Timeless Marketing Truth: The Unchanging Truth About Selling Fickle People.

What we want changes overnight; what makes us want it hasn’t changed in thousands of years, nor will it change in thousands more. The serious student of marketing can learn much from early analysts of motivation. Here is a bit of George French’s “The Art and Science of Advertising” from the turn of the 20th century…

“We know how to appeal to Smith because we know Smith.  We know what will please Brown because we know Brown.  We know how to get our way with Jones because we know Jones. What the advertiser must know is how to get at Smith, Brown and Jones without knowing any of them. While every man has his personal peculiarities… every man and every mind is controlled, in a large sense and to a great extent, by mind workings which were established before we lived, and are operated in a manner separate from his personality. 

Our minds are… more mechanical than we are willing to admit.  That which we loosely call mind is largely the automatic expression of tendencies controlled by physical conditions wholly apart from conscious intellectual or moral motives or qualities. What those physical conditions are, and how the knowledge of what they are may be used by advertisers, forms the body of that new knowledge some like to call psychology, so far as it concerns advertising.”

Professor Walter Dill Scott is more specific in his 1908 classic “The Psychology of Advertising”…

The Direct Command
“Now a large majority of people do things because they are told to do them.  It would seem… that more people are forced to action by a direct command than by any other method of appeal. This is undoubtedly due to the fact that the great mass of the people do not think things out for themselves. The thinking is done by the small minority and the bulk of the people accept the thoughts of the minority…

“If you will study advertising… you will notice that the direct command is used more than any other method… ‘Smoke Blank’s Cigars.’ ‘Use Blank Soap.’ ‘Let Blank the Tailor Make Your Next Suit.’  ‘Study Law at Home.’  ‘Be a Trained Nurse’…

Interest Your Prospects
“The association of ideas is a matter of great importance… You should find out something in which your prospective customer is interested  that can be associated in some way with what you are offering. Professor William James put this principle very clearly.  He said:  ‘Any object not interesting in itself may become interesting through becoming associated with an object in which an interest already exists.  The two associated objects grow, as it were, together…’

To again quote Professor Halleck:  ‘An eminent philosopher has said that man is completely at the mercy of the association of his ideas.  Every new object is seen in the light of its associated ideas….’

So “borrowed interest,” Scott shows us, is nothing new. Neither, we shall see, is the “limited time offer.”

Work for Quick Action
“The tendency for most people is to delay action. They seem to prefer doing nothing today that can be put off until tomorrow.  It is on account of this condition that so much thought is given to plans and methods calculated to bring about prompt decisions… The special sale which has a “hurry up” low price for a limited time; the special bargain sale in which the numbers of articles offered is limited; the special discount if the offer is accepted within a certain time… Various methods can be devised by anyone who will give the matter a little thought. 

“In conclusion,  we will say that as psychology is only human nature… if we learn what the average man is likely to think and do under certain conditions, we can be guided by that knowledge, as human nature is pretty much alike the world over.”

The old-timers knew a lot about what makes people buy. Tapping into their wisdom is a great way to make your marketing highly motivating and right up to the minute!