Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Marketing is all about beliefs : believe me !

I promised in a previous post to speak of marketing, so here we are.
Before introducing marketing by itself, we must have a look into the notion of belief, as strange as it may look at first glance.

What are beliefs ?

What I call belief here is a set of statements everyone has in his (her) mind, most of the time unconsciously. I mean that if I were to ask you 'ok, list all your beliefs on this sheet of paper' you should be unable to write but, may be one or two sentences.
So what are these beliefs ?
How do I know that they exist in the first place ?

Well, there are situations where you may be able to discover some of. Typically when you encounter some unusual idea, say an idea which is in contradiction with at least one of your beliefs. In such a case, you are typically beginning to doubt : 'hum sound strange, should'nt be true ...' and here we are : take the counterpart of the strange idea and you should be close to unveil the corresponding belief. You may think to it like an underlying, not expressed assumption. Note that if you are to encounter an idea or a fact that is in correspondence with your system of beliefs, nothing will happen, you are not going to notice it at all.

Your set of beliefs is protected by an incorporated automatic alarm system ringing in your mind as soon as it perceives an incoherence.

This alarm system triggers a graduated response, switching to the upper level as necessary :

1- doubt, humor, indifference ... (the polite level, gentlemen stay at this level)
2- irony, sophism ... (not fair, high educated persons tend to switch here quite easily)
3- negation, anger, indignation, (rude : easy for boss, only disponible form for uneducated persons)
4- menace, commination ... (disgusting : particularly when used under the appearence of politeness)
5- violence (ultimate step)

Note that if one of your beliefs is under attack, you feel yourself threated !
This unconscious perception of your beliefs being questioned, rises up an emotion of fear and this is that precise emotion that triggers your response, upgrading itself as far as you don't get satisfaction, defeating the contradiction by doubt, irony, negation, ...

Let's take an example : when you read the title of this blog, what did you think ?
How did you rate on the graduated scale : 1, 2 ... ? (Tell me !)

Where do beliefs come from ?

Well, they obviously come from our education, culture, media, ...
I would say there are at least two main classes of beliefs :
1- those related to one's personal history
2- those instillated by the social environment and shared by a large number of people
We will focus on the second type ones.
In fact a society is continuously entertaining and creating new beliefs which are instillated through educative system, authorities, mass media. These believes are sealed by the social authority. Don't conclude that beliefs are voluntarily forged by any big brother : not at all, this is a basic social mechanism that is absolutely not consciously managed by anyone.
Nevertheless, the result is that, in a given society there is a continuous flow of unconscious messages which is more or less incorporated in everyone mind, added on the unconscious list of beliefs. This is some sort of neurological mechanism.

What it is good for ?

What the society is gaining by this is a sort of glue between people, it provides them some implicit basic common assumption that will serve as shared foundation for the communication.
When people are implicitly acknowledging beliefs in their communication they feel secured and inversely they feel endanger when they perceive their beliefs (either personal or shared) are questioned, just as if standing on a moving ground.

What's the relationship with marketing ?

Putting it simple, marketing is the art of instilling in the mind of your potential market the beliefs that are favoring your business.
You know that your marketing has succeeded when you realize that people feel endanger when they are not using your products, when they have to give explanations not to do so, explain to others, to their boss, to stockholders ...

Example of successful marketing

Some days ago, I was responding an internet poll about web development.
One of the question was about development environment in use in your company or that you were considering for future use : ajax, rose rational, J2EE, CORBA, .Net ...
I checked my choices then Next and then question :
'Why don't you use .Net ?'
(Note that I was not been asked why I was not using CORBA or other)
Underlying assumptions : (in other word : beliefs)
- 'you must have some special reasons not to use .net'
- 'normal people use .net'

Do you get the picture ? Tell me !

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