top of page

The Secrets of Successful Business Part Five: What a Marketing Campaign Actually Is

We saw in the last part of this free course that the things that we have become accustomed to calling 'customers' are actually almost vacuums disguised as people. A prospect is someone with a vacuum (a need, a desire, a gap, something missing); a customer is someone who has decided that you can fill that vacuum, enough to have made a monetary commitment to you - they buy something. You don’t need to ‘develop a product’ to make it convincing or attractive - you need to develop your understanding of what the prospect is missing or yearning for.

What brings the things called ‘prospects’ to life is the vacuum between who, what and where they are now, and who, what and where they want to be.

You’ll read a lot in other guides or tomes full of advice to do with business about using emotion to engage your potential customer. Aristotle called this use of emotion 'pathos'. It’s powerful and common.

But what creates these emotions? Vacuums, in various forms.

Sadness is the result of a loss.

Fear arises with an impending loss.

Anger is a protest against loss.

Boredom arises when interest is missing.

Joy, happiness, elation come about when a vacuum or need is filled, perhaps to overflowing.

Your prospect is gripped by emotions, but emotions are generated by vacuums or underlying needs and desires, which are empty, craving and powerful.

So how do you do you tap into all this to get an emotional (and monetary) commitment from your prospects?

The first thing is not to do what you’re probably (if you’re like hundreds of thousands of other business people) tempted to do: get overemotional with your language and style.

Here’s a tip:

The best way of creating an emotional effect is to avoid emotionalism.

Keep a cool-headed, objective approach, even when you passionately want to convey something about your product. Avoid seeming overly passionate.

Why does this work? We have to go back to an earlier point for a technical answer: prospects are attracted by vacuums of some kind, missing things, losses, needs, gaps, mysteries.

Emotional language and style have two main effects: people are hypnotically ‘drawn in’ by the use of emotional words and lose awareness of what is actually occurring, effectively becoming numb; or they are repelled and feel they have to see through a ‘fog’ of unnecessary emotionalism. In either case, the vacuum power is weakened.

A dispassionate marketer who simply lays out the scene as a tableau of vacuums actually heightens the emotional effect.

Marketing campaigns are attention-capturing devices. The main mechanism in them that is used for capturing attention is vacuums.

Vacuums are reliable; vacuums are dependable. Plus they are quite mechanical in nature. Their existence explains why some products sells so well even when they are not particularly well constructed or even healthy. The almost physical force which a cleverly crafted vacuum can deploy is what compels emotional commitment by prospects.

What you are aiming for with prospects and campaigns is to generate vacuums so powerful that they drag the prospect through any obstacle on the way to the full effect you want to create.

How do you do that?

By making vacuums larger.

We touched earlier on the many levels of vacuum from universal to basic. Successful marketing shows the prospect through the medium of a story what would happen if a vacuum grew worse or wider or larger or more intense or whatever is applicable. What if the loss of an innocuous luxury tapped into a deeper loss of companionship and then that led to a threat to life itself? The prospect, imagining this, moves towards greater need and gets closer to acquiring your product or service.

Is the purpose of a marketing campaign ‘to tell a story’? ‘To inform the prospect what happens with a set of examples’? ‘To entertain the prospect with a series of exciting possibilities’?

It can do all of these, but its primary function is more mechanical than these:

The purpose of a marketing campaign is to obtain the prospect’s emotional commitment to purchase the product or service and to achieve what you are trying to do for him or her.

If a marketing campaign is not doing that, then the prospect will drift off or have to force themselves to follow you right to the end.

Marketing campaigns don’t include a breakdown of every single action or every single day in the life of a prospect; that’s why they have gaps and leaps from one scene or picture to another; that’s why the story that is actually communicated to the prospect is an edited version of events.


Because successful marketers know, consciously or not, that it is the most vacuum-charged moments which will guarantee prospect attention and lead to emotional commitment.

There is a moment in successful marketing when a prospect becomes completely committed to a product or service. Perhaps they are tracking with a customer template who is hungry and needs a remedy, as in fast food commercial; perhaps they are attracted by the vacuums of a scene in which a man seems to attract hundreds of women by using a particular deodorant; perhaps they are glued to a chase scene as in a car advert.

Whatever they have seen taps into their own need. The most successful marketing campaigns create prospects so vacuum-driven that they need the thing you are offering and they are going to get it, regardless.

How did they get to that point?

Prospects, like the customer template to whom you have ‘stuck’ them with vacuums, are prompted to action by action vacuums.

As they are driven further forward by these vacuums, they become urgently aware of the greater need that is developing and are in full motion towards it. They just want to get to the product or service which will give them the vacuum-filling moment.

Marketing is the process of creating or boosting vacuums until motion is achieved towards the fulfilling ending.

Successful marketers simply work with vacuums until the prospect overcomes his or her own inertia and makes a commitment.

But how do we get to the point where the vacuum power is so strong that all prospect inertia is overcome?

At this point, you should try and dispense with any previous knowledge or training in this area as what you’re about to learn here is too simple - and too powerful - for any of that. You may find many reasons why this is 'too simple' and ‘needs to be more complex’.

It doesn’t.

The Four Kinds of Plot Vacuum

There are four kinds of action vacuum:

Linear vacuums - best summed up by the question ‘What happens next?’

Mystery vacuums - encapsulated by the question ‘What’s really going on?’

Moral vacuums - as in the question ‘What is the right thing in this situation?’


Core vacuums - summed up as what is this really all about.

Core vacuums could be stated as 'What are the big problems the prospect is trying to solve?’, 'What is the solution you’re trying to communicate to the prospect?' and 'What is the goal which we're trying to attract others to?’

Core vacuums equate to prospect vacuums: they are the engines, the ‘nuclear reactors’ of a business.

Mystery vacuums ask questions like 'What's really going on?' 'What is happening under the surface?' and 'What unknown needs to be known?’ We don’t know, and we want to know - and that want is a vacuum.

Mystery vacuums stick us to the product or service at every possible point. They are the ‘glue’ of marketing.

Linear vacuums ask simple questions like 'What happens next?' or 'What unknown comes next?’

Simpler than a mystery vacuum, they are part of the woof and warp of even the most primitive businesses.

Linear vacuums drive prospects forward. They create the momentum of marketing.

Moral vacuums ask the questions 'What's right and wrong here?' 'What about consequences?' and 'What should be done?’ We are in a quandary - and that uncertainty is a vacuum. Moral vacuums engage our innermost selves. They help to create the meaning of business.

Take a look at a successful marketing campaign.

Nike’s 1990s slogan 'Just Do It’ tapped into a health-related vacuum.

Towards the end of the 1980s, Nike was trailing behind Reebok as a maker of athletic footwear and associated products. Did they launch a series of ads pushing the advantages of their shoes over the competition’s? No. Whether they knew they were doing it or not, their marketing team hit on the exact and very active need in their public to push through blocks and stops and exercise no matter what.

'Just Do It' put it so simply. That’s what fitness and exercise were and are all about - getting on with it, getting started, getting moving. The shoe might have even been of worse quality than Reebok’s - initially, it wouldn’t matter, the 'Just Do It' statement was so simple and powerful. If a customer found problems with the shoe later, if the vacuum wasn’t filled, there might have been difficulties - but all Nike had to do was present a reasonably workable shoe to a customer that wouldn’t fall apart when he or she tried to 'Just Do It' and they were on a winner. Nike reaped the rewards. Sales went from about $800 million in 1988 to over $9 billion in 1998.

Just by tapping into the central, simply stated, existential need of a prospect engaged with fitness training: the need to 'Do It'.

Nike condensed the four kinds of action vacuum into one:

Linear vacuums, best summed up by the question ‘What happens next?’, were engaged by presenting an image of power - if one wears this shoe, one will become dynamically fit.

Mystery vacuums, encapsulated by the question ‘What’s really going on?’, were activated by creating an aura of glamour around the product.

Moral vacuums, as in the question ‘What is the right thing in this situation?’, were answered in the slogan: ‘Just Do It’.

But of course the core vacuum, summed up as what is this really all about, was the basic problem Nike were solving for customers: how to get fitter. It’s rare for any marketing campaign to hit on such a primal vacuum, but in this list of the most successful marketing campaigns it’s quite likely that we will find a few.

Another example of a marketing campaign using action vacuums and a customer template is the ‘Marlboro Man’ campaign from decades ago. Before public opinion turned against smoking in a big way, tobacco ads had hit on a very basic understanding of marketing vacuums. Peter Stuyvesant, for example, ran a cinema ad for years which positioned international travel to 'Rome, Paris, New York' with the smoking of their cigarettes, utilising the basic unstated need that the customer had to 'get away from it all' - a need which probably underlay his or her desire for cigarettes in the first place - to draw potential customers towards the product.

The Marlboro Man ads used a similar approach. Aimed at the male market, they tapped into the perceived male need to be 'free'. It wasn’t the inhaling effects of the cigarette that was being pushed - addictive things like cigarettes or alcohol can’t ever really be too guilty of 'pushing the product'. No, it was the qualities which were at the time considered to be manly, associated with the American West, horse-riding, the open country which were at the forefront of advertising campaigns. The customer template? The horse-riding, Stetson-wearing cowboy Marlboro Man. The linking image? Space, freedom, independence. And underlying those, of course, was the need for them in a

high-pressured, domesticated, urban environment.

Another primal need; another hugely successful marketing campaign.

Creating the image of a lifestyle around a deeply desired lifestyle used all kinds of action vacuums - if you smoked these cigarettes, they said, this is what would happen; if you used their brand, Marlboro would show you the answer to Life’s mysteries; if you bought Marlboro, you were making a correct moral choice. In the case of an addictive product, the underlying vacuum pulling the customer towards the product must be so powerful as to be able to overcome the power of the health warning on the packet in the customer’s mind.

Think of a marketing campaign you have recently seen and spot the customer templates and action vacuums built, perhaps unknowingly, into it.

It’s an interesting exercise, and one which opens your eyes to what might be possible in your own business.

Next: Building the Nuclear Reactor of Your Business

Join the Inner Circle Writers' Group on Facebook

The Inner Circle Writers' Group is all about fiction: what it is all about, how it works, helping you to write and publish it. You can keep up to date with live contributions from members, upload your own fiction, enter competitions and so on:
Tag Cloud
bottom of page