Everyone wants to belong. If you understand that, you understand bullshit marketing. Let's start by understanding the fundamentals of Bullshit Marketing.
Social Interactions and Acceptance
Social rejection is not fun, and a very real reaction happens when we encounter this phenomenon. There was a study done in which a link between physical and mental reactions to social acceptance and rejection was found. The results of the study found there was the strongest cardiac deceleration when a subject experienced unexpected social rejection. Inversely, the brain responded the most to positive expected social acceptance.
What does this mean? Essentially, we like feeling like we belong. When something happens that improves our social acceptance, we feel good. When something happens that adds to our social rejection unexpectedly, we feel bad. When using this in Bullshit Marketing, the key to remember is people want to belong and be accepted.
Let's think about this for a minute.
People want to belong and be accepted
Isn't this a simple, basic, fundamental need of anyone? You, for example, have a strong need to belong. It's a very basic, low level need, that you probably don't even think about most of the time. For example:
You may belong to a church or religious association. While on the surface, you may claim to want to be closer to a higher power, the reality is you are doing this for the social acceptance gained by participating in said event. This is where the Bullshit piece comes in.
People claim to serve a higher power, an all knowing being, a greater purpose of sorts, then cram into isle after isle of uncomfortable pews, and spend 45+ minutes standing and sitting, reciting words that long sense are memorized, and singing very off key all the while smiling and enjoying life. It's not about your service to a higher power at all, it's about your need for social acceptance.
Think about this for a minute. If you are needing to practice your religious beliefs in the presence of others, are you doing this for their benefit or yours? You are mandated to attend a church, proceed with the rituals every week like a mindless drone, and smile warmly as you go on your merry way (just to repeat it again next week). You do this not to practice your "faith", instead to demonstrate it publicly. You have nothing to prove to anyone except yourself, yet here you go attempting to prove to everyone you are a good person. Social acceptance!
Influence your Market
How does this relate to Bullshit Marketing? If you remember that people need to belong, you will be able to start influencing your market. Social acceptance is the core of what we will be working on here. Everything that we do needs to have an impact on how someone feels in society, as well as their immediate desire to use our product, idea, invention, service, or whatever other crap we are pushing. What you are attempting to sell does not matter so much as how you sell it.
People are prone to accepting things as fact, despite any real evidence. The human brain is capable of processing things very quickly, but our bodies don't exactly keep up with the brain. As such, the brain does a lot of shortcuts to make things easier for us. For example, the image above shows a commonly misread phrase. It's misread because it's expected to be right, and the brain makes the connection for you without you even having to exert any effort.
If I were to draw attention specifically to the misread part (perhaps with a different color, or font) the eye would then be forced to the anomaly and spend more time processing it, likely reading it right. Here, let's try that out.
Like magic, your eye sees the I before the if, and you read the sentence correctly. We really want things to be right, and our brain goes out of its way to make sure things are just that - even if it's wrong.
You hear what you want
So Bullshit Marketing is really cool because your audience will listen, absorb, and respond based on what you tell them. We have stumbled upon Pareidolia, where people hear exactly what they want to hear, in an attempt to make sense and put order to what otherwise may be chaos. As with the example image above, you see the sentence, and read it as if it were correct. The same shortcut works with auditory stimulation.
Presented nicely in a science project, the auditory example shows how people will respond to expected auditory stimulation. The subject listens to music and white noise, with the music gradually decreasing in volume until it hits 0 db. Once the music hits 0 db, there is literally no way the subject can hear the music, yet everyone continues to hear the music within the white noise. Since the subject knows the music, and expects to continue hearing the music, the brain generates the sound in their head for them. Pretty cool, huh?
If I'm lazy, I'm not alone
Idiot America may be blamed on others, or yourself, or both. It's been shown that people need to conform to a biased opinion, as they are unable to reach an unbiased opinion on their own without effort.
It turns out that when making decisions, any decisions, most people in most situations do not evaluate evidence impartially and will therefore not reach an unbiased decision. (worldbank.org)
This is known as confirmation bias, and is generally seen as the tendency to interpret new evidence in a way that conforms to the general ideas already formed.
Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one's preexisting beliefs or hypotheses.(Wikipedia)
A good example would be a football game between two good teams. The first team has a huge following, and their fans are very supportive of the team. This is to be expected, as the fans are paying good money to see their team perform. The second team has just as big of a following, but their fans like them, not the other team.
The game is extremely close, and comes down to the very last second, where upon the first team gets a game winning touchdown. Does the second team fan base give up, throw in the towel and say oh well? Obviously they don't, and likely will see the win against them as a cheat, folly, or otherwise find cause to dispute the validity of the win. How can this be, though? The touchdown was fair, albeit close, but there was nothing dirty or wrong with the play. Yet the losing team insists there was folly to the play.
Despite two groups of people interacting in a commonly understood rule set, the rules are subject to debate upon the perceived defeat of the losing team. The ball did not change direction mid course to the receiver, or magically appear in a different spot begging the question of cheating. Everything was fair, and above board, yet it was seen differently. Even though you can logically find reason for the winning team to be called the winning team (mainly because they won!), the losing team audience will find logical biased meaning to the loss.
"Oh we got robbed!" or "They cheated us last minute!" may be typical phrases you hear from someone experiencing confirmation bias. The inability to accept the obvious because of a biased belief that your team is better leads you to behave in a way that may seem illogical to others. It's your very desire for your team to win that does not allow you to see simple things (like a loss) for what they are.
Bullshit Marketing to save the day!
So we now understand that people have a few exploitable traits, which no matter how hard they try they can not escape.
- People need to belong
- People hear what they want
- People support their beliefs no matter the reality
How can we take advantage of people belonging, hearing what they want, and also support their belief structure? Let's start with the easy one.
People hear what they want to hear, and as such, you should tell them exactly what they expect to hear. While this may seem counter intuitive, or maybe even a bit deceptive, listen to the line of reasoning first:
If someone wants to be told the more expensive product you are selling is better, you should tell them the more expensive product is better. After all, that's exactly what the person wants to hear and expects to hear. Allowing someone to confirm their beliefs will enforce what they want to hear. Since you are the one confirming their beliefs, you are opening a doorway to social acceptance and belonging.
Remember, the person expects to hear the more expensive product is better. They believe it's better, and are seeking confirmation of their current belief. Because of confirmation bias, they have already decided the more expensive product is better, and seek to validate that. You telling them opposing information is contrary to their expectations, and as such, they will likely cling to the idea that the more expensive product is better, since they were already biased to that opinion prior to asking.
While the scenario I provided was a bit too literal, and I'd never recommend lying to a client or providing false information (the more expensive product is probably crap!), as lying really sucks, and there is no room for it in honest business.
In Bullshit Marketing, once you realize everything you say is bullshit, and it's only serves to confirm what people already thought they knew, you will be better off. Again, I'm not advocating for lying to clients; instead, find creative ways to playfully manipulate how people think about your product, service, idea, invention, whatever.
Real Life Bullshit Marketing Example
Okay, let's get down to brass tacks here. Let's put this to a real live example of bullshit marketing, and how it relates to every day life. For the protection of the innocent, I will refrain from names in this scenario.
I had a situation recently where I needed to consider the use of a hypnotherapist. In considering a therapist, I needed to consider the potential positive and negatives. I need to understand that any therapist will require trust and confidentiality in order to have the best results. By my very nature, I'm not one to believe in therapists or therapy in general, but desperate times call for desperate measures, right?
After having a brief exchange of emails and text messages, I managed to get scheduled to see the therapist. The therapist was going to help with pain management for an ongoing illness of years now. It seemed at least worth a shot, given the immense suffering up to that point, so what's to lose but a little bit of time.
After the first meeting, I left with an overwhelming sense of peace and calm. But why? I wanted the therapist to help with a pain management issue. When I left, the pain subsided, because that's what I expected. (Getting the connection yet?) The therapist said everything I wanted to hear, too. It's amazing how "I believe you" can make anything seem sane, right? But the therapist was using Bullshit Marketing to sell their service, and get me to come back again and again. It's not that I needed to be told XYZ, but if they said XYZ it would make me feel better; so that's exactly what happened. This therapist was successfully reaching me by saying very comforting and endearing phrases which made me feel like the solution was at hand. We were talking as if the journey was that of one, instead of the idea of two people in the room. It felt like I belonged, and the answers were all right in my book.
But was it really? Or was this a case of confirmation bias?
Looking back at the situation, and adding a pinch more context, we can easily see how this is very cleaver marketing. I'll explain:
The hypnotherapist is presumably doing their job to get paid. As much as we would like to think people are genuinely good people doing good things for good reasons, it's usually something that settles back at money. I'm not an idiot, I know the therapist wants to get paid, but I also make the assumption that they care about my needs, wants, and desires. The fact that they are a therapist means they likely want to help people who are having a hard time, or otherwise need a hand. Or...... Like every other human, it's an illusion.
After our first meeting, the therapist immediately suggested a follow up visit. The purpose is to obviously address the issue at hand further, oh and bring the check book!
"But let's not focus on money, let's focus on making you better (did I mention the copay yet?) and get things on the right track!"
It's very hard to help someone when you focus on money, not the service. But to be fair, it's extremely hard to weave in the words "pay me" when you're providing a service, without feeling a little bit bad about asking. Money is a touchy subject for a lot of people.
So the therapist, using Bullshit Marketing, so far has me feeling like I belong, they are supporting my beliefs ("you're not crazy"), and they are telling me what I want to hear. Why would I not take my check book out and pay the therapist time after time after time? One could argue the therapist did not help me at all, but instead simply made me feel like I was right. Social validation!
While the therapist scenario wasn't a case of internet marketing, or advertising campaigns, Bullshit Marketing can still be used to influence the face to face situation for a positive result. You simply need to find something which people relate with already, preferably something they feel strongly about, and then tell them they are right about that, and here's why your product or service will enhance or augment that.
Making a product or service relatable is the first step in Bullshit Marketing. Telling people what they want to hear about the product or service is the second step. Providing the product or service, at or above expectations, will bring this whole Bullshit Marketing together.
Remember, if someone expects something, provide it! Failing to meet the expectations will be the end of the marketing campaign, leaving the opposite result of clients not using your product or service. Remember, there's an expectation which people want to get confirmed, so they can belong. Tell them what they want to hear!
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Feel free to leave a comment below, or on your favorite social media platform. I'm glad to explain the process in a bit more depth, and answer any questions people may have.