There’s a common misconception about marketing, which is that our job is to make people want things they’d otherwise never buy. The purpose of our work here at BLKBOX isn’t to make people want things. Our job is to make things people want.
It’s a simple change—two words, flipped around. But it’s a much harder psychological change for business leaders and marketers to make than you might think. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because some marketing agencies feel stuck with a particular product to sell—a 100 year old recipe, a product the client invested millions of dollars to create. But you don’t have to change the product to have a radical change in attitude.
Rather than trying to change what people want, the best marketers learn to chase the want.
No one needs to manufacture any more desire for “things.” Listen to the thought-reel in my mind, and in a 10-minute time frame, you’ll find I want plenty of material things, and even more emotional and physical things. Accept it—we’re all living, breathing wanting machines. And the things we want aren’t likely going to change because of a single commercial.
Abraham Maslow’s 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation” outlines the hierarchy of human needs in a way that can help marketers think more like psychologists. According to Maslow, “The most basic needs, at the bottom, were physical—air, water, food, sex. Then came safety needs—security, stability—followed by psychological, or social needs—for belonging, love, acceptance. At the top of it all were the self-actualizing needs – the need to fulfill oneself, to become all that one is capable of becoming.” (Check out more about his research here.)
Thankfully, many American consumers are at the top of Maslow’s ladder. Our basic needs have been met, so we spend our time wanting to feel significant and meaningful in the world, and to gather what Maslow coined “peak experiences.”
Which brings me back to marketing—particular in the digital space. Why do you think people spend so much time on social media? Here’s a hint. We go there because we want something. We want affirmation and attention and self-actualization. We want to chronicle our “peak experiences.” We want to feel connected. Marketers don’t need to make something new for me to want. They need to chase my want. They need to figure out what I want and find a way to be that for me.
So in thinking about marketing, think about the channel you’re using. When your customers are there, what do they want? Do they want connection? Do they want to feel that they have a purpose? Give them something to connect to. Give them a role to fill. And your marketing will change for the better.