The Magic of Marketing

picture: cover of Fishing For Suckers by G T Watkins (1916)
Cover of Fishing for Suckers by G T Watkins (1916)

For the first time in my life, I have taken an interest in marketing. I cannot tell you how shocked and thrilled I am, all at the same time. Each new piece of information hits me like a lightning bolt.

On Saturday, I spent half an hour flipping though every book on marketing in my local bookstore before deciding that one written by someone called Kevin Hogan was the easiest one to understand. Kevin Hogan, unbeknownst to me, is one of America’s best-known marketing gurus.

Mr Hogan’s book is full of brilliant observations, anecdotes and summaries of psychological studies illustrating principles that modern marketers employ with calculated effect. Have you ever heard of the “Pygmalion effect” or the “halo effect”? I hadn’t. Now I understand how these principles can be used to maximize the impact of a marketing pitch.

I have been scouring the web reading blogs on marketing. I found a blog on marketing law firms that lists 20 separate ideas for marketing in three sections. In the first section, number 8 out of 9 ideas is this: “Focus on delivering excellent work and value’. Not number 1. Number 8 out of 9.

picture: book cover
Cover of The Buying Brain by A K Pradeep (2010), which is available from

Before I became interested in marketing, the relative position and importance of this piece of advice would have surprised and perhaps even disappointed me. Now I understand that, from the marketing point of view, the value of work performed by a service provider is not a good marketing point by itself. If the customer doesn’t want good quality work – and that is not as ridiculous as it sounds, some customers do want fast and ugly – then “good quality” isn’t relevant at all. It is what the customers think about the service provider that matters. Many customers will assume – wrongly – that most lawyers do good quality work. Overall, customers may feel it is more important for their lawyer to have a quality of confidence, or assertiveness.

The truth is, a professional service provider could be doing the highest quality work in the world in their particular field of expertise, and yet go completely broke because nobody knows who they are, and nobody has any confidence in hiring them. The difference between being successful or not depends on marketing, and the success of marketing depends on techniques, and the success of those techniques depends on psychology, mostly the psychology of the human subconscious, and those people who best understand that psychology and know how to best communicate with consumers will succeed where others fail.

It is vitally important to have these marketing skills and tools because the marketplace is competitive. A service provider or product seller without marketing techniques has as much chance of success as a runner who doesn’t train before a race.

picture: logo of NWF
Logo of the Neuromarketing World Forum

What conventional wisdom tells us about consumer preferences has, in some cases, been proven correct by neural science using the latest techniques of real-time MRI scanning, and in other cases has been shown to be totally mistaken. Neural science is now being used to sharpen marketing campaigns. The use of the latest scientific equipment is out of the reach of the average small business, but adopting the fruits of such scientific research is not. “Neuromarketing” is a growing industry.

Some people may find the entire concept of neuromarketing to be manipulative and dystopian. The fact is, this is what consumers want. They don’t just want a pair of underpants, they want to feel powerful, or sexually attractive, and, when they wear those underpants, subconsciously, they DO feel that way. When you think about it, it’s not a bad deal. You can boost your self-image by buying a pair of designer underpants for a fraction of the cost of a course of psychotherapy. In the novel Pattern Recognition by William Gibson (2005), the character Hubertus Bigend, proprietor of a successful advertising agency, says:

“Far more creativity, today, goes into the marketing of products than into the products themselves, athletic shoes or feature films.”

Why? Because that is what you respond to, dear. That’s why.

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