Tag Archives: marketing

Extend the Narrative

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Extending the narrative

Did you wake up fresh today, a new start, a blank slate with resources and opportunities… or is today yet another day of living out the narrative you’ve been engaged in for years?

For all of us, it’s the latter. We maintain our worldview, our biases, our grudges and our affections. We nurse our grudges and see the very same person (and situation) in the mirror today that we did yesterday. We may have a tiny break, a bit of freshness, but no, there’s no complete fresh start available to us.

Marketers have been using this persistence to their advantage forever. They sell us a car or a trip or a service that fits the story we tell ourselves. I don’t buy it because it’s the right thing for everyone, I buy it because it’s right for me, the us I invented, the I that’s part of the story I’ve been telling myself for a long time.

The socialite walks into the ski shop and buys a $3000 ski jacket she’ll wear once. Why? Not because she’ll stay warmer in it more than a different jacket, but because that’s what someone like her does. It’s part of her story. In fact, it’s easier for her to buy the jacket than it is to change her story.

If you went to bed as a loyal company man or an impatient entrepreneur or as the put-upon retiree or the lady who lunches, chances are you woke up that way as well. Which is certainly safe and easy and consistent and non-confusing. But is it helping?

We dismiss the mid-life crisis as an aberration to be avoided or ridiculed, as a dangerous blip in a consistent narrative. But what if we had them all the time? What if we took the resources and trust and momentum that helps us but decided to let the other stuff go?

It’s painful to even consider giving up the narrative we use to navigate our life. We vividly remember the last time we made an investment that didn’t match our self-story, or the last time we went to the ‘wrong’ restaurant or acted the ‘wrong’ way in a sales call. No, that’s too risky, especially now, in this economy.

So we play it safe and go back to our story.

The truth though, is that doing what you’ve been doing is going to get you what you’ve been getting. If the narrative is getting in the way, if the archetypes you’ve been modeling and the worldview you’ve been nursing no longer match the culture, the economy or your goals, something’s got to give.

When decisions roll around–from what to have for breakfast, to whether or not to make that investment to what TV show (or none) to watch on TV tonight, the question to ask is: Is this a reflex that’s part of my long-told story, or is this actually a good decision? When patterns in engagements with the people around you become well-worn and ineffective, are they persistent because they have to be, or because the story demands it?

 

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The ironic truth about sincerity

The ironic truth about sincerity

No one cares how much you care.

That salesperson who will surely die if he doesn’t close this sale, that painter who is sweating blood to get her idea on the canvas, that student who just pulled an all-nighter…

In fact, we’re hyper alert to the appearance of caring. We want to do business with people who appear to care, who appear to bring care and passion and dedication to their work. If the work expresses caring, if you consistently and professionally deliver on that expression, we’re sold.

The truth is that it’s what we perceive that matters, not what you bring to the table. If you care but your work doesn’t show it, you’ve failed. If you care so much that you’re unable to bring quality, efficiency and discernment to your work, we’ll walk away from it.

And the irony? The best, most reliable way to appear to care when it matters–is to care.

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A creative buzz

By Christopher Shea

People who like to write in cafes are onto something, it seems: A moderate level of noise—the equivalent of the background buzz of conversation — prompts more-creative thought, according to a study.

Across several experiments involving more than 300 people, participants worked on a series of exercises demanding mental flexibility, including word-association games and practical problems. They brainstormed about how a mattress company might improve its product, for example, and devised as many uses as possible for a brick. They did their thinking while ambient noise recorded in a cafeteria, roadside, and at a construction site was played at three levels: softly, moderately, or loudly, with the moderate level being about what you’d hear in a bustling café: 70 decibels. (In one experiment there was a control group that heard “no” noise, but there was some ambient sound even in that case, making it very much like the low-noise condition.)

People in the moderate-noise groups scored higher on the objective word-association test, and their answers to the other problems were rated, subjectively by peers, as more creative.

A final experiment involved having students answer questions about consumer products at a computer station located in a public space. There, the (real) noise ranged from low to moderate. When there was moderate noise, the test subjects were more likely to choose the more innovative of two products.

The study adds to research suggesting that small doses of distraction — including hard-to-read fonts — prompt the mind to work at a more abstract level, which is also a more creative level. (The possibility that sound energized people was considered but rejected: Participants’ heart rates did rise when they first encountered noise, but soon subsided.)  The effect of noise is inverted-U-shaped, this study suggested: There’s a sweet spot between silence and din.

Source: “Is Noise Always Bad? Exploring the Effects of Ambient Noise on Creative Cognition,” Ravi Mehta, Rui (Juliet) Zhu and Amar Cheema, Journal of Consumer Research (forthcoming)

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