The IKEA experience is rooted in a belief

I am not much into indulging in the retail experience. I could care less about walking up and down aisles of loot, envisioning stuff I might want to have at home. Nope. I am the kind of guy that knows what I want to buy and strikes quickly on that impulse. No mess, no fuss. It’s an in and out shopping exploit.

Or I just go online.

Then there is IKEA. Sure, the company has had its share of bad press of late. (All of which could have been avoided by folks using the included strap and bolting to fix their dressers to the wall.) IKEA is an experience for me. Judging by my last venture there, it’s that way for most everyone who visits.

IKEA has built its experience on its brand.

In the spirit of transparency, I should tell you that I worked on the IKEA brand many years ago. But I’m pleased to see that it has maintained a shopping experience so pleasant that it has become a destination for many.

IKEA’s parking lot is littered with moving vans and family cars with license plates from a multitude of states. Those same families file into the store cafe to fill up on a lunch or dinner – typically, beef or chicken meatballs – and follow that up with an hour or so jaunt through the store.

I have never been let down by IKEA, and neither have my family members. Just last week, I went with my son and his family. They came along looking for something fun to do, without any intention of buying. When we left, they spent just shy of $400 on goods for their home – and probably would have bought more if we had more room in the car.

IKEA functions according to an unwavering precept

At Stealing Share, we believe human behavior is driven by what we believe to be true about the world and ourselves. IKEA’s brand is rooted in the idea that a stylish home can be had by everyday people. So its stores showcase how that can be done.

It focuses on the little things: The maze-like design of the two-story structure, the kids’ playroom allowing parents to fully dive into the shopping experience and the offering of food and drink all contribute to its brand promise. It is a concierge service for those who normally can’t afford it. The belief is: “I believe I should be treated with respect for my lifestyle.”

While I only visit the store every year or so, when I go I always am expecting to buy something and to have a fun time doing it. I don’t know of any other retailer that holds such a place in my heart. What’s more, I don’t see that behavior of mine changing any time soon.

What is the deal with Pokemon Go?

I am the last person to comment on the mania surrounding a Nintendo game, but the immediate popularity of Pokemon Go is too immense to ignore.

And too interesting to leave alone, too.

Pokemon Go
The Pokemon Go craze has been swift, but what does it say about its users?

Reports are that the game has been downloaded more than a million times since its release just last week and Nintendo’s stock has jumped 25%.

What’s going on here? Is this just a fad or something larger?

The trick of Pokemon Go is that it uses augmented reality in which players use their phones to find Pokemon characters in real places, like churches, malls and just down the street from where you are standing. People are walking around their cities with their phones out, looking for these characters, capturing them and using them to fight battles with others who have captured other characters.

My Twitter feed was swarmed by this craze over the weekend with posts from celebrities, reporters and authors. You know, intelligent and thinking adults. Pokemon, which I’ve always thought was just a kids’ card game with silly looking characters, has taken quick root with a larger demographic with Pokemon Go.

Why Pokemon Go is so popular

To understand why people have flocked to this game, you have to understand how preference works. We buy the things that define us in an aspirational manner, even if we are not aware of it. (Most of the time we are not.) I didn’t buy a sports car because I thought it made me look cool. I did it because I wanted to be cool.

The brands we most covet align themselves with such identifications. The Nike wearer is one who wants to “Just Do It,” win without the hassle that usually clutters our life.

Pokemon Go has tapped into a very interesting desire – The yearning to make your current world important. The game is a fantasy that your everyday life and everyday places are important and part of a larger universe.

Intellectually, we can all make the argument that our current surroundings fit that definition. But Pokemon Go makes it real. Well, as real as an app on your phone can make it real.

Of course, you may be seeing people walking down the street, looking at their phones and bumping into things. There have already been reports of injuries as well as users finding a dead body and others luring robbery victims. As sad as those things are, those events increase the importance of this augmented reality.

I haven’t downloaded this app yet and doubt that I will. (Famous last words.) But the appeal of it lies in a self-identification of many – and that’s why so many people are hooked.

Facebook Politics. Keep it private.

Facebook Politics are NEVER persuasive

Facebook Politics
Trump or Clinton or Sanders?

Facebook politics (posts about political identification) seem to be more and more commonplace today. I’m not so different from you. I have deeply felt political loyalties. However, if you are like me at all, you just cringe to see opposing views posted on Facebook by your friends. However, I don’t cringe when my friends post messages that agree with my bent. What’s going on here?

Its easy to dismiss this personal hypocrisy and blame it on the idea that we all Facebook Politicslike it when others agree with us.

I think that is true, for the most part. But it feels to me that we get our nose out of joint most often when our social media acquaintances post confident opinions on religion or politics.

Other topics don’t seem to bother me too much. I read them but they never ruffle my feathers. Facebook Politics and Facebook religion… well those are different beers altogether.

Facebook is an interesting and timely example of personal branding

For many of us, our Facebook page is the banner of our private brands. We use it to tell the world where we have visited, what we have eaten, what we have seen, who we love and.. what we believe (insert politics or religion here).

I’m no different. A search of my Facebook page reveals posts from my business’s blog, trips I have enjoyed with my wife, restaurant meals that were (sometimes) memorable, pictures of my family and grandchildren and very little more. I try not to post things that express my views on religion and try (sometimes I fail) to ignore political posts.

Facebook PoliticsWhy? Is it because I look at Facebook as a branding tool? Is it because I find posts from others on these topics occasionally offensive? I wish it were so simple.

The truth is that I avoid posts that talk about politicians, politics and religion because I am a student of persuasion. It’s part and parcel of what I do for a living. As a brand strategist, my goal is to position brands in a way that they become persuasive to prospects (and at the same time reassuring to customers).

Facebook politics as a focus seems futile to me. I know how difficult it is to change someone’s mind and I use every tool available to me as a professional brand guy to make the effort successful. I utilize research, competitive and market analyses, switching triggers and a projectable research based understanding of beliefs.

I know that the best way to change a behavior is to align a brand message with an existing belief held by the target audience you want to influence. When done with aplomb, you are not changing behavior insomuch a realigning a behavior with the self-definition of the target audience.

This process works because we are all prisoners of our belief systems. What we BELIEVE to be true (note that it does not have to be true, just believed) always controls our behaviors because it creates the needs and wants that control all of our actions.

Brand is self-identification

Coke is a major player in consumer packaged goods
Are you a Coke?

Usually, this self-identification is general—it forms a philosophy of our lives that gives us personal meaning and eliminates internal conflicts between what we do and what we believe.

Human beings naturally seek refuge in agreement and are repulsed by conflict. When you engage in a behavior that seems alien to your belief systems I can pretty much guarantee that you will eventually cease that behavior. We may be emotionally attached to Coca-Cola but we are not a COKE.

Religion and Politics are a different story. Depending on your bent, you ARE a Christian, Muslim, Atheist Buddhist, Hindu, or Jain. You ARE a Republican, Democrat, Independent, Socialist or Libertarian.

These are the fiber of your belief systems. Rarely are they challenged (as adults) without a catastrophic event.

What this means is that we form attachments to these ideas WITHOUT cognitive introspection. They are emotional beliefs not rational ones.

I know from commercial experience that ALL purchase decisions are emotional choices. They are not cognitive. We may believe we have rational reasons for the things we buy but they most often are rationalizations of an emotional choice. We back-fill the rational to defend the emotional precisely because we can’t abide internal conflicts.

An exercise in futility

Hillary Clinton LogoSo I ask you the question I ask myself, why post your religious views or political polemics on Facebook? Is Facebook politics worthy of your time and effort?

Nothing you say could possibly change someone’s mind because rational arguments, from either side of an issue, will not change anyone a jot. It is an exercise in futility.

A mentor of mine once told me that communication without purpose is at its best unconstructive and at its worst destructive. I think that has never sounded more true to me than hearing about Bernie, Donald or Hillary on Facebook.

We all are where we are and all we risk is offending those who do no agree with our own beliefs with a ZERO chance of changing someone’s mind. I actually believe that it makes others more entrenched in their beliefs. It’s human nature after all.

The promise of dōTERRA essential oils

A few weeks back, I popped over to my son’s house to see my two grandkids. The visit, much like other visits to his place, was filled with little legs running back and forth, laughing and tiny voices asking silly questions of me. I love it. But, as is usually the case, the little buggers wear me out fast.

Don’t be a cynic about dōTERRA.

I took a seat in the living room in my usual spot, an antique sofa, and began to doze off (those kiddos really tucker me out). As I was drifting off, I noticed a wonderful aroma: a citrusy spice that relaxed me instantly. Turns out what I was enjoying was an essential oil called On Guard, extracted by the company dōTERRA, that was emanating from an essential oil diffuser.

I didn’t want to admit it, because I often find the essential oil craze to be a bit of a pyramid scheme, but the fragrance relaxed me tremendously.

I have become a closet dōTERRA user.

It’s true. My ego just wouldn’t let me admit that I was really curious about dōTERRA. Certainly, aromatherapy has been around for eons. What’s more, I couldn’t find any online conspiracies about the company. Seriously, what is the deal with that? That’s nearly unheard of these days.

So I snagged a couple samples from my son: a lavender, peppermint and frankincense concoction, and began rubbing them into my neck each morning. Funny thing, I now look forward to that process each day. The word on the street was that this mix would generate a general sense of calm and wellbeing. The mix made me feel relaxed, indeed. What’s more, I found my sniffer wanting to seek out the scent as much as possible.

The branding process always hinges on what we believe — in other words, our precepts. dōTERRA has work to do to address the initial precepts that many have about essential oils, like the precepts I had about them: That it is a pyramid scheme, flavor of the day, and all about making a sale.

The real story behind dōTERRA is how a tiny smell and dab of liquid can change a mindset, as it did mine. That’s real power. Right now, the company’s website is solely preaching to the choir and that has to change. Profound growth will come if and when more people like me jump onboard. Not until then.

Planned Parenthood and the power of belief

How powerful are beliefs when it comes to the self-identification that I call branding. In many ways it is the All Powerful Oz. You know Oz? He is the man behind the curtain that pretends to be a reality.

Not only do our belief systems control and create the purposes and needs that we covet in life, they also shape and filter the information we see every day. I am making the argument that our beliefs control everything we do, use, buy and integrate into our lives. This is why we tell brands that, if they wish to grow market share, they need to personify (i.e. reflect) the beliefs of the target audience they wish to influence. It is not enough for a brand to have the bells and whistles of innovation because consumers view the value of a brand through the colored lenses of their own precepts.

What exactly do I mean by this? The point I am making is that unless you pander to the beliefs of the target audience you will never break through to them. Pander can have very negative connotations. But the filters of prejudice (meaning to pre-judge based upon core beliefs) are so powerful that no message can get through. If the message does get through, human beings bend that message to reinforce their world view.

What people believe about Planned Parenthood.

Here is a politically hot topic example. The pro-life faction of American society holds the precept that life begins at conception as fundamental to their very being. Its members see an attack on their position as an attack on themselves. It is deeply personal. Please forgive me if I am using a topic close to your heart to make a point. I could just as easily chosen from another belief system. This one, however, is timely.

Remember a few months back, videos were circulating on Facebook with a hidden camera exposing Planned Parenthood for selling fetal body parts? Many of my Facebook friends shared the video and many more expressed their outrage over the expose. Planned Parenthood became the most worthy advisory of their desire to see abortion eliminated. As a belief system, this is the Manga Carta of personal identity. So steeped is it in the fabric of believers that it surpasses all other concerns.

Planned Parenthood
Turns out the Planned Parenthood video was edited.

So, when the reports started to circulate that the video tape was in fact edited and manipulated, did the same Facebook friends circulate the rebuttal? Nope. Not a one. They chose to believe the first report because it supported the agenda of their beliefs. They did what we all do when faced with information that seems to be at odds with our core beliefs. They ignore it.

But wait, it gets worse. Just recently, a very conservative judge in Texas (in a very conservative state) brought charges up on that video tape. Not against the Planned Parenthood characters. Nope. He charged the producers of the tape with fraud and intent to commit a crime (soliciting the sale of human parts).

So what do the right-to -life believers say about this? Well it turns out to be just another example of corrupt government, reinforcing their belief in the institutional injustice of today’s government. Truth, which is always subjective anyway, simply can’t win and has no place in the minds of true believers.

Brands and marketers who wish to change markets and grow share at the expense of their competitors should pay special heed to the power of belief. If your brand does not understand the preceptive power of the prospects you wish to influence, you run the risk of them ignoring you at best or seeing you as a reinforcement of how out of touch you are at worst. No new truth or product benefit will save you. Human beings covet the WHY. They want to know why something is true and not just simply the facts. Great brands know this. That’s why choosey mothers choose Jif. Don’t believe me? Ask Skippy.