Method Marketing

“We believe what we want to believe, what we like to believe, what suits our prejudices and fuels our passions” – Sydney J. Harris (“Lies Are Not Easily Put to Rest,” Clearing the Ground, 1986)

If you know anything about acting, you’ve probably heard of Lee Strasberg and Konstantin Stanislavski. Strasberg was head of the famous Actor’s Studio in New York. Stanislavski, a founder and teacher at the Moscow Art Theatre, was the man who gave Strasberg his ideas about what came to be known as “method acting.”In method acting, an actor prepares for his role by getting deep into the skin of the character he is playing. He tries to understand his character by becoming him. Robert DeNiro, Sean Penn, and Marlon Brando are all method actors.

Stanislavski said that great acting makes the audience forget it is seeing something artificial. Strasberg used a literary expression borrowed from poet T.S. Eliot to describe this experience: “the willing suspension of disbelief.”

It’s an apt description of what actually happens when you read a good novel, watch an arresting movie, or see a captivating play. In each case, you forget that you are seeing something fictional. You aren’t fooled. You haven’t lost your mind. You have willingly stopped disbelieving in the fiction.

This is very similar to what we do when we read a good marketing piece. We start off (usually) fully aware that we are being sold and suddenly forget about it. Something is said or shown that triggers an emotional response in us that makes us want to forget about the selling process and focus on the story — the sales message.

The legendary copywriter Bill Jayme recognized this when he said that it is not only “in the theatre but in the marketplace too that there is a factor at work called ‘the willing suspension of disbelief.'”

How often has it happened to you?

Somebody’s trying to sell you something — a product, an idea. Maybe it’s a restaurant or a travel destination. You are listening, but skeptically. “I’m not going to get pulled into this,” you are thinking. Then, bit by bit, detail by detail, you find yourself being drawn into the dream.

At some point in the process, and usually without your noticing it, you are carried over. Your pulse quickens. Your senses glow. Your logical mind stops resisting and starts racing ahead — imagining how good your life will be once you own the product/service.

You have “suspended disbelief” — not because you truly believe all the promises being made but because you want to believe them.

“Method Marketing” is the title and theme of a very good new book by Denny Hatch, an old-pro direct mail guy. The purpose of marketing, Hatch points out, is to get your customer to suspend his disbelief and start dreaming about your product.

Take a look at your marketing materials. Try to identify how well you are able to achieve that goal. If you believe you are falling short, consider whether a method approach to marketing might work better.

A method marketing approach would demand that you:

1. understand the deepest needs/desires/feelings of your prospect

2. ignore just about everything else and focus on persuading your prospect that those needs are going to be met

Unless you get to the core — your customer’s most heartfelt needs, hopes, desires, etc. — you may never achieve the breakthrough marketing success you are after.

[Ed. Note.  Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]