Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Billy’s Seventeenth Law, Axiom Two: Belonging is powerful!

We all live in a yellow submarine.
John Lennon and Paul McCartney

I am an Old Goat.  That is not just a comment on my age or personality, but a group of regulars at the Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub in Whistler BC.  My wife and I love the Dubh Linn.  Great food, amazing staff, a great après band, and of course beer!  But it is so much more.  We belong at the Dubh Linn Gate.  Once you belong somewhere, it is difficult to go elsewhere. We are advocates for 'our' pub.  We recommend it to our friends.  I recommend it when I am talking to my fellow skiers when on the lift.  The staff and management know us...they took the time to get to know our names.  They make us feel welcome.  They ensure that we belong. 
Belonging is a fundamental human need.  We are a naturally social animal.  Our ancestors realized that the only way for this small, hairless ape to survive was to form groups.  We needed to associate in order to survive.  The pair bond between men and women is the starting point to survival of the species.  Love is the most primal of belonging needs if only from an evolutionary perspective.
Our first associative experience is the family.  The human child is defenceless, and needs care and nurture for years to become independent.  The extended family becomes the clan…the clans form tribes and so on until we get such units as cities, provinces, states, countries, Kingdoms and empires.  The need for belonging is deep in the human psyche.
We can see evidence of the belonging need throughout society.  The Olympic Winter Games just wrapped up in Sochi, Russia.  My wife and I got up at 4:00am to watch Canada play Sweden in the Gold Medal Hockey final.  Alexandre Bilodeau raced to gold in the Men’s Moguls event.  While watching his performance, I noticed my heart rate racing as he raced the course.  Nationalism, for better or for worse, is a powerful binding mechanism. 
This is true of sports, religion, families and even schools.  James Twitchell, in his book Lead us into Temptation: The Triumph of American Materialism states:
Because increasingly, store-bought objects are what hold us together as a society, doing the work of "birth, patina, pews, coats of arms, house, and social rank"—previously done by religion and bloodline. We immediately understand the connotations of status and identity exemplified by the Nike swoosh, the Polo pony, the Guess? label, the DKNY logo.
He links the Shopping Mall as a substitute for Church and logos for religious icons.  Twitchell exaggerates to make his point, but his point is important.   We want to belong.  Businesses want ‘friends’ clients and advocates to help their businesses thrive.  
As you create your message…tell your story…make a compelling presentation, can you show the customer how they will increase their need to belong?  Can you help your customer to join you…to become a part of your ‘tribe’?  When telling your story, are you demonstrating that important belonging need? 
Terms such as love, community, national and together conjure familiar feelings reaching into the depths of our emotional needs.  Even the language we choose, in presentations and ad copy.  ‘It’ (third person) is cold.  ‘I’ (first person) puts the emphasis on the speaker not the listener.  We or Us (second person plural) brings everybody into the conversation.  Consider the following phrases:
  • Bill Erichson develops strategic plans for small businesses.
  • I develop strategic plans for small businesses.
  • We work together and develop a plan specifically designed for your business.
The ‘ownership’ language of the last sentence encourages that sense of association meeting that important emotional need.  This is in a business to business context.  Businesses to consumer situations are more emotional, and therefore building on the associative need is even more important.  This cannot be manufactured or contrived, but must come from your desire to help and to ensure your customer 'belongs' to your tribe!
Next time, we look at our place within the tribe and examine the importance of status!



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