A collection of short stories and journalistic commentaries depicting my simple life
and how I fit in with the modern day universe of our times



Regular readers will know that my last post was about Batman and his strategically placed can of shark repellent spray. And many of said readers probably found themselves asking “Is there really any need for this?” Not so much the shark repellent spray, the actual post. But having said that, if 1960’s Batman was around today he wouldn’t need the repellent spray because the shark wouldn’t even come near him. He could keep the animal at bay with a new device called the Electronic Shark Defence System, a small box about the size of a pack of cards which attaches to the wrist of a swimmer, surfer, diver or anyone else going into the water. (Like a caped crusader dangling from a helicopter, for example). It emits an electronic pulse which is said to repel sharks by affecting the gel in their nose.

Ever since the film Jaws, the threat of being attacked by a shark has been very high on many people’s list of fears. And yet in reality, the risk is tiny (even less if you stay away from the water). Just 100 attacks are reported world-wide each year, and the International Shark Attack file based in Florida put the odds of an individual being attacked at 11.5 million to one. That’s not far off the odds of winning the UK National lottery! And yet despite this, I can see this device selling extremely well. That doesn’t sound logical does it? Well it isn’t but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

Let me give you another scenario which may explain why. When you fully understand this, it will give you a massive advantage in creating, developing and marketing products that make money to your consumers.

So you’re driving to the airport. Do you feel safer now, while you’re in the car, or will you feel safer later, once you’re strapped into your aeroplane seat? If you said you’ll feel safer once you’ve got on the plane, then you’re in a very small minority. You see, it doesn’t matter how many times we hear that air travel is the safest means of getting around – that the odds of being involved in an air crash are one in eleven million – on an emotional level though, most of us still feel like it’s much more dangerous than driving. Our experiences show us the difference between a minor prang in a car and the absolute carnage of a plane crash. And that’s still despite the fact that we have around a one in 5,000 chance of dying in a car crash, and are in considerably more danger driving to the airport than we are flying to our destination. Over one and a quarter MILLION people die on the world’s roads each year. The number killed on commercial air flights? Less than a thousand.

Can you see the anomaly here, and the conundrum faced by entrepreneurs in developing and marketing their products? The demand for a product often has little to do with the objective reality of a situation, because our perceptions are so skewed. If we just look at the raw statistics alone, a device designed to prevent shark attacks shouldn’t stand a cat in hell’s chance of succeeding. There’s just no real need for it. It’s a problem that only affects a hundred people a year, but the reality is that the market is infinitely larger than that. Conversely, thousands are killed on the roads each year so road accident prevention should be a red hot commercial market, but it almost certainly isn’t.

The key word in all of this is emotion. Emotion is what transcends boring old facts, figures and statistics every time. You can churn out the numbers all day long, and you can prove that there’s a logical need for a product, but if your target market doesn’t have any emotional reaction to your situation or problem, they’re not going to spend their hard earned money on it. Even being seriously injured or killed as a result of a fall in your kitchen is very many times more likely than being attacked by a shark. But which event do you think people will spend their money to avoid? One is highly unlikely but emotionally charged; the other is far more common but carries little or no emotional resonance.

One of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make is to build their products and promotions around cold hard logic. They see a problem, find a solution and expect the world to beat a path to their door. It’s an approach that would see you developing a device to prevent kitchen falls, rather than one which wards off sharks. The need and danger is perceived to be far greater. But it’s almost impossible to get any attention (let alone money) until you engage people on an emotional level. The manufacturers of the shark repellent device already had the job done for them by Hollywood. If that emotional connection isn’t there already, most of us lesser mortals have to find a way to create it through our advertising and marketing strategies.

This is because, contrary to what you may have been otherwise told, we don’t spend our money in response to our needs – we spend it in response to our wants. And for us to really want something, cold hard facts are not enough. We need to be engaged on an emotional level with a product, and the level to which we get engaged is often totally out of kilter with the severity and risks associated with the problem the product solves (My post on caravans for example). We always underestimate the dangers of travelling by car and of falls around the home, things we have probably already experienced and survived, but overestimate the dangers of air travel and shark attacks because they are totally unknown to our real lives and our experiences become based on the worst case scenarios we see in the movies. These perceptions affect us deeply at an emotional level, and in turn can have a dramatic effect on where we spend our money.

So if you want to make the world a better place with your products, by all means focus on needs, logic and objective reality. But if you want to make money, then wants, emotions and subjective perceptions should be the factors that guide your products and promotion choices.

Biff, Zap, Kappow!!! As Batman might say if he was ever to become poor enough to be doing his own sound effects (perish the thought).


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