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November 6, 2008


To motivate and to convince are not the same thing.

Mistaking these two verbs can mean the difference between the success or failure of your communication. The process of convincing someone to change their position is often long, arduous, and very often impossible. It takes multiple factors coming from different sources and if you are lucky you can play a small role. Why? Because people make fast, emotional and unconscious decisions which they hold onto for dear life. Some smart cookie called this thin slicing which more or less means we use a thin slither of our brain to make a fast decision which is based largely on emotional factors which we then justify with fact.

To change this process means
inversing an emotional reaction and emotional reactions are irrational and persistent.

Motivating someone to do something means they have already made the choice and you are going to justify it. Someone who wants to give up smoking and goes to a class has made the first step and is much closer to quitting because they have already decided it’s a good idea. This doesn’t mean they will decide that continuing to smoke is an even better idea after a couple of drinks…

Sharon Krinksy, the president of Hoffman/Lewis wrote about the difference between behavior and attitude in advertising…

Contrary to what most people think, behavior is easier to change than attitudes. It is easier to convince you to eat a Big Mac than convince you that a Big Mac is a good thing to eat. It is easier to convince you to go to Las Vegas than to convince you that going to Las Vegas is a smart thing to do.

The way people behave is malleable. You are going to eat anyway, so why not eat a Big Mac? It’s cheap, it’s not weird, you don’t have to think about what to order, and the whole process takes about twenty minutes from the time you walk through the door to the time you leave. It’s easy to motivate the family to eat at McDonalds especially if you have children and if you have eaten there before.

It’s a different kettle of fish to convince someone to eat at McDonalds for the first time. You have to stand in line like during the war, you have to eat with your fingers, it’s salty, greasy and you even have to clear off the table when you finish. The same process with two different experiences attached depending on if I am motivating a pre-made choice or convincing you to make a choice.

Seth Godin put the timely political tilt on it but it ultimately boils down to the same thing…

Motivating the committed outperforms persuading the uncommitted. The unheralded success factor of Obama’s campaign is the get out the vote effort. Every marketer can learn from this. It’s easier (far easier) to motivate the slightly motivated than it is to argue with those that either ignore you or are predisposed to not like you.

So what does all time mean? Target the heavy-user who is going to be the most receptive to your motivation, the most likely to adhere to your ideas, and don’t waste time on those who aren’t. Simple.

Image from the ever wonderful Jessica Hagy

3 Comments leave one →
  1. GirlPie permalink
    November 14, 2008 1:54 am

    Man, the image says it all but the post is so smart. Now I can instantly see how to apply the faster-acting motivation to my client conversations… when I’d been presuming that my job was to persuade them… I had a hard time seeing what their problem was, but this post gives me a new way to approach it. Glad TAC gave a shout out so I found you — keep up the good work, and I really appreciate the short, punchy, useful length. I’ll look for you on twitter too; @TheGirlPie will be asking all sorts of questions if you’re on there!

  2. Tim permalink*
    November 14, 2008 7:59 am

    Hey, glad you liked it. I kind of shot myself in the foot with the short punchy length because the next post is much longer. Oh, well try to hang around anyway.


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