Levers of Marketing

Seth Godin has one of his signature short posts that provoke a lot of thought on the three levers of marketing.  He believes that the three levers are Fear, Hope, and Love:

The TSA is in the fear business. Every time they get you take off your shoes, they’re using fear (of the unknown or perhaps of missing your plane) to get you take action.

Chanel is in the hope business. How else to get you to spend $5,000 a gallon for perfume?

Hope can be something as trivial as convenience. I hope that this smaller size of yogurt will save me time or get a smile out of my teenager…

And love? Love gets you to support a candidate even when he screws up or changes his mind on a position or disagrees with you on another one. Love incites you to protest when they change the formula for Coke, or to cry out in delight when you see someone at the market wearing a Google t-shirt.

I generally agree, except that I go by what my Contracts professor said was the motivating factor behind every business transaction: Fear and Greed.  I’ve since refined that thought with my theory of the 7DS approach to marketing.

The problematic lever, therefore, is Love.

As Seth looks at it, love motivates people to support a candidate even when he screws up.  Or motivates people to protest New Coke, or be delighted at a Google t-shirt.

All of these are problematic, however.

First, do people support a candidate out of love even if he advocates policies they can’t stand?  Would all of the Obama lovers (since Seth claims people respect Hillary, but love Obama) remain supporters if he suddenly became ardently pro-life or anti-union?  I don’t think so.  In contrast, many conservative Republicans are supporting McCain, despite the fact that most of them despise the man, because they fear the Democrats more than they despise McCain.

Second, is the protest of New Coke out of love for the old Coke, or is it simply human psychology whipped up by mass media at work here?  Humans generally dislike change: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it is a common perspective.  Because the issue at hand was so unimportant (the taste of a soft drink), I wonder if it wasn’t just resistance to change at work there.  And resistance to change, incidentally, is rooted in Fear.

Third, do people actually love Google?  Or do they just hate Microsoft?

And really, what is problematic is that as a marketer, you can work with fear and greed (or hope, if you’re so inclined to use that term instead).  But you just can’t work with love.

Seth’s idea seems to be that companies that love their customers receive love in return.  Does Google love its customers?  Of course not.  I’ve never had my lower bid for keywords accepted because Google loves me.  And love, at its essence, is sacrificial.  Since companies are not in business for self-sacrifice, at least not for long, they can’t love their “customers” enough to have that love reciprocated.

Besides, how would a company even going about implementing the “love” campaign anyhow?

I think Seth recognizes that, as he describes the love approach as being the most difficult/problematic.  But his recommendation is to sell hope and move towards love.

Way I see it, that’s a confusion in terminology.  People do not love companies; at best, they like companies.  And they like companies that consistently meet or exceed their expectations.  But that isn’t love.  They’re not likely to pay you more than what you asked for out of love.  They’re not going to sacrifice themselves for your benefit — believing that is a pretty rapid road to insolvency.  They are, however, likely to end up trusting the company that consistently delivers results, whether those results are higher returns on mutual funds, consistently good taste in soft drinks, or in leads delivered to their websites.

I would refine the recommendation to, “sell greed, and move towards trust”.

Maybe that just makes me cynical. 🙂


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Rob Hahn

Managing Partner of 7DS Associates, and the grand poobah of this here blog. Once called "a revolutionary in a really nice suit", people often wonder what I do for a living because I have the temerity to not talk about my clients and my work for clients. Suffice to say that I do strategy work for some of the largest organizations and companies in real estate, as well as some of the smallest startups and agent teams, but usually only on projects that interest me with big implications for reforming this wonderful, crazy, lovable yet frustrating real estate industry of ours.

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