Osmosis Weekly #0009: Escapist Marketing, Fools, & Digital Paper

• 7 min read

Hey Osmotics,

Inside today's Osmosis Weekly...

  • Featured Rabbit Hole: Why Fantasy Matters
  • Growth Hacks: Why Logic Fails
  • Dumb Things to Share: Three Temptations

IMPORTANT: Before we dive into today's featured rabbit hole... I'd like to announce that I am hiring two full-time copywriters for a client. It's in the direct response health supplement space. Details are here: https://joinpineapple.co/. (Please forward if you know anyone who might be interested.)

Shower Thoughts on Fantasy in Stories

The other day, I was showering and my mind wandered off to Guillermo del Torro's Pan's Labyrinth (2006), a film I often revisit. It's one of those rare films that stay with you.

Without spoiling anything, one reason for this film's stayability... is the ambivalent ending. More specifically, the audience is left to decide whether the protagonist's fantasy is "real" or "imagined."

There are many movies that use this conceit: K-PAX (2001), Life of Pi (2016), Sucker Punch (2011). And the common theme shared by all those stories is that the protagonist has (or is) going through something unbearable, traumatic or challenging.

And in order to process this pain, they "create" a fantastical world where they are heroes. In many cases, the director – through the magic of film – will suggest to the audience that this world isn't made-up and could be real.

Is This The Real Life?

As per the famous quote by Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi:

“Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was myself. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man.”

SIDENOTE: This is why I love folktales and Dungeons & Dragons. Using "story" as a surrogate, children (and adults, as well) are able to process challenges in their life as they pretend, or step-into-the-shoes of heroes who overcome similar challenges. It's why we read fiction, watch TV drama, and share stories with neighbors.

There's a sales and marketing lesson here.

Where Does Your Audience Escape To?

Whatever you sell or market, you need to recognize that your audience has a fantasy world they escape to... in order to deal with their current pain.

I'll start with some basic examples: health, wealth and relationships. If someone is overweight, poor, or single... and they're looking to transform themselves, they're dreaming of a future where they're fit, rich or in love with their soulmate.

This dream is often an escapist fantasy that's not grounded in reality. It's often idealized, distorted and "perfect". Or in some cases, not very-well-thought-out and vague.

But don't tell them that. That's not what they want to hear. What you do tell them in your marketing and advertising is that your product will help them get one step – just one step – closer to that fantasy.

Hopefully, eventually, the person we're selling to... through experience, failure and mistakes... matures enough to recognize their fantasy is unrealistic, and creates a future goal that's more grounded... but – and this is key -- they are still grateful your product brought them closer to their revised dream.

We're All In The Business Of Selling Hope and Dreams

It doesn't matter what you sell... or whatever product you're trying to get more users for... or service you market. If you're an entrepreneur of any sort, at the end of the day, we are all in the business of selling hope and dreams. And it's important you know - deeply - what those dreams are... because when you talk to a prospect, when they see your ads, when they experience your product... they're not really there. They are their own future-self in their own fantastical world. +


Growth Hacks Worth Checking Out...

This week: Why being logical is expensive and ineffective, a neat tool for increasing engagement, and being a fool to take off the pressure of creativity.

The Psychology of Digital Marketing

Here's one of the best lectures on marketing and human psychology from Rory Sutherland, Executive Creative Director of OgilvyOne. I took tons of notes and I may summarize it at a later date as a "featured rabbit hole", but for now, here are my five favorite insights...

  • You can solve product/marketing problems in two ways. One, you work on making it objectively better. This requires engineers, R&D, and hard science. It is expensive. Two, you can solve it subjectively. This means making the experience of using your product better. You don't have to change your actual product, you simply frame how it's used in a new light.
  • Wait, what? Sutherland's argument (which he backs up with tons of proof and examples) is that human perception isn't logical or rational, but can be "hacked" via emotions. Humans evolved to rely on emotions because it's much faster than logic. That fast gut instinct kept us alive. And these shortcuts are still useful to us today... to a degree.
  • Examples: Wine tastes better when you pour it from a heavier bottle. Painkillers are more effective when you tell them it's branded. Chocolate tastes sweeter when it's round rather than square. A car "drives" better (smoother, more quiet) after it's cleaned.
  • How to solve bad product experiences: One of the clearest examples of an "emotion hack" is when the cable guy comes to your house. In the old days, they'd give you some absurd timeframe like "morning" or "afternoon" and you'd have to take the day off, you sit there, you can't shower or go to the washroom because the moment you do, he shows up. Simple emotional hack? The field technician says, "I'll text you 45m before I'll show up." Suddenly, the experience isn't horrible anymore. The uncertainty is gone. You can do stuff. You can even run local errands. The moment you get the text, you head home. The product hasn't changed. The cable guy is still showing up during the "morning" or "afternoon"... but the experience of it has changed with a simple text.
  • You can literally transform something that's bad to good by changing what people pay attention to. Uber's genius is letting you watch the little car on your phone drive up. Dyson's genius is letting you see the dirt so you feel a sense of progress.

There's a lot more insights in the lecture. I would encourage you to watch it.

Get More Engagement In Your Course

So in issue #0007, I talked about cohort-based courses and how it's a much more effective way of teaching online. When I attended one of Wes Kao's webinar last month, she used this neat little tool called Slido. It's kinda cool. Your audience basically scans a QR code on their phone and can then participate via polls, quizzes, and Q&A you set up.

Ethan Hawke on Creativity

Somebody somewhere posted a link to this Ted Talk by Ethan Hawke on Creativity. He shares the story of how Allen Ginsburg went on William F. Buckley's show on national television and sang Hare Krishna. When he went home to NYC, all his intelligentsia friends  were telling Ginsburg he embarrassed himself. Made a fool of himself. His response:

"That's my job. I'm a poet, and I'm going to play the fool. Most people have to go to work all day long, and they come home and they fight with their spouse, and they eat, and they turn on the old boob tube, and somebody tries to sell them something, and I just screwed all that up. I went on and I sang about Krishna, and now they're sitting in bed and going, 'Who is this stupid poet?' And they can't fall asleep, right?"

But it's Mr. Hawkes next bit that really gets me...

And so, I find that very liberating, because I think that most of us really want to offer the world something of quality, something that the world will consider good or important. And that's really the enemy, because it's not up to us whether what we do is any good, and if history has taught us anything, the world is an extremely unreliable critic. Right?

Put your creations out and iterate. Let the world give you feedback. Be the fool. +


Dumb Things to Share With Loved Ones

Because there's nothing meaningful left to say...

Something a little different this week. Been doing a bit of online shopping. Here are three curios for you.

  • Temptation #1. (For writers and strategists): I've been eyeing the Remarkable for several years now. At $599 Canadian, it seems expensive. ($847 if you include the stylus and folio). I mean, can it really beat my reliable Muji pens and plain old paper? And what do I do with my three dozen empty notebooks? However... the Remarkable 2 just came out (thanks to Osmosis member Olivia H. for telling me), so I'm tempted again...

Osmosis Members - do any of you have one? Can you tell me if it's worth it? Hit "reply" and let me know.

Quick update - I fished for feedback on the Ghost and BASB Circle communities. Someone sent me the ULTIMATE REVIEW. So tempted...

  • Temptation #2.  (For the stressed out). It's a LEGO typewriter with keys that you can actually press, a carriage return lever that actually slides, and a platen roll you can actually feed paper into. How can I NOT buy this?

By the way, if you haven't played with LEGO since you were a kid, I can assure you the experience as an adult is very meditative. I'm reading Jon Acuff's Soundtracks right now, and one of his methods for dialing down overthinking and stress is... LEGO.

  • Temptation #3. (For the board game geeks). My brother and I have been board game enthusiasts since 2003. And with everyone getting vaxxed and indoor gatherings returning, I'm eager to resume board game nights. I'm also tempted to get a "high-end" board game table for myself as well. What does "high-end" mean? Take a look at the video below. We're talking inset cup holders. Drawers. Built-in slots to hold cards up. Bluetooth speakers on the under-carriage. Price point? Anywhere from $3,000 - $10,000.

Coming Soon(ish)...

Book summaries go through seven stages at Osmosis: Reading, Raw Notes, First Draft, Editor Review, Revisions, Gif Hunting, and Publishing. Here's a status report of what's in the queue...
  • Breakthrough Advertising (1966) by Eugene Schwartz : 75% First Draft
  • Trusted Advisor (1998) by David H. Maister : 0% Raw Notes
  • The Hard Things About Hard Things (2014) by Ben Horowitz : 50% Read

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← Osmosis Weekly #0010: Micro-Essays, Twitter Hacks, & Pulp
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