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Karen Leland

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'Ruby Sparks' Reminded Me That Persuasion Marketing Sucks

Posted: 08/20/2012 3:10 pm

"Yup, instead of changing himself, he's going to try and change her." That's what my friend Randy turned to me and said during a pivotal plot point in the new film "Ruby Sparks".

Now I don't want to be a spoiler and give the big reveal away, so I'll stay away from the details, but suffice it to say that the scene that followed was painfully hard to watch.

Why? Because, as Randy so pithily put it, what we all do when faced with a person or circumstance we don't like is try to change it or them. As fruitless as this exercise often is, we are sometimes so fixed on our point of view, being right or getting what we want, that we continue to waste vast amounts of time, emotional energy and even psychic efforts trying to force the situation.

Although "Ruby Sparks" deals with this dynamic in a one-on-one romantic relationship, I see this played out daily in my work as a branding and marketing consultant and leadership coach.

I observe high-powered entrepreneurs, C-suite executives and marketing managers attempting to get others to tow the line and do what they want them to do. I'd be less than honest not to suck it up and say I'm just as guilty of this fruitless exercise in trying to force the outcome I want from time to time as well.

But I'm not as bad as I used to be. Over the past year, I've actually made a conscious effort to learn to stop persuading and start inspiring, to stop trying to make things happen and leave more room for allowing, to say what I want and need authentically and vulnerably, but then let the chips fall where they may. I'm far from perfect at this, but I am evolving.

I think this evolution is also at play in the larger world of branding and marketing. Old-school marketing was about persuading clients, pushing them as to why they should hire you or buy your product. New-style marketing is about inspiring potential customers to come out and play, pulling them toward you -- of their own free will.

As luck would have it, besides seeing the movie, I happen to be reading a fantastic book called "Igniting Inspiration: A Persuasion Manual for Visionaries" by John Marshall Roberts.

"I view persuasion as a fading 20th Century art for those who don't yet know how to grasp and apply the basic laws of human inspiration," says Roberts. "Does this mean persuasion is somehow 'bad'? No, but it's just not as much fun as inspiring, and not nearly as effective. In the end it all boils down to this: persuaded people do things because they are seeking some extrinsic reward. Inspired folks do those same exact things because they intrinsically want to."

Marshall's book clearly delineates a three-dimensional view of human nature:

The material dimension of human beings. This includes the body and all material things in the universe. These things are brought to the mind via the five senses.

The mental dimension of human beings. This consists of thoughts, feelings and ideas. These thoughts -- especially the re-occurring ones -- tend to occur within a specific context (usually not conscious), based on certain hidden assumptions.

The spiritual dimension of human beings. This is the pure potential we all have. It's the source of intelligence and life energy and underlies the material and mental realms.

Roberts' very on-point point is that if we view our customers, clients, co-workers and others from the material plane, we see them as objects to manipulate and will engage in actions to pursue or, even worse, force the outcome we desire.

However, if we think about these same people from a spiritual dimension, we realize that speaking to bigger truths, larger purposes and deeper insights results in inspiration.

Just think of the last time you were forced to do something.

How about persuaded?

Now how about inspired to take an action?

I'll bet the price of a movie ticket that the qualitative difference between how you felt about doing whatever it was you did changed substantially based on which of the three areas your answer falls into.

So how do we inspire? Pretty much in the same way that "Ruby Sparks" protagonist and novelist Calvin Weir-Fields (played by actor Paul Dano) discovers in the film. We allow other people to be who they are, and address our actions to that higher part of them. That's easier than it sounds, especially when we live in a business world chock-full of the persuasion-as-power model.

One side note: Calvin's brother (played by the always-captivating -- and sexy -- Chris Messina) has a scene where he encourages Calvin to turn toward the dark side and try and make Calvin's love interest, Ruby, do what he wants. The point being that it's important to surround ourselves with people who recognize the value of building our branding and marketing on inspiration, rather than persuasion, if we are to have any hope of succeeding.

Karen Leland is a best-selling author, marketing and branding consultant and president of Sterling Marketing Group where she helps businesses implement modern marketing, hone their business and personal brands, and create winning content. Apply to win a free 30 minute Lightning Strike Strategy Session by filling out the contact form here and letting Karen know why you think your brand needs some inspirational polish. For questions or comments, please contact her at kl@karenleland.com.

 
 
 

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