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3 Ways to Employ Approach Motivation in Your Small-Business Marketing

What to do when marketing your business feels like eating a soul-crushing bowl of boiled okra.

Photo by Heather Barnes on Unsplash

It is no real secret that many/most small business owners do not enjoy marketing. Many/most consider themselves to suck at it, frankly. As business owners, we have so many other things to do that we would prefer to do other than executing a marketing strategy — like sorting drawers of spare bolts by thread-pitch and gauge (something I actually had to do on a temp-gig, so I know the thrill personally).

All the myriad tasks involved in marketing our businesses that don’t seem urgent can be overwhelming; and if they DO seem urgent, then they stress us out and we procrastinate.

If we can overcome procrastinating and get down to working on our advertising/social media campaigns, writing our blog articles and understanding our website analytics, we end up doing it in a high-stress mode where we expect to fail. We tell ourselves that we have to do it to survive and grow our business, so we try to do it as best we can.

Sort of like eating your okra.

I can’t stand okra, but I am told it’s good for me.

It will reduce the chance of: (1) diabetes, (2) liver disease, (3) being too popular with the ladies for my own good.

So, down the hatch!

If that sounds like the kind of logic that you, Joe/Joanne the Plumber, reason through trying to write a weekly blog post for your SEO campaign on why one should not use Drain-O to unclog your PVC pipes, then you get what I am saying here. (I could be wrong about Drain-O and PVC pipes — I am not a plumber myself, so please don’t hire me to unclog your pipes.)

This kind of motivation is called Avoidance Motivation. We do the thing because we expect a negative result if we don’t. We may hate what we need to do, but we will (eventually) do it anyway because bad consequences might happen if we don’t. And, because it is now become an urgent task due to procrastination, we enjoy doing the thing less and suck at it more.

It would really help to have a different way to do those things we don’t really want to do and can’t get super excited about; or maybe even find a way to even get excited about it?

No promises though — I still can’t get excited about okra, no matter what.

As my therapist likes to say, we need to “reframe” the problem. We need to find a way to approach the marketing tasks with positive expectations driving us, not the anxiety-producing negative expectations that actually make it harder for us to do the thing in the first place.

Enter “Approach Motivation.”

Elliot et al. 1996 define approach motivation as the energization of behavior or the direction of behavior toward positive stimuli, while Avoidance motivation is the energization of behavior or movement of behavior away from adverse outcomes.
(https://growthoughtful.com/approach-motivation-vs-avoidance-motivation/)

To simplify: Instead of trying to do something because we want to avoid a negative consequence, we do it with the expectation of a positive benefit.

The idea of working towards positive goals isn’t a new idea, of course. However, more than just being motivated by pie-in-the-sky long-term goals, like being able to vacation in Bora Bora because business is booming, to hack into approach motivation we we want to think about more short-term positive benefits or ways to get some immediate reward for doing the thing we didn’t want to do. The benefit need not be something “good” for us either — it can simply be a positive stimuli that makes us feel good.

If you have seen or heard of the marshmallow game, then you know why the benefits or rewards need to be more immediate for approach motivation to overcome the negative bias we already have. We tend to be more motivated by short-term results than long-term, and when stress gets high, addressing the short-term need will always win out.

So, what are some strategies for taking advantage of approach motivation?

Link the benefit directly with the task.

Okra pairs well with bacon, just sayin’.

If eating my okra is a condition for getting some bacon too, then eating the okra might not be so bad, and could be perceived a good thing. Maybe even enjoyable(?). My cardiologist might disagree with me on what I consider “good” here, but it’s my dumb metaphor and I am sticking with it.

Similarly, if I can pair my business marketing task with some kind of thing that gives me some immediate satisfaction, or do it in a way that interests me personally and is, dare we say it?, “fun,” then that seems like a win-win. In expectation of that reward, I can even begin to look forward to the marketing task I didn’t really want to do.

Can that article on why Drain-O is bad become a good reason to find some great alternatives and even go review some cool tools you always wanted to use? Do you like to geek-out on the kinds of pipes and differences between them? Can you invent some kind of contest/special or game where your readers share their crazy-things-clogging-my-drain horror stories?

I am guessing that plumbers may have similar tool-fetishes that I and other tradespersons have, and will invent projects for the opportunity to buy and use a tool we had our eye on. And, every trade seems to have it’s own geek-level topics we love to opine about.

Plus, anything you can gamify will just make the effort all that more effective too!

Change the Scenery and Use Your Nose.

Do you get tired of sitting at your computer in your cluttered office writing an article or analyzing web stats (while it’s cold and rainy outside and there are so many clogged drains out there — you just know it in your bones)?

Employ the power of your olfactory senses. Your nose is designed to be an early-warning system — it is hard-wired to the fight/flight and emotional motivational centers in our amygdalae (brains). Therefore, it is designed to alert you to things you need to take action on, such as running away from bad smells and toward the good ones.

I write this at the start of Pumpkin Spice Season™. Perhaps, your tasks would be much more enjoyable while sitting in your favorite local coffee-shop sipping that Golden Latte of Autumn™? Bake some bacon on the morning when you have to do your blog-writing, or get a cinnamon-bun candle. Even the warmth and smell of something enjoyable, and/or the hubbub of activity at your favorite café might give you the motivation to do your marketing and a reason to get out of the office into a novel, welcoming environment.

Link marketing success with rewards that make you feel like a successful human

When you get 10 new “claps” on your blog post, put a dollar in a jar. When the jar is full, go splurge on something that makes you feel a little more successful than when you started.

Make the reward personal — a new hat, jacket, mug, whatever… If it’s personal, the success will be about you, not the task or even the business. And, because it is personal, we are more likely to become emotionally attached to the outcome.

Make the jar big enough to get a decent reward out of it, but not too large that you can’t fill the jar inside of 2–3 months. Longer than that, and the reward will seem too distant and you will wind up emptying the jar to buy a six-pack of Pabst after work.

What you splurge on might even be something that can add to your success — like a new tool, or some kind of book or course on a topic that you wanted to learn but couldn’t find the time and money to do. Because, tasks.

Whatever it is, it should be personal and unique to you.

More ideas?

I am sure you have some more great ideas here with how to employ approach motivation to marketing and/or business tasks you really don’t like doing. Feel free to share them! I am a marketer who works with small to medium businesses with these very things, so doing marketing tasks isn’t as much as problem for me.

But don’t get me started about bookkeeping!

I’d rather eat boiled okra!

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Shoot the Moon

Motivational platitudes will end up killing your motivation.

“If you shoot for the moon and miss, you will end up amid the stars.” You may have heard this pithy little koan before and many more like it. Maybe you’ve intoned it yourself to a co-worker who is struggling. American business culture is chock full of this kind of motivational pseudo-wisdom. We like it because we think that it will help us get jacked-up on metaphorical steroids so that we attack our business goals with the fervor that only a Norse berserker could match.

The reality is that this kind of thing is the gateway-drug into the self-help Pit of Despair. These pithy incantations get plastered on posters, coffee cups, desktop screen wallpapers — probably even on toilet paper, I would guess. (If not, now there’s a great idea for you entrepreneurs out there!)

These platitudes are just the lint that hide in the belly-buttons of motivational speakers who get you to spend thousands of dollars to come to a three-day seminar that will “change your life.” Never mind that they never tell you anything you haven’t already heard before. They’ve been floating around in pop psychology since before Freud was a toddler, peeing his pants having his own Oedipus Complex. It’s all been said. King Solomon, who even laid down a few pithy raps of his own, then concluded that “it is all vanity…. there is nothing new under the sun.”

You know all this but you go to the seminar anyway. It’s in the Bora Bora development (of the Southeast Compton Business Park) which makes the cost seem worth it. At least there will be some sun and you might even have some fun, maybe. You listen to the bajillionaire speaker with the huge hands who strangely sounds like the killer from the Silence of the Lambs, jump up and down, sing the Kum-by-yahs, do the firewalk, and come back ready to get at it, albeit a few thousand dollars poorer.

But you don’t mind because the moon will be yours for the taking! You get down to work, literally vibrating on all the endorphins and dopamine you can handle — only to smack right into the brick wall of reality the next day back to the office.

When you shoot for the moon and miss you will NOT end up amid the stars. You WILL end up floating in an unending dark void. Forever.

The fact is, we all miss when we shoot for the moon. We fail every time.

And, that’s a good thing.

It’s good because it:

— Reminds us that we are humans, made of dust; not demigods,

— Forces us to do a little self reflection and course-correction, if are not too stubborn to let it,

— and allows us to learn something important!

Now, one might read this article and wonder why I seem so very cynical and negative. I am, but that’s probably a Gen-X thing anyway. I do enjoy a pithy saying once in a while too, so I am just as susceptible. But I am saying this because I have experienced the extreme let-down of this kind of thinking over and over again. And again. And again.

They say that repetition is the key to learning. They never say how many times you need to repeat it though. Until you get it, I suppose.

It took me a long time to get it; and I am still struggling with it too, even as I write this.

Failure leads to a deep feeling of shame. The “I should’ves” will bury you in it. Shame leads to perfectionism and/or narcissism, which both metastasize into something abusive to you or others. At the very least, shame kills any kind of motivation you might have had once your head is clear of all those feel-good neurotransmitters and hormones. You find that you just can’t focus and never seem to get anything done.

After all, you probably aren’t walking around with a “reality distortion field.” The people who do are also mostly psychopaths. I am hoping that’s not who you and I are.

So let’s try a little reality-adjustment here. If we’re not shooting for the moon, can we shoot for about 20 feet? Maybe even two? And then two more?

These are goals we can reach. These are battles we can win. The objective is to become the sort of person who can reach simple goals, and then to be able to break down our oversized ambitions into little, attainable, micro-goals. And to grant ourselves grace when we fail. You know: “baby steps.”

If you do that, and your micro-goals are generally trending in the direction of the big ambitions, you might wake up one morning and realize that you have fulfilled that ambition. Or maybe you don’t seem to care as much about that ambition and wonder why you had it in the first place. Or, maybe you are happier in whatever life circumstance you are in.

You may also have saved a few thousand bucks so you can go to Bora Bora for real and enjoy it.

Here’s one pithy koan that speaks to me personally which I actually do like: “When you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” (It really scratches that unspoken Gen-X itch to kill something.) When encountering the lie of perfection, confront it with the lessons taught by failure and the grace of attaining your micro-goals.

And, cut yourself a break, ok?

That big moonshot? Let’s break it down into something mere humans can deal with. The only way NASA ever reached the moon was little by little, one setback at a time. What makes us really that different?

So let’s just “Shoot the Moon” and get on with life.

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Optimism Bias is Killing Your Business

Or, how to stop giving Google all your money.

Photo by Kazuo ota on Unsplash

So you start a business or a new marketing position at your company. You have a great product that “everybody” needs or wants. You have big dreams of how your business will take off and sales will come pouring in. You will retire early and enjoy the fruits of your labor sipping daiquiris from a coconut on a Tahiti beach.

I hear Tahiti is wonderful this time of year. It’s a magical place!

With big dreams and a budget which will never be large enough, you start SEO-ing your website and buy a bunch of ads on Google Ads platform. And on Meta’s (everyone is there!) and Instagram (because all those rich millennials are there!). You consider TikTok, but that platform is really not “on-brand” for your company, and making videos is too hard.

Ultimately, you are convinced that going all-in on Google is your best path to riches. You get a sale, maybe, and start to believe the Google “Ads Specialist” they assign you that the best option for you to start raking in the cash is to…. give Google a lot more of it.

You reason that it must be true, so you “de-platform” from the other ads networks and put all your ever-decreasing supply of eggs into the Google Basket.

You start to get leads, and maybe some of your website traffic increases. You are excited, because look! These people will surely buy my product or service! How can they resist?

But the “leads” are really just “oops I meant to click something else” or just aren’t panning out. You follow-up on them, but they are just browsing around, and not ready to buy. For those who are, they are too price-sensitive to really be serious about your awesome product.

You do close a couple of leads. Maybe 2–10 a month. So, you reason things are doing great!

Until they’re not.

So, you figure what you really need is a “Click Funnel” because that YouTuber making a million dollars per second has got a great offer to teach you how to do it, for a low, never-seen-before-in-the-history-of-marketing price of three easy payments of $999. Must be awesome!

I mean, just look at the paint job of that dude’s Lambo! It’s all chrome! Shining like the very Shekinah Glory of God!

You realize of course, that YouTube is another platform of Google, but hey — you did get a few sales from your ads; into which you pumped $5K (or more) into last month for your house painting/roofing/real estate/plumbing/coaching/yoga-ing business.

Then you run out of money. Google and the Other Platforms, has it. All.

And your website traffic tanks. You haven’t had the time to work on your Social Media and SEO campaigns because you have other things to do, like running your business.

The Next Great Downturn™ happens (which the nice lady at that Government Department of Broken Dreams said would “never happen in our lifetimes”).

Your business is dead.

Another victim of optimism bias.

What is Optimism Bias?

According to The Decision Lab (https://thedecisionlab.com/biases/optimism-bias), “The optimism bias refers to our tendency to overestimate our likelihood of experiencing positive events and underestimate our likelihood of experiencing negative events.”

Around 80% of the population, according to their research, exhibit an optimistic bias in a wide variety of circumstances. What is going well, will only get better, and this downturn won’t be as bad as I heard at the water-cooler from Joe (the weird “prepper” dude).

You think, if I just do The Thing harder and spend more money, it will turn around. It has to! My product or service is awesome! Everybody wants and needs it!

Don’t get me wrong: Optimism is healthy. It encourages us to press on in spite of difficulty and rejection. It sucks way less than pessimism, or reality.

It also causes us to think we can really do the impossible.

Yes, some folks do the impossible things. It’s a huge part of our American business mythos. The Steve Jobs’, Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos’ stories ring through our heads every day as entrepreneurs. What you don’t see amid all the hard work (which is true), is the out-sized impact of what we call “luck.” If you doubt that, I encourage you to read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers. Luck and the lottery of birth is a much more significant factor in those amazing success stories than hard work and/or talent.

Let’s Get Real

You have that awesome product. It is really great, but not everyone really wants or needs it. You have a budget and realize you need to spend it wisely and carefully. You are not cheap, mind you, but you realize that you need to really put that money where it will truly do the most good over time. You realize that the marketing game is a long-term play — a marathon, not a sprint.

You carefully assess the marketplace and what people really want and need. You seek to see your customers as humans, not digits. You begin to understand what they really want, and what problems your awesome product or service really solves for them. Some of those people do not have the problem your business solves, but you are clear on what the problem is — not just what your product does.

You work on the message and content of your website and outbound communications. You make sure they are consistent with your brand promise. You make sure the images and look-and-feel of the website all speak to your customers’ needs. You tone down the features of your product or service and crank up the benefits for your audience.

Once you have done that, you make sure the website is performing well on all the engines, not just on Google. You make sure your social media messages are appropriate and not trying to be all things to all people.

You ignore the Google Ads Specialist pleas for more money, make sure the ads are optimized and have the right message. You slowly begin running ads in order to see if your message is getting through. You measure the stats and seek to understand your website visitors’ behavior. You fine-tune the ads.

You become an educated marketer.

Over time, your brand becomes recognizable, and you don’t have to spend nearly as much. Your customers become fans of your business and spread the word for you. You may not even need to run ads at all. Or, you can afford to hire someone to run these things for you, so that you are able to run your business and do the other million things on your to-do list. But you do so as an educated businessperson who knows what makes your customers happy — ecstatically happy.

Doesn’t it take a lot of work to do all that? Yep.

Don’t you have too many things to do? Check.

It is worth it? Do you really need an answer to that question?

Work With a Partner to Help Educate You

You know the saying, “two heads are better than one” (and three heads make you a freak, so let’s not go there).

You probably need to work with someone who can partner with you to help you do the leg-work to understand your customer. You will spend money on that for sure, but you will also reap the benefits of becoming educated. The costs of doing otherwise is just too high.

Look for a partner who cares about your business and your customers first. Look beyond the sales-pitch and really assess whether they have the background necessary to understand the psychology of your marketplace. This isn’t a Fiverr or UpWork kind of thing.

This is about your businesses survival, after all, so don’t just trust anyone who tells you all about how they “10x your sales on Google” and “guarantee your website will be on page one in a month.” That’s all BS and you know it.

Stop solving the wrong problem and throwing your good money after bad.

Take the time. Make the effort. By doing so, you willpreserve your optimism and not become a victim of it.

Tahiti is calling. It’s a magical place.

Categories

What Is Human Experience Design?

Photo by The New York Public Library on Unsplash

Business is an integral part of the human experience. Since the first caveperson traded some beads for a bit of mammoth, and then arbitraged it for a new atlatl, there has been business.

Since there has been business which meets essential needs there have been people drawn together into groups — villages, towns and then to cities. Business is one of the key building-blocks of society.

Business is a major part of all our lives. Societies cannot run without businesses, just as families cannot function apart from the resources that businesses provide.

Business is as to human life and flourishing as eating right is to health. You can’t have one without the other.

Therefore, just as human societies are rooted in strong human relationships, businesses are equally relational by nature. Humans cannot survive apart from relationships with other humans.

Moreover, businesses cannot function without marketing. How else would Og the Atlatl-Maker™ get the word out that a pound of mammoth can buy a new atlatl (spears extra)?

In our contemporary, techno-capitalist environment we have slowly, but surely, divorced the relational aspect from business. Particularly in how we market businesses today, we focus on the measurable and quantifiable excluding the qualitative (mushy) relational experience. We are too often laser-focused on metrics rather than the person at the other end of the mouse, smartphone or VR goggles.

Not so long ago we would have dealt directly with our customer, who knew us and probably our family-members by name. We met their needs eye-to-eye, as fellow humans with a “How’s your day?” and a sales-winning smile.

Today, the machines and algorithms have replaced what was truly human in business marketing and operations. Eventually, like the vanishing cashiers at Walmart, we are interacting with fewer and fewer like-minded humans.

And, society is the poorer for it.

I have been a designer for more than 30 years now, and a website-developer for around 28 of them. I have been saturated in technology since I first learned how to program a game on a Commodore PET, and have been in marketing my whole adult life as a designer.

I also took on a second career for about 11 of those years doing design part-time while serving as a hospice and hospital chaplain. In my M.Div counseling training and my work with people experiencing all the drama and trauma of life and death, I have seen first-hand the importance of good human relationships.

Particularly relevant to me today, as I am now working full-time in marketing and technology again, the relationships people have with so many others in their places of business has been striking. I recall many, many times at the bedsides of loved-ones passing into the Great Beyond that many of the people touched by those passing have been the people involved in business with them. Workmates, customers, employees and employers all have been a huge part of that person’s life and are truly family to them.

These people are a major part of who they are as human beings.

So, how dare we treat people like mere consumers, numbers on a dashboard chart or spreadsheet?

We have the technology and tools to bring people together just as well as separating them into profitable market segments. It may take much more thought and intention to do this, and may not be as profitable in the short-term, but the long-term societal benefits are enormous.

So, let’s use that technology and those digital marketing tools in ways that enhance the human experience and make our journey on this globe more meaningful. We can do this!

This is what I mean by Human Experience Design.

Categories

To All My Small Business Clients: Marketing Isn’t Sales

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio: https://www.pexels.com/photo/smiling-male-worker-in-construction-helmet-in-studio-3772616/

No offense to any of my wonderful small-business clients (and some larger ones to), but STOP confusing marketing with sales.

I get it — most small-biz owners are not marketing professionals, nor do you have time for it. Call you about a roofing job, painting a house, or unclogging a toilet, and you’re are all over it.

Talk to you about marketing, and… [crickets]

“I ain’t getting no calls!” (says as I look at 20 verified calls on Google Ads dashboard in the past week).

I have encountered a similar dynamic at many other larger companies I have worked for. You’d think they’d have figured this out between their marketing and “inside sales” departments. The marketers are often blamed for sending “bad leads,” and salespeople are blamed for “not being able to close.”

No one seems to get much business though. Huh.

Here’s the thing. Marketing consists of consistent actions over time. Good marketing is not a panacea for a poor sales process, nor does it provide instant-gratification. Marketing is a long-term play, even in this digital, have-it-all-NOW era.

It also involves measuring (boring) stats like conversion rates, click-throughs, impressions and a ton of other (boring) things that many business owners like you haven’t a clue about, nor do you want to.

Unfortunately, marketing can also be impersonal.

Good marketing isn’t.

Sales, on the other hand, is a relational process with a much shorter and compressed timeframe. The stakes are higher, and the results are often more immediate.

You get the call, develop trust with your customer, and “boom” you have some new business! But fail to follow-through or provide impersonal customer service, and “poof” the sale is gone. Most of my small-business clients are in service industries, but this dynamic holds true for a small retailer too; the process is just even more compressed with retail.

Bottom-line, your sales success depends heavily on the relationship built with the customer.

When your marketing is consistent and delivers qualified leads to a great salesperson, it’s magic. Your brand image soars and the beer-fund is well-stocked.

When your marketing is inconsistent and focused on the short-term, but delivers some leads to a great sales person, it’s meh. Your business limps along until a recession or something wipes you out and the beer-fund is all gone (probably replaced with something harder, is my guess).

When your marketing is inconsistent, impersonal and delivers a few leads here and there, and delivers them to a salesperson who doesn’t have the time, interest or skills to form a solid relationship, it’s a nightmare.

Buh-bye business. Can’t even afford a beer.

But we want to go way beyond “good”, don’t we?

Great marketing and great sales requires forming great personal relationships.

Great marketing delivers a great brand-promise consistently over time. It begins the relationship-forming process by speaking to customers as people, not as market-segments.

Great sales reinforces the consistency of great marketing by cementing great customer relationships. It celebrates and catered to each customer’s uniqueness.

(And I am not even mentioning the importance of marketing/selling a great product. But that’s another article for another time).

Marketing and sales are not the same thing. The two work together. Like peanut butter and jelly. (Or, my favorite, peanut butter and banana — shout-out to the King).

Please repeat after me: “Marketing and Sales are not the same thing!”

Categories

Objectifying the Consumer

How consumer-centric marketing devalues our humanity

Photo by Eren Li — https://www.pexels.com/@eren-li/

In the marketing technology world of which I am part, huge emphasis is placed on data. In the lingua franca of our industry, analytics, return on ad-spend (ROAS), click-through-rates (CTRs) and many other such metrics are the very air we breathe.

Algorithmic platforms such as Facebook/Instagram, YouTube/Google all serve up content based on measurable metrics and analytics, so that they deliver content that’s tailored to individual wants and interests. At least, that’s what they tell us. But, it’s all about the data at the end of the day.

And, of course, it’s specifically all about the money that can be made from all that juicy data.

This makes sense, considering their business-models are based on the fact that the product they sell is the attention of their users (us), and their customer the advertiser. The content anyone consumes is driven by what can best serve up ads to eyeballs — to people ready to consume, hopped-up on dopamine like cocaine addicts.

We tend to forget that these consumers are people; not eyeballs, but real people — real individual human beings. And each of those people have unique needs, motivations, fears and desires.

However, what they are consuming is driven by bots and algorithms — non-humans. And we (technologists) made the bots.

See any problems with this situation?

In our attention-based economy, we call this “Tuesday.”

As humans, we each have this brain-mushmelon-thing in our heads which craves certain chemicals, neurotransmitters and hormones in order to function at all. We would die without them. We would never be motivated by any instinct to do necessary things like eat, have sex or run away from saber-toothed tigers.

Life, already brutish and short, would be a whole lot shorter.

As a consequence, we are literally creatures of habit. That mushmelon-brain of ours develops habits, hard-wired pathways in our behavioral matrix, which helpfully simplify our existence so we don’t go crazy and die. That hard-wiring is made possible through those chemicals flooding our brains.

Think about this: if you had to think about every action you take — every literal step for example — and make a conscious effort to make the next one, you wouldn’t even be able to walk, much less crawl. Ask any toddler.

We develop the required patterns of muscle movements and coordinated balance through developing a habit of being able to walk without having to think about it. This habit-forming superpower of ours is a really helpful mechanism. It’s great. We develop habits automatically and fairly easily. Some are helpful, but some not so much.

And there’s where our problem starts. In our own heads.

You see, the bot-makers have hacked our collective heads, and lumped us into “market segments” in order to sell our attention to the highest bidder.

It’s our highest vulnerability. What we perceive we need, as driven by those brain chemicals, we pay attention to. Whether or not it is really good for us. We pay attention to what triggers the most satisfying release of chemicals to our hungry-for-more brains. And, what triggers the largest release of those chemicals are the very impulses necessary for our survival: our fears, the need to eat, the need to belong, and the need to procreate.

Sex does sell — but not as well as fear, unfortunately.

Our fears threaten and override all other needs. That saber-toothed tiger in the bushes is not only a predator which may eat us, but also a competitor hunting for the same food we need to survive. If the predator eats all the deer, then we don’t have any. We wouldn’t live long enough to belong to a village which can band together for protection and efficient hunting. We also wouldn’t be around long enough to have sex and procreate in order to create a village in the first place.

Therefore, we naturally pay the most attention to whatever triggers our deepest fears.

That’s what the digital marketing platforms, with all those analytics and bots, have figured out. If we marketers (mea culpa) have figured out how to hack your fears, we can offer you the shiny trinket that will give you hope that you will overcome any threat.

Acquiring the shiny trinket produces dopamine and other feel-good brain chemicals. We naturally want more, so we feel more secure from our fears. So, we develop habits, which quickly form addictions, to the things which will help us overcome. Driven by the marketing machines.

In marketing, when we group many people together with the same fears, needs for belonging and sex-drive with the purpose of selling something to them, we call it a market segment. We call the people visiting our website, users. We strip away the individual, and reduce the whole to consumers, stereotyping and sorting them into profitable consumer markets.

It’s simply not worth it for us to enter the marketplace treating individual people as human beings because we have a million shiny trinkets to sell. We may virtue-signal that we do see people as fellow humans, but we all know this is a crass trick to get an emotional rise out of people so that they form emotional attachments to our sales-pitch.

Why do we do this? So that we marketers, who are also human individuals with the same fears and needs, can make a living like anyone else. However, we do it by hacking collective brains with algorithms and bots to gain attention for our clients — the folks who hire us to sell those million shiny trinkets. And our clients are also humans with the same fears and needs. We all gotta pay the bills, after all.

It all loops around in a circle, like a “dream within a dream.”

In reality, it’s the Circle of Life — and we have hacked it.

And, we know full-well what we are doing. Damn the consequences.

In doing so, we have created a huge problem. This problem boils down to the reality that in order to hack the Circle, we create entire societies of people who think and behave in ways that are manipulated by those bots and algorithms. Manipulated by a technology that doesn’t have fears, needs for belonging, or needs for sex (apologies to any sex-bots reading this, but it’s really not the same thing and we all know it). And manipulated by other humans who aren’t really interested in your own individuality or personal needs and desires but mostly by the money that can be made from the hack.

The sad consequence of all this manipulation is that we are living in societies without empathy. In psychology, those without empathy are known as narcissists, psychopaths and sociopaths — abusers. And, often the abused cope with being manipulated by repressing empathy. The manipulated also become the manipulators. People who treat other people as objects.

This is what manipulating and objectifying the consumer, people, does. It strips away what makes us human. It turns us into nothing more than carbon-based meat-bots. Machines that eat.

We become machines without empathy. Stripped of humanity.

Proving “I am not a robot” on a website lead form seems ironic, doesn’t it?