Saturday, October 1, 2011

The William James School of Marketing.

         It was William James who said it: "The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook." I think that's an interesting description of the marketer's task.

         So often we get so close to a product, so emotionally involved with it, that it's hard for us to believe that everybody won't feel the same way when they hear all the details. Such as a car's rack and pinion suspension, for example.

         Truth is, people don't care about most of the details. They aren't buying a product's features, they're buying a product's benefits. The only features they care about are the ones that make the benefits possible.

         Nobody goes to the hardware store because they want a quarter-inch drill. They go because they want a quarter-inch hole. The drill is just the means to the end. A friend of mine, Chuck, once told me he really didn't want to own shirts. He simply wanted to wear shirts, and wished Hertz would deliver seven of them to his house every week.

         There are exceptions, of course. You might have heard of a woman who collects Christian Louboutin shoes and never wears them. She keeps them neatly arranged on a shelf in her walk-in closet. That woman isn't really that different from the sneakerhead whose preserved collection of Nikes is rapturous, and predicts they'll be worth a fortune some day. Or from me, when I collected Nicole Miller ties.

          Those are exceptions. For those people, the benefit is having, not using. Most of us, on the other hand, want to look well dressed or attractive, professional or scholarly or whatever, and clothes help us achieve the identity we want. Our closets aren't art collections; we're just reluctant to give our past glories to Goodwill.

           William James would've made a good advertising person. He was a pragmatist as well as the great  psychologist of his day. He'd understand that Dior isn't Gucci, and certainly not Guess. He'd know exactly what to put in a Dior ad and what to leave out, to convince you of what Dior can do for you that the others don't.

            Demosthenes, the great ancient Greek orator, would pick up a rock from the shore and study it for hours, until he knew what made that rock different from every other rock on the beach. As a marketer, that will be your job, deciding what to put in and what to leave out in order to sell your product's benefits in the most memorable, convincing way.

             It's that capability that will separate you from every rock on the shore.

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