Persuasion, Loyalty and Pain (Part 2)

Persuasion, Loyalty and Pain (Part 2)

Pain: Pathway to Loyalty

(In Part 1, I wrote about the relationship between pain and customer loyalty. In this post, I dig a little deeper into how that relationship works. Part 1 is here.)

Your prospects have a million different distractions fighting for their attention. And you need a way to break through that noise, right? You want to rise above the crowd, and make yourself the preferred supplier of whatever it is that you sell, don’t you?

There’s a zillion ways to do that.

You can hire marketing consultants to run your marketing campaigns for you. You can buy advertising and saturate your target market with your offers. You can hire copywriters and graphic artists and SEO experts and bombard digital media to get the word out.

Those ways all cost a lot of money. And I suspect that if you are reading this right now, you don’t have vast sums of money to spend. That’s the bad news. The good news? There is another way – a way that doesn’t take a lot of money. Instead, it leverages the power of your people’s pain.



Now, this next bit is really important for anyone who wants to create fanatically loyal customers. I’m gonna move pretty fast here, so hang on.

Leverage Our Most Fundamental Reality

Traditional advertising appeals to primal urges like sex, belonging and approval. But there is one urge even more primal and more compelling: the urge to escape pain. Psychologist Jordan B. Peterson believes pain is the most fundamental truth of human existence. And the one particular pain common to every human is this: the pain of an incomplete or fractured identity.

An incomplete identity is the result of unanswered questions. But not just any questions. Every human is driven to get answers to the 4 Big Questions:

  1. Where Am I From?
  2. Why I Am I Here?
  3. Where Am I Going?
  4. Who Am I?

Until recently, culture provided ready-made answers for those questions. And that is the normal way to get answers to those questions. But culture has fractured, (you see it everywhere), and individual identities suffer as a result of that fracturing.

That’s why cults are tempting to many people. Cults can attract, engage and keep people for one simple reason: the identity of the cult is more complete than the identity of the individual.

If you want to make a powerful impact with your brand, your brand’s “identity” must be more complete than the self-identity of the people you target.


Effective brands project an identity that is both consonant and complete. That means everything about the brand fits together, and there are no gaps in how the market perceives the brand.

Most brands do not project a consonant identity. Most brands are ineffective. And that’s why so few brands command fanatical loyalty.

If you want to make a powerful impact, then your brand’s “identity” must be more complete than the self-identity of the people you target. And these days, almost everyone suffers from a fractured identity.

Consonance Attracts, Dissonance Repels

When you project a strong, consonant identity into the marketplace, it exerts a gravitational pull on people. It is psychologically irresistible, and it has nothing to do with whatever it is you actually sell. Here’s why:

The opposite of “consonance” is “dissonance”. A strong, consonant brand is an irresistible force to anyone experiencing cognitive dissonance. (Remember, we talked about cognitive dissonance in part 1.)

On the other hand, if the identity you project is weak, incomplete and dissonant, then it will actually repel people. (Maybe that’s why you aren’t getting better results… Just a thought.)

Almost no one is consciously aware of this effect, even though it happens constantly. It is subconscious.

As you might imagine, I am not talking about traditional advertising. I’m talking about making some adjustments in how you communicate with your market.

If you’re desperate for better results, then maybe it’s time you learned something new. Maybe it’s time you tapped into the subconscious drives of your prospects.

And there is no drive more compelling, more urgent or more common than the drive for a consonant self-perception.

Fill the Hole in Their Psyche

Someone who has a psychological addiction experiences gaps or “discontinuities” in their identities. Those gaps cause tremendous pain, often unrecognized pain. Addiction can numb the psychological pain, but does not cure it. This psychological pain is internal dissonance – a form of self-rejection.

So how can that help you create more loyal customers? Let me answer by asking a question: Do you offer anything that helps people?

If your offering helps people in any way, then you have the opportunity to ease their suffering. And if you can do that, you are not merely making a profit. You are actively helping to prevent even greater suffering. Now, your product or service alone won’t do that. But combine it with a consonant image and a coherent identity? Then you become their super-hero.

superheroCults offer people a more complete identity as a “remedy” for their own flawed identity. However, that offer is almost always poisoned with some form of psychological coercion.

You won’t do that. Instead, you’ll merely offer your customers a healthy, coherent and harmonic identity of your own. Combine that with a helpful product or service offering, and you can actually make the world a slightly better place.

This type of subliminal brand-identification activity has its roots in the same psychological phenomena that both triggers and strengthens psychological addiction. Yet when we do it this way – with a coherent brand identity – it is not corrosive to personalities. And it is far better for humanity if you can keep people out of the grip of cults.

Salve the psychological bruises and quiet the internal dissonance for your customers, and they will become fanatically loyal to you. Your place in their psyche will be unassailable because they won’t be conscious of how you’ve helped them. They’ll only know a deep devotion to you and your brand.

The memory of their pain will not linger. They will only be aware of a strong feeling of pleasure towards your brand.  In short, you become their hero. And if you are their hero, then you can be sure they will grant you their loyalty. And that translates into things you can spend: higher profits because your average lifetime customer value goes up, your customer acquisition costs go down and your word-of-mouth marketing increases.

That’s the way to ease a lot of your pain as well.

Your Brand as Pain Relief

Some “experts” say that a brand is a promise. I say phooey.

A brand is an identity.

“Find their pain” is a fairly typical approach to marketing. But when you commit to solving the problem of identity, you are addressing the most fundamental pain your customers feel. Great marketers have always done this intuitively. Remember Apple’s Think Different campaign? Or Nike’s Just Do It campaign. Those were targeted at identity, and that’s why they were so effective.

If the essence of your brand is strong, coherent, and consonant identity, it will inevitably pull people into its gravitational orbit.

On the other hand, if the essence of your brand is fractured, then it holds very little attraction to all but the most broken and desperate people in your market.

When your essence is fractured and incoherent and dissonant, you are nothing but a vendor. That’s the retail version of hell. No one wants to be there.

Next week, I’ll talk about specific steps you can take to give your brand an irresistible identity.

How can you make your personal brand unforgettable?
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Ad Analysis – Jack Daniels Whiskey “Our Town”

Ad Analysis – Jack Daniels Whiskey “Our Town”

I hate Jack Daniels. Not the man. The whisky. Sour mash whisky is just not my thing.

Lest you get the wrong idea about me, I am not anti-whisky. My favorite way to spend an evening is to share a fine tobacco and even finer single malt scotch with good friends. I’m pretty damn picky about my whisky, my tobacco and my friends.

I’m pretty damn picky about good writing as well.

And that brings me to the subject of the Jack Daniels commercial called “Our Town.”

It’s one of the best TV ads of the past year. I’ll wait for you to watch it.

This is an award-winning ad. But Jack Daniels is in business to sell more whisky, not win advertising awards.

Do you think this ad serves that goal?

I don’t have access to their sales figures, so I have no proof. However, I know great writing and great advertising. This is outstanding writing and top-shelf advertising.

I am confident that “Our Town” has been very good for Jack Daniels‘ sales.

What we can learn from this ad? And – most importantly – how can we apply it?

Hemingway, Not Faulkner

“Our town” is almost Hemingway-esque in its minimalism. Very few words in this 60-second commercial, yet each one is paired perfectly with its images.

It’s a fine line we walk when trying to persuade people. You want to use exactly as many words as it takes, but not one more. And it is far easier to err on the side of “too many” than on the side of “too few.”

This ad conveys so much emotion and atmosphere with so few words. It is almost an art piece by itself.

Keep it short.

Keep it direct.

Small, precise hammer blows will shatter the largest boulder.

Imply and Infer

The ad has no obvious sales pitch. No discussion at all about product features or product benefits. A less adept advertiser would do something trite. The pitch would go something like this:

Let’s show a party with hordes of wealthy attractive 20-somethings laughing together. And Jack Daniels whisky is the centerpiece of the party.

You know exactly what I’m talking about.

“Our Town” is the polar opposite of that sort of advertising.

In fact, the words “Jack Daniels” are spoken just twice in this commercial. And one of those times is in reference to the people who are direct descendents of the man Jack Daniels.

The only image of the product itself appears on screen for a mere 3 seconds.

In short, if you were a beginning marketing student, you might think this ad did a lousy job of selling whisky.

And you could not be more wrong.

So why does it work?

Identity Trumps Everything

This ad is one of the rare ones that operates at the deepest level of persuasion – the level of Identity.

To review, persuasion can happen at three levels:

  1. Facts
  2. Analogy
  3. Identity

The only Facts in the “Our Town” ad are facts about people. Nothing about the product.

The ad is completely lacking in Analogy.

But the ad hammers Identity.

It evokes almost every pleasant emotions that human beings enjoy:

  • Community
  • Individuality
  • Duty
  • Loyalty
  • Tradition
  • A little rebellion thrown in for good measure
  • Humility in their success
  • Pride in their skill
  • Home

The message is clear, even though it is never stated in words:

Good people enjoy making Jack Daniels. Good people enjoy drinking Jack Daniels. You’re a good person.

Watch and learn, Grasshopper. Watch and learn.

Why a Powerful Brand Can Survive Lousy Quality

Harley-Davidson suffered through some awful years because of terrible product quality – years that would have destroyed most companies. Yet they survived and came back stronger than ever.

Harley had an advantage most companies don’t: an extraordinary emotional connection with their marketplace.

How can you make your brand’s persona impossible to resist? Learn more.

What are the scientifically sound ways to make an impact on your audience? Learn How to Craft an Irresistible Persona.