I ran an interesting experiment on social media recently.
And the results have huge implications for most businesses. That’s because this little social media experiment addresses a deep, unspoken need your customers have as a result of the pandemic (one they didn’t have before any of this happened). I’ll spill the beans in a second, but first let me share why my experiment is so important.
On my Facebook wall I asked a simple question:
How high-maintenance are you now, compared to pre-covid?
And the response to this was something I did NOT expect.
Shortly after I made that post, I was flooded with nonstop notifications – to the point where I had to turn them off. Within hours, my post had received hundreds of comments. I’ve never had a post with this much of a response in such a short amount of time before.
It turned out that this small, seemingly innocent question was something that sparked that deep, underlying need I referenced earlier.
As a result, it was a topic people could not stop talking about. Everyone wanted to weigh in on the change they experienced – whether it was big or small. What I didn’t realize at the time was that this is VERY relevant to what most of your customers are thinking and feeling right now.
Why? Because it relates to a psychological phenomenon that very few companies are addressing.
I’m talking about none other than “Symbolic Stress”. (I covered this in the previous email in this series so make sure to check that out first if you haven’t already).
To quickly recap, symbolic stress is a threat to people’s identity and sense of meaning.
And behavioral expert Kurt Gray points out that the pandemic has had a huge (yet unnoticed) impact on our sense of identity. That’s because people’s identities are being sandwiched by who they were before Covid and who they hope to be afterwards.
And if you want your marketing to hit a home-run, you need to reinforce their pre-covid identity and help establish their new one.
This is a great opportunity for businesses who can figure out how to give people what they desire — a glossy new version of themselves in mind and body.
For example, many people are now seeing themselves as “active and health-conscious” as a result of the increased exercise they’re now doing (cycling is a great example of this with how much sales have exploded in the past few months). And you can bet that these customers who have taken cycling up are going to respond to labels that promote this new, positive identity.
On the other hand, a computer programmer who now works from home may not respond so well to his old label.
Instead of the worker who goes into the office every day he’s now the responsible dad desperately trying to manage raising his kids and getting more work done in a stressful time.
And if you’re thinking that your marketing needs to reflect this developing post-covid identity, then you’re already on the right track. But it doesn’t stop there – because your customers also have an innate desire to EXPRESS these new identities.
This is a huge point, and the main reason why my social media post got so popular.
What I saw in real time was that people wanted to express who they were BEFORE covid and who they’ve turned into during it.
It’s not enough to just “be” a new person. As social animals we have a deep, ingrained desire to let our friends, family and the world know.
Eugene Schwarts talks about this in his marketing and copywriting bible Breakthrough Advertising.
For maximum marketing effectiveness you need to build a “role” into your product – a positive self-image that people want to identify with.
These are the roles your customers want to play in life, and the personality traits they want your product to help them build or project.
These symbolic, never-openly-spoken projections of our own self-images are immensely powerful sales forces. Your task is to put them directly behind your product. To make your prospect feel the prestigious and select group they join when they become a user of your product.
And then, to express the implied traits, the recognition, or other positive aspects to everyone they know (and even to the people they don’t).
So as we progress through the pandemic and into the late stage of 2020, what traits can your product or service help your customers achieve?
What desirable group are they now a part of as a result of their actions during the pandemic?
What steps have they taken (or will take with your product) that will propel them to their ideal version of themselves – ones that the world will recognize them for? Tap into these and you’ll infuse an enormous amount of momentum into your marketing and messaging that your customers will love you for.
In my next email I’ll talk about your customers’ “Unstated Narratives” – and some of the subtle ways you can influence and reframe their inner dialogue to help them love your brand even more.