How do you change someone else’s behavior? The question sounds rather sinister, I know. But think about it. You want someone to buy your product, donate to your cause, fulfill their obligations as an employee, quit smoking, slow down on the roads, eat their vegetables, pay back the money they owe you. I could go on. We’re all in the behavior game change business. We all want to influence outcomes.
Once we accept this, how do we make it happen?
Adam Ferrier is a consumer psychologist who runs a very successful advertising agency in Australia called Naked Communications. In a recent blog, Adam talked about how brands can be more effective in connecting with clients – by speaking about the film, Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray, and the book Existential Psychotherapy, which motivated him to change him name to Max.
Adam/Max says Existential Psychotherapy outlines four major conflicts we must resolve in order to come to terms with our existence and live a fulfilled life.
- Death. We have to come to terms with the reality that one day we will die. As Freud put it, ‘the meaning of life is death’.
- Isolation. We need to acknowledge we are alone in the universe. No one can ever know what it’s like to be you.
- Meaninglessness. We have to accept that life has no meaning.
- Freedom. We have the freedom to make choices and are responsible for the life we lead.
Adam/Max argues that brands need to help people reconcile life’s big questions in small ways. Brands with too much focus on values and personality are doughnut brands – they look sweet and desirable but there is a hole in the center. There is no reason for being. The more difficult part of marketing is to be clear about the purpose of your brand and how it helps people in both practical and meaningful ways.
In terms of Groundhog Day, we see Bill come to grips with each of these existential issues as one day is repeated over and over from the start. Bill can’t accept this predicament and goes through many stages of conflict: nihilism, disbelief, shock and social detachment. He becomes hedonistic and cruel, then depressed and suicidal until he eventually accepts his situation and starts to act constructively. This acceptance frees him from the repetitive turmoil.
Take home: establish where your brand fits in the purpose of life.