Select Page
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?
Free trial of Irresistible Persona.

Persuasion, Loyalty and Pain (Part 1)

Persuasion, Loyalty and Pain (Part 1)

The Problem of Trust, the Power of Pain

How do you persuade people to trust you enough to buy from you? The people you want to influence are distracted. A million shiny things fight for their attention. How can you rise above the crowd, set yourself apart, prove yourself worthy of trust?

You could hire marketing consultants. You could buy advertising and saturate your target market with “irresistible” offers. You could hire expert copywriters and graphic artists and SEO gurus and bombard digital media to get the word out. 

In short, you could do the same things everyone else does. It’s expensive. It’s risky. And it doesn’t leverage basic human emotion.

Cognitive dissonance is deeply painful

There is another way though, a way that doesn’t take a lot of money. A way that  is neither sneaky nor subliminal. It’s just smart.

It is a way that leverages the power of pain.

Sit back and relax while I explain.

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


Emotion: The Birthplace of Persuasion

Have you ever seen someone “just lose it” or “snap”? In an instant, they change from a perfectly happy, reasonable human being to a snarly, angry, defensive beast. (Maybe you’ve done it yourself.)

Kinda the real-life version of the Incredible Hulk.

When you see a person instantly switch from being calm and reasonable to being wildly emotional, there’s a simple explanation: cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance describes what happens inside you when you are confronted with something that contradicts your most cherished beliefs.

As soon as you are confronted with the conflict between the facts and your beliefs, your thoughts and emotions crash together in a painful, non-harmonious way.

It hurts. A lot.

You recoil from the idea that caused you pain. You deny. You get defensive. You deflect. Perhaps you even attack the messenger.

You can’t help it. It’s an instinctive reaction to the pain. It is a reflex. It’s no different than what happens when the doctor taps your knee with that little rubber mallet to test your motor reflexes.

Cognitive dissonance is no fun. But as Marcus Aurelius said, “what stands in the way becomes the way.” Cognitive dissonance – as painful as it may be – can be the pathway to fantastic loyalty.

Wiretapping Pain

Hang on for a sharp left turn. This story may seem like it doesn’t fit. Trust me, though. It will help you know how to create fanatical loyalty in your customers.


(The following story is true. I changed the names to protect the innocent.)

Mike is married to Chloe. They have a son, Adam. Adam was born with a serious and rare health condition. Mike and Chloe started an organization to research the causes of Adam’s rare condition and find a way to cure it.

Over the last 20 years, the organization grew under Mike’s care. The organization raised lots of money to fund research for a cure. It sponsors events around the world where scientists and sufferers alike gather and exchange stories. It a community of the scientists who study the disease, the sufferers and their families. All in all, it is an amazing story of hope and progress.

Also, Mike has been conducting a series of adulterous affairs for the last 20 years. In fact, for the last 7 years, he had an affair with one of the scientists in the organization. He has diverted funds from the organization to fly around the world for dalliances with his various girlfriends.

Until just a few weeks ago, neither Chloe, Adam, nor the board of the foundation knew about his affairs.

When Belief Collides with Facts

Mike believes himself to be a good man, a good husband and a good father. By any rational measure though, a man who cheats on his wife for years with lots of different women – and who uses gifts made to a charitable organization to fund his dalliances – is not a good man.

Mike’s belief about who he is – his fundamental self-identity – contradicts the facts. He has been able ignore the contradiction though. How? Because he wasn’t forced to confront the dissonance between his belief and the facts.

maintain customer loyalty

Then Chloe found out.

She confronted him with the conflict between his belief and his actions. And when that happened, he experienced a classic case of cognitive dissonance. He got angry. He denied. He deflected. He projected. He blamed Chloe for his affairs. He even complained about the unbearable pain Chloe caused him by forbidding contact with his long-time girlfriend.

An irrational response, right? Even Mike would agree. But very normal.

When your deepest beliefs and the facts contradict one another, it is unbearably painful. That pain is cognitive dissonance.

There are only two ways for Mike – or anyone else – to put an end to cognitive dissonance.

  • He can change his actions to match his beliefs or
  • He can change his beliefs to match his actions.

There is no other way out.

The Flight From Pain

We humans are wired to avoid pain and seek pleasure. Cognitive dissonance is a painful and highly unstable state.

A tiny percentage of people can tolerate such internal conflict without doing something to change it.  These folks are rare.

A small minority of people can adjust their beliefs to align with their actions. They become more self-aware and less delusional about themselves.

Most people, however, are completely unable to change their beliefs. Those beliefs form the core of their identity. Anything that threatens their identity feels like an existential threat. And existential threats must be attacked without mercy.

These people are can become your most fanatically loyal fans  – no matter what you sell.

I’ll show you how.

An Answer to Every Question

Have you ever wondered what makes cults so powerful? I do. I’ve been studying cults since 1990.

(You may wonder, “when are you going to talk about creating loyal customers?” Hang in there, the answer is coming, but I have to lay the groundwork for you.)

A cult has an answer for every question.

For the person suffering from cognitive dissonance, that quality is incredibly attractive. The cult promises an end to their pain, at a price, of course. TANSTAAFL.

And that price is steep: they have to trade the cult’s identity for their own.

Now that may sound extreme, but for the person who feels the pain of cognitive dissonance, it is an exchange worth making.

This exchange of identities takes place when one comes under the thrall of the cult. And this is the source of the power and pull of cults.

Eric Hoffer, in his seminal book The True Believer, explained that the driving force behind every mass movement is a rejection of the self.  We can see this force at work today in various political movements around the globe.

A cult offers a self-identity free from the pain of cognitive dissonance. That’s why people “buy” cults. That’s why people join mass movements.

And that force – that drive to exchange a painful self-identity for the cult’s identity – can be diverted in a much more positive direction: you can offer those sufferers something positive – your brand.

I’ll explain how in part 2.

How can you make your personal brand unforgettable?
Free trial of Irresistible Persona.

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