Vuitton or Gucci or Prada; you think of luxury, wealth, and success.
Now when you learn that Gucci does not use the most ethically sustained products and factory operations, yes it does stain it a little bit, but come on, it’s Gucci; just check out that quality.
Affect heuristics are not solely based on the emotions from words. They are also based on emotions gained from images. In a study by the University of Michigan, participants who did not speak Chinese were asked to rate whether or not they liked specific Chinese characters. The catch was that before each character was shown, an image flashed for less than 1/100 of a second. The image was either a smiley face, angry face, or a neutral figure.
Most participants preferred the characters that followed the smiley face. This shows that seemingly insignificant factors can create emotions for completely unrelated things.
When promoting a product or service, it’s important to keep this in mind. You may think the darker color scheme on your advertisement looks cool, but in reality, it is subconsciously influencing people to think negatively about your product.
Afraid of FOMO?
With our culture growing in social media, it’s pretty likely you have heard of FOMO before. This “Fear Of Missing Out” can be applied to nearly everything you do. Your friends go to dinner without you and post a selfie on Instagram and you instantly feel it. You wish you could’ve been there to hear what they talked about and to enjoy their jokes and conversations. What if something important came up? What if you missed an inside joke that you’ll now never understand?
FOMO is an incredibly irrational fear, but it is still very real for many people. It is also very similar to the “fear of regret”. This is pretty self-explanatory when you think about it, but like the majority of the fallacies in Dobelli’s book, it is normally subconscious and unnoticed. It is simply the fear that if you do something or rather you don’t do something, then you will regret it later on.
This fear is extra troublesome for many when combined with the “last chance” offer, and marketers take full advantage.
Last Chance Before Extinction!
Let’s say a safari brochure states that the black rhino is on the brink of extinction and this is your last chance to see the animal before it is gone forever. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! The last time you will ever be able to do this! But you’ve never had any desire to see the rhino before, so why fly across the world to do it now? This irrational thought process is much more common than you may think.
A more common scenario is that you are doing some online shopping and come across some shoes you really like. They are on clearance, but even with the sale price, they’re far above your normal budget. You close out the browser and decide to come back to it later. Shortly after you receive an email stating “Looks like you left something behind in your cart… hurry before it goes, only 3 left in stock!”. Well shoot now you have to buy the shoes because who knows if you’ll ever find ones like that again!
This is a very effective marketing technique and has most likely worked on you once or twice in your lifetime. It is also very effective because the seller is targeting someone who they know is interested in their product, so often they may even throw in a 10% off coupon or other incentives to keep you hooked.
Emotions Run The Market
We could go on and on about the thought fallacies and emotions that dictate our market and how we interact with businesses, but I’ll leave it at that. If you’re looking to get into marketing, then having emotional intelligence and the capacity to understand people’s thoughts and actions will far outweigh any other analytical hard skills.
If you think you know people but want to get some insight on why people think the way we do, check out “The Art of Thinking Clearly” by Rolf Dobelli. It will open your thoughts and change your mindsets. Maybe you will learn to think and react more clearly the next time somebody offers you a “once in a lifetime chance” to see the rhinos.