Jan 26, 2007

Interactive Marketing with the Amazing Kreskin

Last week I joked with Jeremy that I was going to start charging people an hourly fee for counseling and therapy services. Both in my personal life and my professional life here at LEAP, I find that I'm someone people come to with their problems. Sometimes they want some good ideas for resolving their problems, and as a fairly out-of-the-box thinker, I'm generally pretty good at that. Sometimes I think they just want someone to "feel their pain."

Those are the people I'd like to charge for the "couch time."

Psychology, specifically the psychology of personality, has always been interesting to me. The human psyche, what motivates people (and what doesn't) is pretty fascinating stuff. The drivers that motivate human behavior are of critical interest to marketers.

There are several different systems out there to classify people into different personality types or temperaments, and they all have their different relative merits. But at a high level, I think it's important to realize that they are not describing who people are. They are describing their most important strategy for behavior. People rarely surprise me with how unpredictable they are. They more often surprise me with how eerily easy it is to predict what they'll do, sometimes before they themselves know what they're going to do.

A personality type is a (mostly) unconscious strategy that people use to make decisions so that they don't have to think about every action they take, and so they can get a predictable outcome to their actions. Humans love predictable outcomes, even if they're not great outcomes. Most people use the same few basic strategies with the same basic assumptions and values. Given a good enough understanding of the most common strategies, and enough time around a person to learn what strategies they rely on, it becomes increasingly easy to predict what their actions will be. The way a long-time married couple can appear to read each other's minds is an example of this.

In some ways, marketing is a form of this parlor trick, performed on a mass audience. The better you understand the common denominators of the largest part of your audience, the more effectively you can predict what will and won't motivate most of them.

Which can be remarkably useful information to have handy.

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