Music hall comedians used to launch into their first joke or sketch with “A funny thing happened to me on the way to the theatre tonight.” It was all nonsense, of course, just a way to get the show going. But a funny thing really did happen to me on the way to the theatre last week, and any modern day comedian witnessing it would have had his first 10 minutes laid out on a plate.
It was Saturday afternoon, and I was taking my daughter to the theatre where she was performing in a matinee. The route took us down a wide B’ road which threads through a housing estate and past the local hospice. As we approached, I saw a man in later years, walking slowly across the road towards the hospice – apparently deep in thought. We got closer and I realised he was a vicar, and for a brief moment I wondered what duty he was about to perform. The thought didn’t last for long.
A silver hatchback was coming the other way. The vicar was oblivious to its presence, and the car had to slow right down as he continued his leisurely crossing. The driver was clearly infuriated by the delay and blasted the vicar on his horn as he passed. I wasn’t prepared for what happened next. The clergyman spun around, made a familiar hand gesture and yelled “F*** OFF!” at the stunned motorist before proceeding on his way.
“Did he just say what I think he said? asked my daughter.
“Yep.” I replied.
“And he was a vicar?”
“ Unless he was on his way to a fancy dress party!”
We both dissolved in laughter at the incongruous turn of events. Father Jack is apparently alive and well and living in Rotherham.
What we were witnessing there, of course, was a peek beneath the veneer which he presents to the outside world. I’m sure the vicar doesn’t normally talk to people like that, but the combination of being startled by the car horn and a surge of anger caused the ‘mask’ to slip and a quick glimpse at what lay beneath.
We’re all like this of course. We present an image in line with how we’d like the world to perceive us, but the reality can be very different. Most of us don’t want the world to view us in a negative way – say as unsophisticated, uncouth, greedy, lazy or self centred individuals…or with a strong interest in some of the more base pleasures in life. And so we apply a veneer that is more refined, cerebral and sophisticated in both taste and action, than is our underlying pre-disposition. The monster within only makes an appearance when we’re under pressure or stress, when alcohol or drugs remove our inhibitions a little, or when we think nobody is looking!
But that monster is instrumental in most of the decisions we make, and he’s certainly making his opinions well and truly heard when we’re considering whether we will buy a particular product or service.
A great deal of marketing fails to hit the spot because it’s aimed at the prospect with the veneer still firmly in place. Over the years I’ve spoken to dozens of people about their marketing and have often had cause to criticise it for being too safe, too boring and too corporate. The reaction is nearly always the same…”But our customers are sophisticated/serious/refined people. They wouldn’t like anything too extreme.” In my experience, this is nonsense. They all have a monster lurking within, and he’s the one holding the purse strings. He makes decisions based on strong emotions, and you don’t light a fire under those by being too safe or corporate.
If you’re reading this it’s safe to assume that you’re familiar with my companies products and services and the way that they’re marketed. So who do you think responds to an advertisement that says, “Drivers, Here’s The Information The Police Don’t Want You To Have’ and then goes on to sell a book about avoiding speeding tickets. Teenage boy racers in baseball caps, perhaps? I just had a little look at our database of buyers. Here are a few interesting highlights:
- There are 34 men of the cloth (and they’re just the ones using their titles!)
- There are 51 knights of the realm
- There are 26 Lords and Ladies
Plus at least a dozen household names from film, music, politics and TV which we just happened to notice when their orders came in.
Now of course, I don’t know everything about the other people who buy from us, but it’s safe to assume that a great many of them are far removed from what you might expect, and far too refined/serious/sophisticated to respond to the sort of advertising and promotion we tend to favour. Except, of course, that they do.
If you’re not getting the response you want from your advertising and marketing, it could be because you’re trying to sell to what you see rather than what you get. And what you get is a lot more base and ‘earthy’ in its behaviours, needs, wants and motivations than it would like you to believe.
You need to sell to the vicar out on the street, not the one standing in his pulpit.
* My latest book ‘Why Didn’t They Tell Me? – 99 Shameless Success Secrets They Don’t Teach You At Eton, Harrow Or Even The Classiest Comprehensive’ is now published. Go to www.streetwisenews.com/why for full details.