Philip Marlowe on Marketing | Bruce Turkel

Up on stage as the opening keynote speaker, I explained to my audience why their efforts branding their businesses by promoting the functions of what they sell or what they do was ineffectual. Instead, I suggested they should spend their time establishing an emotional connection with their customers. I showed them why this would both set them apart from their competition while inspiring interaction and encouraging repeat purchases.

“Function is an easily replicable cost-of-entry attribute. All of your competitors can provide that. But emotional connections provide much more powerful ways to demonstrate why your consumers should do business with you.”

I thought I had made a conclusive point, and the examples and illustrations I offered would help my audience understand why I believed they needed to do things differently. Hundreds of nodding heads and scribbling hands in the audience led me to believe that I had gotten my point across. 

I Don’t Buy it.

At the cocktail reception following the talk, lots of audience members told me that I’d opened their eyes to a new way of marketing their companies. A few of them even agreed that they’d been busy marketing the more generic parts of their business and finally they saw how they could set themselves apart from the other companies who did something similar to what they did. Two asked if I was available to speak at their association’s annual conventions. And three more asked if I was available to consult with their companies. 

But one stubborn guy couldn’t wait to tell me that he didn’t agree with what I’d said. He insisted that his clients only came to his company for what they did. He paid no mind to the relationships he had with his customers, nor how the experience of doing business with his company affected his sales numbers.

“They only care about two things,” he insisted “what we do and what it costs.”

This guy wasn’t swayed by examples, wasn’t swayed by metrics, and wasn’t swayed by case studies. He poo-pooed my experience and all my best arguments. 

I finally told him I didn’t know how else to convince him, wished him well, and wandered away.

What Raymond Chandler Knew

But the next day when I was flying home reading Raymond Chandler’s noir detective novel The Little Sister, I came across a sound explanation for my cynic’s position.

Chandler’s detective, Philip Marlowe, had just been offered money for an envelope full of incriminating photographs. The offer is from Sheridan Ballou, a high-powered LA theatrical agent who thinks Marlowe is trying to extort his client for murder.

Marlowe: “You can’t buy anything, Mr. Ballou. I could have had a positive made from the negative and another negative from the positive. If that snapshot is evidence of something, you could never know you had suppressed it.”

 “Not much of a sales talk for a blackmailer,” Ballou said, still smiling.

“I always wonder why people pay blackmailers. They can’t buy anything. Yet they do pay them, sometimes over and over and over again. And in the end, are just where they started.”

“The fear of today,” Ballou said, “always overrides the fear of tomorrow. It’s a basic fact of dramatic emotions… If you see a glamour star on the screen in a position of great danger, you fear for her with one part of your mind, the emotional part. Notwithstanding that your reasoning mind knows that she is the star of the picture and nothing very bad is going to happen to her. If suspense and menace didn’t defeat reason, there would be very little drama.”

A brilliant explanation of today’s new marketing realities that was written back in 1949.

If the fear of losing sales today didn’t override the fear of being made irrelevant in the future, my doubter may have seen that there was another solution to his sales problem. And if his reasoning mind could have overruled his emotional mind, he might have paid attention to the empirical data I offered.

What Does This Have to do With YOUR Business?

Even more relevant (especially to your business), Chandler’s words explain why your consumers are more likely to make continued purchases when their emotions overrule their intellect. To paraphrase Chandler, “if immediate pleasure and self-identification didn’t defeat reason, there would be very little buying.”

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