What We Know About People

Sometimes it takes a worldwide crisis to remind you of things you once knew, but maybe have forgotten. Screenwriter Robert McKee once said “True character is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure – the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation, the truer the choice to the character’s essential nature.”

But as human beings, what IS our essential nature? We’ve sure learned a whole lot about “essential” workers and “essential” businesses — who is and who isn’t, but what is at our core? And as marketers trying to be heard, WHY is it useful to know this information?

I think knowing people is pretty easy. We’re simple creatures. Donald Miller, author of Building a StoryBrand, and the new book Marketing Made Simple says people are after two things all the time. They want to survive and they want to thrive.  

Our first priority is survival—always has been since the caveman days. Tell me you don’t know this after seeing the toilet paper shortages of 2020 and the way stores were just rampaged and left bare. Our instinct drives us to survive.

Next, after we’re safe and things are good, we want to thrive. Now, this is anything that adds to our success in our own minds. 

Our brains are constantly sifting through thousands of messages looking for these two things and we evaluate everything coming in by whether it helps us survive or thrive. And if it doesn’t, then it’s discarded like a used pair of gloves in a global pandemic.

Another thing our brains want to do is to conserve mental calories. We’re evaluating info at an amazing pace all the time, but we don’t want to work too hard to figure it out.  And if our messages cause the burning of too many calories, we’re out. Sorry. Some tech companies make your brain run a mental marathon to get there and the truth is, most people will simply give up.  

As marketers, we need to know how to best reach people. THE best way to reach someone (pandemic or not) is by being the perfect solution to THEIR problems and explaining that CLEARLY so they don’t have to burn a lot of mental calories to get there. 

I know, sounds pretty obvious, right. Well, when marketing is broken, I will bet my last roll of TP that the problem can be found in the message. We skip right over this part because we are excited about cool visuals, neat logos/graphics or we need to “get something out” and we have all of those important marketing tactics boxes to check off.

DO. NOT. SKIP. THE. MESSAGE. If we aren’t crystal clear and caveman simple, the audience won’t understand us and they WILL move on to survive and thrive…without our brand. 

If you confuse, you WILL lose.