Marketer and author Lynn Serafinn talks about the art of being DIRECT in our marketing and looks at 4 ways our lack of Directness can alienate our audience.
This month we’ve been celebrating the 2-year anniversary of the release of the book The 7 Graces of Marketing: how to heal humanity and the planet by changing the way we sell, which has since evolved into a global community, as well as a non-profit social enterprise called the 7 Graces Project CIC.
In Part 1, we looked at how the Grace of Connection is the foundation for any discussion on ethics in business and marketing. In Part 2, we looked at using the Grace of Inspiration in marketing rather than old-school persuasive techniques. Last time, in Part 3, we looked at how invasive marketing has made us a ‘marketing resistant’ culture, and how the Grace of Invitation focuses upon relationship building rather than sales converion.
If you missed those articles, you can catch up on them here:
Today, we move on to the 4th of the 7 Graces – The Grace of Directness.
Distraction – The Old Magician’s Trick
The other day I watched the very clever film Now You See Me on DVD. It’s a film about a team of magicians who perform outrageously large-scale tricks, like robbing a bank. The thread that runs throughout the film is the idea of ‘distraction’ or ‘diversion’. Magicians are always setting up diversions so you will look where they want you to look rather than where you should be looking. Mastering the art of distraction is how they create illusions that seem like ‘magic’. The more the magician succeeds in fooling us, the more his performance delights us.
Similarly, diversionary techniques are rife in mainstream advertising – especially on television and in print media. Just like the magician who diverts your attention away from what he doesn’t want you to see he can create his illusion, old-school marketers also divert our attention away from their products and services. They do this by distracting us with attention-grabbing imagery and entertainment – glitz, glamour, sex, humour and high-tech gloss. As a result, consumers get roped in by the distractions, often buying things because of the entertainment value of the advertising rather than the actual value of the products themselves. I call this strategy ‘the Deadly Sin of Distraction’. I discuss this ‘Deadly Sin’ in detail in several articles on this site, especially the one entitled ‘The Pied Piper of Marketing – Getting Hooked Without Knowing It’.
Unlike our experience with the magician, being ‘fooled’ by the diversionary tactics of mainstream marketing definitely does NOT delight us if the products we have spent our money on do not live up to the advertising hype or make us feel the way we thought they would make us feel. This is where the Grace of Directness comes in. Directness means to say things like they are. It’s the art and practice of simplicity and straightforwardness in all our communication. I often refer to Directness as the ‘no bullshit grace’.
4 Marketing Clichés that Make Us Inaccessible to Our Audience
Big business is not the only marketing arena where lack of Directness puts distance between ourselves and our audience. Our clientele at the 7 Graces Project are comprised primarily of independent business owners. Some are SMEs with staff of up to 20 people; others are sole proprietor businesses. These are not the kinds of companies who do television advertising, and they may only do occasional advertising in print media. Rather, they do the majority of their marketing online.
I see many of these independent businesses struggle with the Grace of Directness when they first come to us. Even though they may not intentionally be trying to ‘distract’ their audience in the way big marketing companies might consciously do, many find it difficult to ‘show up’ as they are. They adopt personae that they believe will make them appear to be more credible in the public eye. But actually, because these personae are forms of distraction, they render them less accessible and knowable to their audience.
Here are 4 ‘distractive’ clichés I commonly see in the marketing of many such SMEs:
- The Suit: Many independent business owners make the mistake of thinking that if they use a lot of corporate-sounding jargon it will make them seem more ‘professional’. This ‘suit’ persona is what I call a ‘hard shell’ distraction. It builds a brick wall between you and your audience. Your audience does not come to your website to be impressed by your suit; they come to find out information about your products and services. Besides, speaking ‘over the heads’ of our audience is the fastest way to alienate them and cause them to question our trustworthiness.
- The Fluffy Bunny: Other independent business owners will go to the opposite extreme. They will keep their marketing message extremely light, using language that they believe is ‘non-threatening’ to their audience. However, this ‘soft shell’ approach can sometimes make their marketing fluffy and insubstantial. Fluffiness can make it difficult for our audience to understand what our products and services are all about, and cause them to question our credibility. On the most extreme ‘Fluffy Bunny’ websites, I can’t even tell what the business is selling!
- The Dry Intellect: Some independent business owners take a more academic approach to marketing. They speak with facts only and try to keep it as devoid of personality as possible. While this might be perceived as being grounded and ‘direct’, they fail to make an emotional connection with their audience, because they are focussing more on ‘things’ than on people. Without this emotional connection, their marketing tends to be ineffective. It’s often been said in marketing: people don’t buy products and services; they buy feelings.
- The Lofty Philosopher: At the opposite pole to the Dry Intellect, we have the ‘Lofty Philosopher’. These are marketers who promote their products and services using ‘floaty’ and etheric language. Like Fluffy Bunny’s, their marketing lacks groundedness and it can often be difficult to understand the point. While Lofty Philosophers might believe they are offering spiritual, inspiring and uplifting content to their audience, they are often ‘talking over their heads’ in much the same way as ‘The Suit’. Lofty Philosophers can also come across as being more focused on themselves than on their audience. Marketing delivered from this persona can often seem incongruence and disingenuous to their audience.
Of course, most of us will probably recognise elements of these personae in our own marketing. But when these personae become extreme and polarised, they make it almost impossible for us to be direct. Directness is the ability to look straight into the eyes of our audience and speak openly with them. If you are talking over people’s heads, you cannot do this. If you lack groundedness, you cannot do it. If you have no emotional connection to them, or you are too focused on yourself, you cannot do it.
Lack of Directness in our marketing renders us inaccessible, distant and unknowable to our audience, and drives a wedge in the relationship we have with them. It prevents them from seeing the essence of our company, service and products. How can they possibly know us when we are constantly covering ourselves up with such distractions?
Distraction is a Way We Hide Ourselves
If you really analyse it, all ‘distractive’ types of communication are attempts to ‘hide’ something about ourselves:
- At one extreme are those businesses who use distractive marketing to hide the fact that what they are selling is dishonest or bad for us (what comes to mind are all those super-loud TV adverts for gambling casinos, bingo halls and off-track betting).
- At the other extreme are independent business owners who hide behind one or more of the ‘4 cliché’ distractions because they are insecure or lack confidence.
In either case, the underlying emotion is the same: we fear to speak the truth about ourselves. Whether we are afraid to speak the truth because we know what we are doing is wrong, or we are afraid to speak the truth because we doubt ourselves, we will always use the Deadly Sin of Distraction to keep ourselves safe.
I think it’s important to understand Distraction from this perspective, because it reminds us of the vulnerability of all human beings. If we simply demonise big businesses for using distractive marketing techniques, we will fail to see the common, fundamental human emotion underlying all forms of distraction – fear of being seen for who we really are.
Whether we are talking about Madison Avenue and Saatchi’s or the mum-preneur running a tiny business from home, at the root of all marketing lies human beings. Thus, if we really wish to bring the Grace of Directness into the world of marketing, we must first ask this question that addresses the real, underlying issue:
How can we create a world in which all people feel safe to be who they really are?
I believe the answer to that last question lies within each one of us. If you and I were to show up fearlessly in our businesses, our marketing and our lives as a whole, we could lead the rest of the world by our own example. We could prepare the ground for those who still feared to show up in the world. If we always spoke eye-to-eye with one another, we could create a ripple-effect, until no one in the world felt the need to hide behind distractive forms of communication – whether in marketing, in business or in life in general.
As marketers, our ‘telling it like it is’ will allow others to see us as we are. People will remember our style, our personality AND our message. But most of all, they will remember how our marketing made them feel. And these feelings are what will form the foundation for our long-term relationships with our audience.
Human beings and relationships: these are what ethical marketing – new paradigm marketing – is all about.
Coming Up Next Time
Next time, I’ll share my reflections on grace #5 – The Grace of Transparency. I do hope you’ll subscribe to this blog so you can be sure to receive it.
And please do share your thoughts and feedback below. I always love reading what you have to say.
Lastly, please accept my invitation to come join our ever-growing 7 Graces community on Facebook at http://facebook.com/groups/7GracesGlobalGarden. That way, you’ll also be amongst the first to know about our 7 Graces training courses as they become available in 2014.
Until next time, take care (and have a wonderful Christmas, if you celebrate it).
23 December 2013
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Find out more about how changing the paradigm can help make the world a better place:
The 7 Graces of Marketing: how to heal humanity and the planet by changing the way we sell, by Lynn Serafinn, where you can learn how the 7 Deadly Sins and the 7 Graces impact the world through media and marketing.
Brit Writers Awards Finalist
eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian & Ecological Social Issues
Tweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market Their Business Ethically, by Lynn Serafinn, which can help you learn how to create meaningful collaborations through Twitter and other social media.
eLit Book Awards Bronze Medal in Business and Sales
Get instant access to a free 90-minute Twitter marketing class at http://tweepelicious.com
LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales. Lynn’s eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors. Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project CIC, a not-for-profit social enterprise created to train, support, mentor and inspire independent business owners to market their business ethically, serve society and planet, and restore all that is best about humanity.
(not just for Londoners, as we meet also on Skype)