Before I became a writer I worked in sales and marketing. It’s what I studied in college as well. So I’m familiar with the techniques companies use to lure consumers away from their competitors. Example:
“Has SBC long-distance been hurting your checking account? You poor wittle thing you! Come on over and let MCI kiss it and make it better.”
Sometimes it’s a little more subtle:
“You’re a busy guy so of course it makes sense that you make most of your purchases with your Mastercard. Someone as important as you can’t be bothered with writing a check! But wouldn’t it be nice to have a Visa card that could help you earn airline miles? With us you can buy things you can’t afford and still travel to Hawaii! Isn’t that what happiness is all about?”
It’s basic psychology. If you want to convince someone of something you should start by flattering them. You let them know that you respect and care for them. Then you tell them what you want them to do and assure them that you’re only looking out for their best interests.
That’s why you’ll never see a Pepsi commercial featuring some hottie in blue jeans saying “Hey, Pepsi is the best drink on the planet and if you’ve been drinking Coke all this time you’re obvious a friggin’ idiot who barely deserves to live!”
That would be what the experts call a “bad marketing strategy.” It’s also bad psychology. So why is it that so many political activists continually use this exact strategy?
Theoretically political activists are people who want to change the world. There’s a couple of ways you can do that. You can try organizing a guerilla army to overthrow the existing government or you can try to convince people in a nonviolent manner to come around to your way of thinking. I think it’s safe to say that at least seventy percent of political activists prefer the latter approach.
So it seems odd that instead of wooing those they need to convert they tell them to go screw themselves.
I think the reasoning behind this is that many people who are fanatical about politics aren’t really interested in changing anybody’s mind about anything. They want to preach to the choir. And why not? Preaching to the choir is fun! You surround yourself with a bunch of like minded people who happily tell you that anyone and everyone who supports A, B and/or C is a moron and then you get to pat each other on the back for knowing that D, E and F is really where it’s at. And since you and your friends know this you are righteous and superior and will be able to successfully avoid the eternal flames of hell.
Of course if you wanted to change someone’s mind about an issue you might have to do something very frightening—in marketing it’s called identifying the features, advantages and benefits of the competition’s products. Corporations know that there’s a reason consumers sometimes buy the products of their competitors. It’s not because these consumers are stupid it’s because the competitor has something legitimate to offer. Something valuable. You may have a better product but if you think you’re the only one selling something worthwhile you’d be best off sticking with the choir.
If you truly want to win people over to your way of thinking you’re going to have to start by being nice to them. That’s just life in a free market.
Sex, Murder And A Double Latte–May 2005