fitting in (to someone’s Life) versus persuading
“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.”
Disruption. New!. Radical innovation. Hardly a day goes by where someone isn’t claiming the newest, best, different-est, whizbang idea the word had ever seen. Everyone believes they have something to sell you, or the world, which will “disrupt” the way everything is currently done.
Typically, maybe 80+% of the rhetoric is misguided <but often well intended>.
Truth: Success, more often than not, is not creating something new forcing people to do something different, but rather fitting in <in a new way> what they are currently doing. New is not good in and of itself. As I have noted before everyone should always seek “optimal newness.”
Fitting in leads to a discussion on persuasion versus accepting. Persuading someone that they should do, or try, something versus having someone accept something as part of the natural flow of Life & what they do.
This leads to a discussion on Clotaire Rapaille versus Ernest Richter.
Clotaire Rapaille was all about ‘fitting in’ by encouraging marketers & businesses to seek codes & cultural cues so people could see themselves in not only what you say, but in the products/services being offered.
Ernest Dichter was known as the father of focus groups. If you are cynical you could suggest he was the master of persuasion techniques <to manipulate emotional & rational triggers>.
Simplistically I believe this is about leading people to things they want, as opposed to persuading people they want something. This may appear to be semantics but trying to get people to try things often pivots on semantics & nuance. If you want success Innovations, and selling things, is about watching behavior and creating products that people aspire to have <even if they don’t know they truly aspire to it or not>. In fact. I think it was Ford who said that if he asked consumers what they wanted, they’d say a faster horse and carriage. People only have the capacity to tell you what they know.
This leads me to what I call “the unlearning process”. Fitting in, in part, is asking some people to let go of conventional wisdom and, yet, not actually asking anyone to think unconventionally with regard to what they like & want.
When you approach change <or asking someone to do something> this way you begin to find things you often think are really important just aren’t that important. When you start seeing consumers as people <instead of persuasion cues>, you realize you’re not a very big part of their world in the scheme of things and , yet, you CAN become an essential part of the weave of their Life. Looking at it that way suggests you begin by saying “ok, how can I fit?”
This is why I have always hesitated to embrace Richter-like research & persuasion because I believe it’s more important to learn about what people feel than what they think. There’s been enough psychological and biological research done to demonstrate how decision-making really happens. It largely happens in a part of the brain that doesn’t have a capacity for language <people struggle to find words to describe what they feel>, yet, the vast majority of market research requires consumers to use language to describe what are really emotional responses. I call it malpractice, because you’re going to get an answer, and you’re going to get data, and you’re going to feel like you’ve heard from consumers, but you’re asking them questions that they almost can’t give a right response to. They’ll rummage around for rational reasons while the truth is your searching for some gut reasons.
That is where codes, cues and Clotaire become important.
Brands really only exist because of emotion. If products were all commodities, it would just be a rational computation. If salt was really just salt you’d just buy the cheapest. I can’t really tell you why Morton’s is better but I just know it is.
And when you rummage around for reasons, no matter how good a researcher you are, I would suggest reason vary by situation & context <ponder: do you decide where to go for lunch exactly the same way every day?>.
This is where I get a little sideways with most research. Most times we want to talk about us, our product or service or even <sadly> our brand. Yeah. we go thru the motions of talking & asking about them but do so with what we want in mind … not who they are, what they do and what hey want ><regardless of my product or service>. We don’t seek to ‘fit in’ but rather persuade or sell.
You need to sit down with people in the target audience and understand their “codes” – their mental imprints. If you do you begin thinking about how to share your offering to fit into their lives. The better I understand your general codes, the easier it is for me to fit my product into your life. People can’t always give you a reason for why they do what they do, but you’ll see body language, a shrug or the roll of an eye. There’s something in their behavior that begins to tell you what the feeling is.
This all gets me to stories. In general I think we get a lot of shit wrong with regard to storytelling.
Yes. People are attracted to stories. Using tension, using conflict <hero, maybe even a villain, conflict, resolution> is almost necessary to create a story worth paying attention to.
Stories about your product, or even your customer, in and of themselves run the risk of maybe being relevant but miss the bullseye of “fitting in.”
There is a difference between relevance & fitting in.
A story can be relevant but without the right codes/cues someone may think “doesn’t fit in with my view of life.” I also believe if you focus on fitting in instead of some uncomfortable persuading your story will naturally access components of life to make it more relatable.
In the end.
I believe we don’t have this discussion – fitting in versus persuading – often enough. I think there would be a lot less misguided, off the mark (and bad) content & less useless (or failed) innovations.