“When we have a good balance between thinking and feeling… our actions and lives are always the richer for it.”
~ Yo-Yo Ma
How Can I Make a Difference?
Recently, I was listening to “Beginnings” an Audible Original by Yo-Yo Ma which he created as his response to the question many people asked early in 2020 as the impact of the Pandemic began to bite into people’s hearts, minds, and lives. That question was…
“What can I (as a musician, writer, dancer, manufacturer, accountant – or whatever your particular talent may be) offer people to help them cope and even thrive in the midst of these multi-faceted challenges?”
Ma tells his story (interspersed with beautiful cello performances) and the lessons he has learned through his life and interactions as he searched for the answer to another question: “Why am I me?”
You might be tempted to say, “Well, Ma is an internationally celebrated cellist and I’m… Just me.” I get that, but isn’t that an easy way of escaping from a potentially challenging question?
The pandemic (like other overwhelming events that disrupt our lives) gives us the gift of self-examination and provides us with a choice between continuing in our current direction or redirecting our lives and efforts in new ways. I think it also challenges us to look at the ways our presence and our work changes lives.
After September 11th 2001, Ma asked himself the same question. So did Japanese Novelist Haruki Murakami. Both of them considered what they could do… And the both came to the conclusion that the answer was to use their gifts to bring rays of joy, hope, and escape in the ways that were most familiar to them.
Small Touches Matter – Marketing 101
One of my friends lives in a small town in E.Java, Indonesia. She wrote to me the other day about the decision she made to keep her small sweet stand open last year as a declaration of faith in the future… One particular neighbour would come past every day, often with one of his grandchildren. Usually, he would buy a treat. One day, he told her that he walked past because the mere fact that she was there each day, smiling and serving people, reminded him that people are resilient.
This lesson comes through Yo-Yo Ma’s story repeatedly. Human connection and human touches matter. They are also powerful.
Possibly no democratic nation has done a worse job on marketing this human connection level than my own Australia. I fully appreciate the popular support for our isolationism and protectionism (although I’m not sure that we’re going to enjoy the fall-out from that decision when it comes later on). However, I’m noticing that all the unspoken messages sound more like robots than people… And many of the spoken messages cast the speaker as a ‘mouthpiece’ rather than a living, breathing, human being who is making touch decisions in uncertain times.
Creating touchpoints is basic marketing – and the number required to build trust is rising as just about every market sees an increasing level of scepticism. At the same time, those touchpoints need to be real – and this is where automation needs to be used with accuracy and precision otherwise those touches diminish connection rather than enhancing it.
Marketing to Humans
Yo-Yo Ma shares the following discovery:
“I learned from Pablo Casals that I was first human, second a musician, and third a cellist… But I came to that realisation in the reverse order: first through my cello, then through music, and finally realised my humanity.”
Each of us is human first and foremost, and we discover that through our passions, roles, and responsibilities… So are our prospective clients, no matter how much we identify them by their roles and responsibilities. This is why marketing materials and offers that only address the logical, thinking side of the decision either fail completely OR will be quickly outclassed by materials and offers that also address the emotional feeling side of people.
Some years ago, I was working with a company that was trying to reach C-suite executives in major logistics firms with an offer. I was already strongly imbued with Dan Kennedy’s Magnetic Marketing mantra that there is a human heart and body behind every office door no matter what Title the occupant holds. All other things being equal (i.e. Assuming that your prospective buyer actually could benefit from your product or service) they still have hobbies and interests, relationships, AND… They’d rather be entertained than bored! In fact, often the best ‘hook’ is a point of disagreement or conflict.
It’s why Outrageous Advertising works. It’s why Comic books and action movies are so popular. It’s also why ’The National Enquirer’ and other tabloids exist and are read by some surprising people and why conspiracy theories take root. Humans like to wonder ‘what if…’ and they will explore ‘maybes’ if you offer them in appealing wrappers.
When you remember that there is a human being who wants to be entertained on the receiving end of that email, advertisement, letter, shock and awe package, website, or phone, you’ll find ways to capture attention by appealing to their humanity and seeking to connect with them at a deeper level than merely finding common experiences.
Marvellous Things Happen When You Cross Borders
Going back to Yo-Yo Ma’s story, he talks about the ways in which art and music carried culture from one civilisation to another and the enrichment that resulted. Among his examples are those of Argentinian, Brazilian, and Oriental music and the ways in which the cultures intertwined and enhanced each others culture.
The same principle holds true in philosophical thought, in cultural attitudes, and in marketing messages. From a marketing perspective, this means that you can greatly enhance your impact and reach when you look outside your own local market and industry. When I look at Asian, European, UK, or US markets I look for Big Ideas to test and I’m also looking at the messaging used by different companies who are also targeting my ideal clients.
That can dramatically affect your results.