Ideas4Profit Blog

The Psychology of Marketing

I teach my students at Berkeley and Stanford that the foundation of marketing is psychology. Marketing is manipulating people to do what we want, so to get people to do what we want, we have to understand how they think, what they feel, and why.

I also teach that the foundation of psychology, what motivates all of us to do whatever we do, is self-interest. I explain that even soon-to-be saints, like Mother Teresa, who spent her life feeding the poor, caring for the sick, did so out of self-interest. Mother Teresa was not altruistic. There is no such thing as Altruism. It is a religious construct to motivate good deeds, to get people out of our own heads, even for a moment, to consider others.

Many students, especially students of religion, have a problem with this lecture. And, no doubt, many reading this blog are bridling right now. “Of course Altruism is REAL. It’s what we strive for, our highest attainment—to give selflessly, because we are fundamentally caring, loving beings.”

Not so much. We are fundamentally self-serving.

And this is NOT a judgement call. This is a fact of human nature. What can be judged is what we DO with this fact of our nature.

I teach self-interest religiously with every Marketing lecture I give. As Mother Teresa spread the word of Christ around the world with every sick child she fed, she was fulfilling her function as a nun. And her brain rewarded her efforts with Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxytocin— ‘happiness’ hormones that made her feel good. Ohh, so damn good! In the face of that kind of poverty, I’d be crying daily. I don’t do what she did because it would not make me feel good in any way. I’d be profoundly sad, every day, knowing Christ will never save these children. People are going to have to do that.

We ALL act in self-interest. We scoff at Chevron fracking as the height of corruption, yet we blithely ignore our roles in global warming by driving SUVs we don’t need, or leaving lights or electronics on all the time because we’re too distracted to turn them off. Or we drive while on our cellphones, and cause over 1.5 MILLION accidents annually, and KILL, murder, 9 or more people A DAY so we can check our Facebook timelines.

I teach Marketing, not Morality, I tell students who balk at my contention our motivation, without exception, is self-interest. It is important to tell them this fact about us, in order for them to be able to produce effective marketing material down the line when they go to launch their startups. To get people to buy into your product, service or message, you must understand their psychology— what they think they need or want, and why, then offer them solutions to their issues and desires.

Bernie Madoff did it to a lot greedy people. He fulfilled their desire to get rich quick without effort when he convinced them to invest with him.

On the other end of the spectrum, Toyota did it, when they invented the Prius. And Tesla is doing it in 2018 with the consumer version of their all electric vehicle.

Humans are self-interested beings. What we do with this fact is what matters, NOT that we ARE.

Toyota and Tesla produce the cars they do to make money. And while serving themselves, they are moving closer to serving the greater good, by producing cars that have low emissions. Even better than electric cars, is solar and wind to power them, since over 50% of our electricity still comes from burning coal and other fossil fuels, which continues to do immeasurably damage to our planet.

Martin Andrew Green is an Australian professor at the University of New South Wales who’s dedicated his career to developing solar cells. Mr. Green’s self-interest is scratching a mental itch. He’s curious about light energy, and in learning how to manipulate it, his brain rewards him, makes him feel powerful, smart, valuable, serving his emotional needs. He is also contributing to the greater good of humanity, and nature, by developing alternative ‘clean’ energy.

Self-interest in NOT a curse. It is simply a state of being… human, in our case, but seemingly dictates the behavior of everything else that lives on Earth. Survival of the fittest is how species last over millennium. Not survival of the kindest, whatever ‘kind’ means. Mother Teresa was NOT kind in spreading gospel that Christianity saves souls. Instead of teaching the value and necessity of socially responsible behavior, which would have served the greater good, preaching rewards in the afterlife does not serve the living, or their future.

There is no need to fear the fact that human behavior is driven by self-interest. Regardless of the religious allegory that Altruism is not only real, but mandatory for society to function, self-interet is imperative for our continued survival.

Self-interest does NOT need to manifest as narcissism. Green, or Toyota, or the parents who work to provide for their kids, or helping a friend in need, most of us contribute to supporting our society or there would be no human race. We have the capacity to be giving, generous, thoughtful beings. Our motivation is irrelevant. It is our ACTIONS that determine our morality, whether or not we are contributing to creating a society that thrives, or participating it our own demise.

Self-interest is coded in our DNA, and is not a threat to humanity, but a valuable characteristic. Now, more than ever, it is urgent each of us recognize that acting altruistically means being aware of our impact on each other and the planet, then accounting for others needs, as well as our own, is in all of our self-interest.

Content Marketing Idiocracy

CatGif.gifI’m watching a cat eat a bowl full of Crispix, seemingly left on a kitchen table. Every few seconds the cat startles, and bats at the wide stem of a silver spoon resting in the bowl when it catches its own reflection.

Sounds like a couple of kids are giggling in the background, but when the cat whacks the spoon out of the bowl, and it flips milk and Crispix all over, explosive laughter erupts. The camera jitters. The video ends.

This is one of the many social media marketing updates for an eyewear company. A local brick and mortar shop that sells glasses and frames.

“It’s ‘content marketing,’ my student assures me, as if I might be too old, or teaching too long to know. “It’s how marketing is done today. We don’t sell anymore” (and she says the word ‘sell’ like it’s evil), “we brand now.”

“For Views and Impressions.” I’ll play, get on her train, and lead her to the truth slowly.

“That’s right,” she says brightly, as if she’s just taught me something profound. “The more Views, the more exposure! That’s how it works.”

“And how long have you been putting up videos like this, with no relationship to eyewear whatsoever?”

“Oh, like 9 months now, since I started working for the company. I do all their social marketing. It’s why I’m taking this class. To become a better copywriter.”

“And in the 9 months you’ve been posting these types of videos, have you seen an increase in sales at the store?”

She pauses. “Well, not yet. But we get Likes and Shares all the time. Look.” And she pulls up her company’s website on her cell and shows me their blog(ish) page where she posts.

Thumbnail squares of row upon row of videos, showing everything from water skiing to dog’s surfing, but few are wearing glasses, even sunglasses. Under each square is the Like and Share counts, and most are between 20 – 40 combined. She smiles with pride.

“And, just out of curiosity, have you noticed an increase in floor traffic at your store since you’ve been content marketing for your company?”

“Well, I’m not sure. Maybe a bit more.”

Hmm…9 months content marketing with little to no ROI. And the floor traffic increase, if there was any, could easily be accounted for with the start of summer and sunglasses sales.

The original notion of content marketing is essentially using storytelling to entertain, which is supposed to build brand awareness.

Content is King,” Bill Gates wrote in an essay in 1996, about the explosive growth of internet content to come. He was NOT talking about the bastardization of what content marketing has become today. Mr. Gates was referring to the CONTENT of the offering, as in a movie, or video game, news or magazine site— any online creation of content as the product/service.

I expect societies will see intense competition-and ample failure as well as success-in all categories of popular content-not just software and news, but also games, entertainment, sports programming, directories, classified advertising, and on-line communities devoted to major interests.” Bill Gates, 1996

Bill was NOT telling young admins doing the SMM for employers too cheap to hire marketing pros that cat videos are effective content marketing for anyone, except businesses selling cat supplies, and possibly Crispix cereal, with the video my student showed me in class.

Now, there is nothing wrong with entertaining storytelling to, yes, I’m going to say it… Ready?… SELL.

MARKETING IS SELLING.

Directly or indirectly (branding), ALL marketing tools and materials, both off and online, should be produced to SELL products, services, messages.

I’m not saying go out and SELL, SELL, SELL, with CLICK HERE, BUY NOW buttons. Entertaining (funny, dramatic, shocking, whatever) ads and commercials, meant to brand,have been around WAY before the internet. Memorable commercials sell something about the product or service offered.

In the 17 second cat video clip there were no glasses anywhere. Using content marketingvideos, like the one my student produced as a SMM and SEO tool, hasn’t, and likely won’t sell eyeglasses, unless the cat was wearing them, which it wasn’t. For all the time and effort to produce, edit, and social network that video, viewers will probably only recall the cat flipping the spoon filled with milk and Crispix out of the bowl. Not very good ROI on TIME alone, regardless that it was free to stick online, and got a lot of Likes, oh, and Shares.

Want to effectively BRAND your company?

Produce marketing content (imagery and copy) that always SELLS features of your offering that provide a benefit (solution, knowledge) for specific people (in an entertaining way), to brand* and SELL.

*Branding is a method of marketing. And MARKETING IS SELLING. Don’t forget!

Sentiment Analysis Exposed

I made it with Max last night! Mary texts her BFF Shelly.

OMG! Welcome to womanhood!! How was it/he? Shelly texts back.

And right about now, Mary’s mom gets a ‘notification’ on her cell phone that her daughter is texting sexual references, and displays Mary’s texts with Shelly upon mom’s request.

Mom spends the rest of the day at work fuming, conjuring dialog with her daughter for later that evening when they’ll be home together. Mom doesn’t like Max. Never did, and told Mary not to see him.

Sentiment Analysis is the latest hip, slick, and trendy software in the Valley. In a nutshell, it classifies text messages, tweets, blogs, FB and social media updates into categories such as ‘positive, angry, happy, sad, drug and sexual references’…etc. This information is purchased by businesses, or political campaigns to determine public sentiment about everything, from Mitt Romney to HP. SA has been going on for quite some time, but only recently has it filtered down to the individual level, and this is where it becomes dangerous.

Along with analyzing public sentiment, now you can analyze your employee, child or spouse’s text messages, whether they know it or not, if the phone bill is in your name and you pay the monthly SA app fee. You are instantly notified through your computer or cellphone if your child is texting about drugs, sex, or perhaps chatting with someone you don’t like, or bullying, or getting bullied. You are notified if your employee is texting his wife instead of attending to your customers. You can assess your husbands mood before seeing him that evening from the SA report on the aggression level of his texts for the day.

Smartphones now have built-in software that tracks all activity, including motion, i.e. whether you’re sitting, walking, driving…etc. SA services not only alert their customers of “inappropriate behavior,” but allows them to remotely control all the phones on their plan as well. At work or on the go you can now monitor and control behavior 24/7. Don’t like the boy your daughter does. Block his number. Don’t care for a site your employee visits. Block access.

SA service companies are popping up everywhere selling all kinds of crap, like ‘it’s for the safety of the child’—know what your teen is texting, and with their classifiers you’ll get to know your kid. Track your employees for greater staff commitment and productivity. And while SA features such as being able to shut your kids phone down when they’re texting while driving is unarguable beneficial, using sentiment software to spy on, and then rely on it to assess behavior is irresponsible at best.

If your child is texting while driving their irresponsible behavior is most assuredly reflected in others aspects in their life. Invest the [life]time to teach your kids right from wrong and you’ll know, or at least trust when and what they text is in appropriate range. Talk to your kids and you’ll learn what’s important to them and why, and you may just be wrong about who is good and bad for them. Get to know your employees, what your direct reports need from you to inspire their staff to excel. If performance is optimal, what the hell difference does extraneous phone or online usage make.

Part of the marketing blitz with SA services is it saves the customer time by pulling only ‘relevant’ information from the average 60 texts a day sent by teens, and ever increasing number of adult texts. Anyone who knows code knows a computer is blank until someone programs it—tells it to do something. With sentiment software, ‘notifications’ of ‘inappropriate behavior’ becomes a construct of SA programmers and the sample groups that define the classifiers. Clients can input keywords and other preferences such as number of alerts a day…etc, but the SA program has its own sets of keywords, and more troubling —algorithms that analyze patterns of word usage to determine what should be flagged.

While SA programmers purport a 93% accuracy rate in the best scenarios, tests have been limited to small sample groups, and rely on few users to rate the success of assessment. It is beyond arrogance to think we can quantify human emotions. Mom may find out that Mary made it with Max (or not, as Mary may be bragging about something that never happened). But this information does not tell Mom why, beyond her daughter’s previous texts that he’s ‘so hot.’ DH texting something sexual to someone other than you? The real time alert on your iPhone may reveal infidelity, but will not illustrate the communication gap between you two that was clearly ignored. And watch out for that 7% SA software is flat out wrong…

Now, more than ever, we are privy to a spectacular array of communication tools with the potential to connect us all for greater understanding and tolerance. SA software is counterproductive for open dialog at best, and fundamentally corrosive at worst. It is sure to infuse discord, distrust, paranoia, and eventually disconnect today’s devices from their magnificent potential.

The Great Patent Race

New patent office opening soon in Silicon Valley, and everyone is cheering. The viral ignorance is it’ll make it easier for all those young entrepreneurs at Stanford and such to get their ideas protected from corporate thieves, enabling them to launch their start-ups and shed their inventions of technology upon the world.

The truth is, more and more patents will prevent technology from being actualized, limiting new technology and inventions to only those that can afford to submit, pay for, protect, and defend their patents.

Case in point:
A developer friend works for a growing tech start-up which has been aggressively filing patents for the last couple of years. He and his colleagues are encouraged to write patents on all their ideas, in fact, he gets a substantial bonus for every patent he writes for the company no matter how obscure or feasible they are. Patents are granted on ideas [with methodology for execution] alone. They do NOT need to be tested or functioning ideas, or even in the process of development. The start-up my friend works for spends in the range of $10,000-$30,000 in filing, bonuses and legal fees on each patent for the following reasons:
–More patents make the company more valuable to investors.
–Patents on their ideas gives the company time to develop them, if they choose to do so.
–Patenting ideas protects the company from anyone else actualizing them in the near [or sometimes distant] future.
–Patent protection enables the company to protect themselves against future infringement suits, and counter-sue for frivolous claims.

The tech company gets to protect their designs from anyone else developing anything even similar to their patented ideas, initially for 14 yrs after the date the patent was granted; or 20 yrs from filing date for virtually everything else, and can be renewed with extensions for many years to come. All the company needs is money to pay for the lawyers to defend existing and pending patents. Very few start-ups have this kind of cash, even fewer inventors have the resources to compete with, challenge or defend against Apple or Microsoft.

Apple spends millions annually, suing Google, Motorola, Samsung and many other large and small companies for patent infringement to prevent other businesses from creating a competitive market for Apple.* But they are not alone. Large corporations to trending start-ups are playing the patent game, spawning hindrance of progressive innovation. My friend’s tech company is growing rapidly, and are fighting more and more Patent Trolls, about four a week now, that’s 200 yearly, suing them for patent infringements, not only for the settlements, but to hinder development.

The patent race is running rampant in the Valley now, and another patent office is not necessarily a good thing without stricter regulations on what is patentable. From my friend’s venture-backed tech start-up to Apple and Google, tougher restrictions on term length protections and curbing frivolous lawsuits meant to stall progress are necessary for the role of the patent to spark invention and innovation on a mass, multilateral scale, as the patent was originally meant to.

*Steve Jobs ripped off the initial idea for the first Apple computer from Xerox PARC, and the MP3 player from Creative Technologies and who knows what else, yet Apple aggressively plays the patent game that restrict others from pursing creation of even vaguely similar technologies.

Marketing 101

dart1I hate running.

It hurts my legs, my lungs, my back, my tits.

I run between 3 and 4+ miles, five days a week.

I continue to run because the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

–I hate being fat, and running is the quickest calorie burn I know of (my me-time is hugely limited with two jobs and two kids).
–Running helps me think. It not only activates neural connectivity, it’s also a quiet space, undisturbed by kids or clients.
–I get to listen to my music, blasting loud through my earbuds, let it absorb me, the rhythm drive me, and in moments it feels like I’m flying.

I run whether I’m healthy, sick with a flu or anything else that isn’t laying me out on my death bed because I’m afraid if I give myself one excuse not to run it will lead to another, and in short order I’ll quit running. But I won’t quit–as long as the benefits serving my needs outweigh the hardships.

Benefits that fill Need is, or should be the foundation of all Marketing efforts.

The net is the new hip, slick and trendy way to market. And no doubt, there are great marketing opportunities online. Websites, email blasts, analytics, blogs…etc, are TOOLS to market with. But marketing online (wow, moving pics and videos!) or off IS THE SAME THING. The basic principles of marketing must be applied to sell (beyond the freakish, short-lived fad), and grow any company.

Print, online, or on the friggin moon, Marketing is selling BENEFITS to fill a NEED. Advertising, PR, branding, visual design, copywriting, marketing communications are, or should be developed, designed and produced to SELL products/services/ideas/message.

Viral marketing trend in the Valley these days is to flood the net with ads, games, videos and such with a product/service already available, and/or with no discerning or lasting value to anyone. This “Ready, FIRE, Aim,” approach clearly illustrates why so many start-ups that ignore the foundation of marketing— fail. Been a MarCom consultant in the Bay Area for 25 yrs now. Worked with a ton of start-ups, and Fortune 500s who don’t consistently realign to completion, nor do they invest in development to continually fill need/s, and watched them fold again and again, sometimes in ridiculously short order.

Marketing 101– IN ORDER (”Ready, AIM, Fire!”):
1. Productize Idea— identify features, benefits and differentiators to fill the needs of specific target market/s for your product/service (or idea/message).

2. Create Brand Identity— establish image and voice through marketing communications that speak directly to the target market.

3. Engage CTA— Call To Action. Launch marketing campaigns. Motivate people to act— to click, to buy, or buy into your message.

The new order of entrepreneurs is young, weened on TV and technology, and generally taught to specialize in a very narrow range. Unfortunately, opting for graphic tricks over real content—selling benefits answering a need—and relying on Google Analytics doesn’t actually sell much. GM recently pulled their ads from Facebook because they didn’t work. Well, duh! Coders are writing them and then the ads are going out to the world, not a targeted market (which the world is not).

Measuring response rates isn’t new, in the background since advertising began, and generally offers limited utility. Marketing is dynamic, results variable by the day, time of day, day of week, the weather, social trends, financial climates. The principles of Marketing may be simple, but motivating people to bend to your will isn’t easy. Beyond the primary building blocks of any campaign, Marketing’s core is psychology, and psychology applies online or on mars. Marketing pros study people, not code so much since coding, especially with ever-emerging technologies, is time consuming to learn, and generally requires a different kind of awareness than psychology. I’ve yet to meet a web developer who’s demonstrated mastery in marketing. Competent at development means they’re investing their time in technology, not in the study of human nature.

While most of my work is online now, I tell my clients the net is not the answer to effective marketing. New avenues of selling will arise, and others fade away, but the growth of any business, idea/message, or even activity, like running, is in its benefits, continually filling the need/s of its target market.