Modern culture is made up of some core concepts, one of which is the idea that the mind is made up of two ‘halves’, the conscious and the unconscious. This notion came in around the time of Freud and has settled itself so deeply into the soil of modern thought that it has become almost sacrosanct. It has affected much of the way that human beings behave today — or how they justify their behaviour — and it has certainly influenced the way marketers think.
‘Marketing’ as you probably think of it has taken on the colourings of a ‘trick’ — something that gullible people ‘fall for’, a set of deceptions by which you can get people to do things, or more specifically to buy things, which they otherwise wouldn’t have done or bought. The theory goes that if you can somehow bypass a person’s conscious mind, you can get him or her reaching for wallet or purse unconsciously — ‘The unconscious mind isn’t critical,’ goes the thinking: ‘It will do whatever you want.’
Thus marketing is lumped together with hypnosis. Making contact with and then manipulating the unconscious is the whole purpose of hypnosis, and that’s pretty much the whole purpose of conventional marketing.
But what if none of this stuff about the conscious/unconscious split were actually true?
How the Mind Works
We’ve seen in earlier articles that within each individual there are seven impulses at work in relation to any environment: there’s a super-strong affinity, a medium strength affinity, and a growing affinity; then there’s an ‘undecided’ impulse, exploring options; and then there is a growing rejection, a focused rejection and a total rejection. It’s a nuanced picture: you could probably make up as many levels as you wanted to between these, but dividing this spectrum into seven compartments leads to clarity and workability.
We’ve called these by the following names, when looking at them in relation to trying to sell books:
The Growing or Emerging Fan
The Potential Fan
The Occasional Visitor
The binary picture of ‘unconscious/conscious’ is a simplification too far. It basically asserts that the nuances of the above are reducible to two poles: ‘awake’ and ‘not awake’, or analytical and non-analytical. From a conventional marketing perspective, everything from ‘Potential Fan’ up might be grouped as ‘unconscious’; everything below Potential Fan might be seen as ‘conscious’. The marketer’s task, seen in this primitive and highly unworkable way, is to try to access the positive impulses of the ‘unconscious’ by somehow dulling or putting to sleep the negative ones of the ‘conscious’.
This leads to conventional tactics which you have no doubt read about, like ‘Tell Them A Story’ — this involves using the unique magical properties of storytelling – one of the most effective and enjoyable ways of absorbing someone’s attention — to bypass a potential customer’s scepticism, to ‘captivate’ them literally, winding them round with a spell which supposedly ‘switches off’ the critical function in the mind so that your ‘marketing message’ can get through.
You can see conventional marketers using this all the time — you’ve probably been advised to do this yourself. It’s all based on the premise that the average person is a Non-player or Anti-customer and must have that ‘conscious’ aspect of themselves nullified before they can be led into a purchase which they might otherwise protest.
It’s a huge industry, built on a huge misconception of how people actually think and work.
It arises like most things arise — to fill a gap.
What is that gap?
The lack of buying customers.
People want and need to sell things to make money to survive. In the absence of a crowd of buying customers in front of them, they will seek out ways of persuading any passerby to buy from them: this is why conventional marketing, based on its ideas of the conscious and unconscious minds, developed.
Conventional marketing is a kind of attempted mass hypnosis which grows out of the need to acquire paying customers.
As soon as you appreciate that, you can see the ‘Matrix code' behind a great deal of modern marketing. What seemed real and even advisable to you before in terms of how to market suddenly becomes transparent and somewhat feeble, even unethical — of course you don’t want to sell your product to someone by bypassing their critical faculties and getting them to reach for their wallets almost against their wills. That would not only be wrong, it would, in the long term, be unproductive, because as soon as the individual ‘woke up’ from the trance you had managed to induce, they would be regretful and perhaps even resentful about their purchase.
And yet most of modern marketing is based on that approach.
The problem it tries to solve is the absence of paying customers.
If that problem could be solved a different way, the monolith that is conventional marketing would come tumbling down like a Dark Lord’s fortress built upon foundations constructed by a magic ring — it would topple and vanish, and those enthralled by it would shake their heads, awaken from their trances, and wonder how they could have been so gullible in the first place.
What is the ‘different way’ of acquiring paying customers?
Well, instead of attempting to hypnotise strangers into doing something that they might not naturally want to do, you simply attract a whole mass of people who are likely to want to buy something from you at some point.
So the key question becomes not ‘how to hypnotise people’ but ‘how to attract potentially genuine customers into the vicinity of your product’.
Prior to social media, this was difficult — which is why marketing developed as it did. But with the tool of social media, it becomes much easier to draw together an audience of ‘warm prospects’. No hypnosis is involved at all.
The key words to keep in mind are ‘association’ and ‘communication’. Associating your product — in your case, your book — with things similar to it means that you begin to outline the territory in which your warm prospects are gathering already; communicating with them stirs them into life. There’s less need to ‘bypass’ any part of these people, because they already are, to some degree, ‘prospects’. All you need to do is communicate to them as Potential Fans, Emerging Fans, Fans and Superfans. And social media, for the first time in history, enables you to do this.
This is a huge breakthrough. It’s probably the equivalent, in terms of how human society works, to the switch from nomadic hunting to settled agriculture thousands of years ago; it’s at least as big as the so-called Industrial Revolution.
It’s so big, in fact, that discussing it will need to be continued next time.