Today's blog is a guest article by my good friend Dr. Monte E. Wilson. Monte directs a children's charity that serves in Africa. His point in this blog may put you off, at least at first, but read it all the way to the end if you want to grasp what he is really saying and why it matters.
Monte E. Wilson
Recently, while speaking at a conference in South Africa, I went down to the local strip-mall. (Think twenty picnic-tables filled with trinkets and clothes manned by a host of Africans screaming to get your attention.) Seeing a really cool carving, I walked over, picked it up and was immediately told how many SA Rand this work of art would cost.
“What is the significance of the three women?”
“What do you mean?”
“Who are they?”
“Three African women.”
(Hesitating)“Let me ask you a question: do you get a lot of tourists here? Many American tourists?”
“If you want to sell more, then you need to wrap these women in African lore. Americans don’t buy trinkets … they buy experiences… memories. (Why else do your parents still have that cheap pink Flamingo they purchased while on their honeymoon in Miami?) Do you understand what I am saying?
“Yes.” (Spoken as he was shaking his head “No.”)
Years and years ago, Toyota realized that it had to build a reputation for offering reliable, quality built cars. (Detroit’s sneering line was always, “Scratch a Japanese car and you will find a Budweiser,” implying they were built out of beer cans.) So the carmaker spent millions on advertising “quality.” Then, in a stroke of genius, it began running the now famous ad, “Toyota, O what Feeling!” the ad culminating with a satisfied customer jumping into the air—in s-l-o-w m-o-t-i-o-n. Slam Dunk. All competitors, both foreign and domestic, were left standing there with their shorts around their ankles.
Buying a Toyota was an experience—an intense feeling of joy and satisfaction. In the minds of millions of viewers, their product was, from then on, anchored into positive feelings. Of course, had the cars been nothing more than beer cans, the ad would have failed. However, it was the promised “feeling” that turned the corner and made Toyota the worldwide giant that we know today.
Seducing Your Audience
In his book, Selling Dreams: How to Make Any Product Irresistible, author Gian Luigi Longinotti-Buitoni (President and CEO of Ferrari North America) likens marketers to dream weavers or, in his words, “dreamketer.”
The role of the dreamketer is to seduce, to entice the customer into intense desire for the company’s creation. Seduction is much more than simply convincing: It is not about helping formulate a rational decision, but rather about provoking emotional locomotion. The craft of selling dreams, much like the seducers, requires continual surprise through a poetical transformation of reality into a romance that takes people into a dream state.
To succeed, dreamketers have to touch the customer’s dreams. They must ensure that the product or service is emotionally charged by creating a design worthy of the company’s original taste. They must construct a theatrical setting around the product or service, a home, an ambiance where objects of excellence are transformed into unforgettable experiences. They must assign a name to that setting: a credible and exciting brand that pulls the customers in and builds their expectations. They must relay a seductive message that confuses poetry with reality, truth with romance. Finally, they must find the customers worth seducing.
Every person reading this is in sales. Whether seeking to convince someone to buy your idea or product, influence your employer, win over the love of your life, or persuade your children that you do know where their present behavior is going to lead them, you are selling something. And those individuals that most effectively provoke “emotional locomotion” are going to close the sale.
Most people think that selling their product (idea, knowledge, service) is accomplished solely through recitation of facts. (Teachers and religious leaders are often the worst offenders, here.) However, the individual that constructs a theatrical setting, creates an unforgettable ambiance, and converts facts into poetry, will be far and away the more effective and successful communicator.
I realize that some of my readers will be uncomfortable with Longinotti-Buitoni’s use of the word “seduce.” This is because the word is usually used pejoratively. However, think of a time in your past when you wanted to attract the attention of a potential Significant Other. You dressed in a certain fashion, you carefully chose words that would help win the individual’s attention and affection, you spoke these words with an intentional tonality and timbre, and you took great pains to see to it that the Tambiance was exactly what you needed to accomplish your intention. Now – subtract all sexual connotations from these specific acts and you will have some understanding as to what it means to “seduce” your audience.
Think of a communication context where you wish to be far more effective. Rather than solely considering how to change people’s thinking, if you will expand your focus to include the whole person — captivating as many of your audience’s five senses as possible (Visual-Auditory-Kinesthetic-Olfactory-Gustatory) — your effectiveness will increase exponentially.
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This doesn’t put me off at all. I took a copywriting course a couple of years ago that said the same thing.
1 Cor 9:19-22 comes to mind; being all things to all men (& all of a man, not just stating facts he needs to ‘get’, but engaging him as a person.) Where this kind of language is off-putting is in the context some may have perceived in the seeker-sensative models within evangelicalism. Seeing evangelism as sales, or likening it to sales seems to cheapen it. The Big Kahuna (1999, starring Kevin Spacing & Danny Devito) is a wonderful example of how the world perceives Christian evangelism as nothing more than sales. And if our efforts are nothing more than selling our ‘product’ then it is cheap. But if, in our interactions with others we seek to engage an individual as a person; to bring the whole of the gospel, God’s redemption and reconciliation, not just a sales pitch: “Buy this, get into heaven.”, then we can take Mr. Wilson’s words to heart and truly seek to be all things to all men.
Note: The Big Kahuna is rated R for some very foul language in case anyone reading wants to check it out.
Like many things, what this gentleman is talking about can be used for good or bad.
Regarding advertising and sales, I never really viewed what admen do as just reciting facts, and not even just reciting facts in a clever or provocative way. Awhile ago I wrote a post on my blog that simply said, “Without our product you are are incomplete.” This gets at the idea of what I think most advertising does. It too often creates what Fromm refers to as false consciousness. Advertising first creates a need that did not exist in your consciousness, and then it shows how their product fills that need.
In contrast to the seduction of advertising, an effective presentation of the Gospel will awaken people to their most profound need, a need they actually have but are not in touch with. This is where I imagine what this gentlemen is talking about regarding emotional locomotion and speaking to the whole person comes into play. This is perhaps legitimate seduction.
I think, however, it is instructive to note that the original Latin term from which we get the word “seduction” meant “to draw aside,” or “to lead astray.” So, the idea is that a person has a goal and through seduction they are drawn aside or led astray from it, and I imagine that whether this is good or bad is determined by the person’s original goal.