No matter if you’re using classified ads made out of papyrus to sell your chariots, or 3D virtual webinars that beam a sales pitch straight to your audience’s frontal lobe, the knowledge of consumer psychology will ALWAYS be a marketer’s 1st, 2nd, and 10th best asset.
Both the cavemen who roamed with the dinosaurs, and the cavemen you see in those Geico commercials are pre-programmed with the same fears and desires that make us all human. Consumer psychology is the basis to understanding this through your market research, your product’s benefits, and your email list’s reasons why they believe that you can solve their problems.
And in this article I’ve got 9 books that will get you in touch with your fellow man’s reptile brain. Some you may have heard of, and some you won’t. Some will create a big “WTF?” in your mind as to how they help you sell, and some book’s explicit purpose will be to help you do nothing BUT sell.
Let’s take a glimpse at the concepts and beliefs that these books discuss, and how they will drive your target market into a feeding frenzy……
Actress Helena Bonham Carter pays her mother, a psychoanalyst, to read every one of her scripts and give her opinion of every character’s psychological motivation. Daniel Day Lewis read over 100 books on Abraham Lincoln, then spent many hours developing the voice of the role. Robert De Niro actually worked as a taxi driver to prepare to play Travis Bickle, and gained over 30 pounds to play Jake Lamotta in Raging Bull. Heath Ledger isolated himself in a hotel room for 30 days, and wrote journals detailing his character’s thoughts to learn more about the Joker.
They do this because they want to deliver the best possible performance that they’re capable of. Acting and marketing are very similar in that both crafts involve dissecting their subject’s thoughts, opinions, neuroses, and darkest fears.
You may or may not have to go as far as those great artists did, but you can appreciate how dynamic the knowledge in these books can be.
The Social Animal
This is Robert Cialdini’s book “Influence” on roids. Commitment, liking, reciprocity, scarcity, authority, and social proof are developed and extended beyond that book, while also making this specialized knowledge consumable for everyone.
No jargon or footnotes galore.
It’s also NY Times bestseller Ramit Sethi’s secret weapon, as he got his favorite word, scripts, from this book. Derek Halpern also got a term of his, scapegoating, from here.
Inside you’ll find out how people conform, why they’re prejudiced and/or aggressive, and the reasons why they justify such behavior. This book is a great place to start as it will make the info in the following books much, much more useful.
Plus, you’re going to have to figure out how your customer is going to justify paying for a $1000 product to all of their friends.
The Power Of Myth
According to Carl Jung, the famous psychologist whose ideas influenced Joseph Campbell, individuation is every man’s goal, not to gain the ability to pay for a MacBook Pro instead of a MacBook Air. Every human being wants to develop their potential talent to the highest level possible, like the famous actors I mentioned earlier.
Campbell’s greatest contribution to psychology was the idea of the “hero’s journey.” This book uses the Odyssey, Star Wars, and the Holy Grail as examples of legendary stories detailing how myth can teach us how to live. Quite simply, it’s one of the best books you’ll read on storytelling, and with the previous book you’ll understand why archetypical characters like the Joker, Darth Vader, Jesus Christ, and Satan all do what they do.
Your job will be to show how your product fits into your prospect’s unique journey. It’ll also help you understand the new Batman Trilogy, which is pretty tight by its self!
Introducing Neuro-Linguistic Programming
Ever wondered why the totally immature “I know you are, but what am I???” is so effective? You’ll find out in the section on reframing, which will be one of the best ways to overcome objections you’ll come across when selling.
NLP for short, this is a book to learning how language influences thought, as well as understanding creativity, hypnosis, the learning process, and how different people filter the info you’re communicating to them. This is all important for using psychological details and character motivations for delivering a sales pitch or writing a sales letter.
A bonus for the attentive readers is Mindlines by L. Michael Hall. In this book you’ll learn 26 ways to overcome prejudice over high prices!
Power Of The Actor
NOW we’ve really jumped off the deep end of the swimming pool. What the heck can acting teach a marketer about selling?
Short answer? Everything! There are very few things more difficult than convincing someone you’re Abraham Lincoln, or the Joker, or a tortured, obsessed CIA agent like Maya in Zero Dark Thirty. The author of this book also taught Charlize Theron, Halle Berry, and Brad Pitt among others how to create such characters out of thin air by using nothing but their emotions and past experience.
It’s actually a fascinating read as you’ll learn the tell-tell signs of alcoholism, the psychological motivations of Hannibal Lector, how to play a paraplegic, and our favorite, creating sexual chemistry.
But seriously, there are so many psychological tools discussed in this book that will help you understand your customer’s overall objective in life, as well as examples from famous movies showcasing this. The hero’s journey mentioned earlier is basically a quest the character takes to achieve their overall objective.
A few examples of overall objectives this book discusses are:
- to find love
- to get power
- to be unconditionally loved
- to have children
- to get married
- to get my ex back in my life
- to have a great career
- to be validated
- to survive
- to protect and keep a loved one alive
- or to be loved by my mother or father.
Sounds a lot like the benefits we sell, doesn’t it?
Little secret about Frank Kern: his marketing genius is built around the character and story he creates for his audience. And you do know how successful his product launches are right?
The Comic Toolbox
If you think being an entrepreneur is risky, try telling jokes in the face of an uppity heckler. Good comedians are skilled at making the audience like them, usually by making them feel better about themselves and more superior, which translates perfectly to the world of selling stuff.
All humor is about producing cognitive dissonance, a term I pulled from Social Animal, but called absurdity in the comedic world. If you mix in your own irrational behavior and embarrassing truths with absurdity, then you’ve got a winning combination for making jokes.
This book also expands on Chubbuck’s by detailing different types of comic characters and stories, creating obstacles to their goal, making up previous circumstances and settings for the story to take place within, and interior monologue in the character’s mind. These are all essential parts of every great story, like the classic story of how Jared lost weight on the Subway diet…..
Plus, every joke is a reframe like those discussed in Introducing NLP……
The Art Of Seduction
Some Amazon reviews describe this book as a handbook for sociopaths and creeps, which is perfect because that’s what they think salesmen are. (A joke! Haha!)
Mixed messages, alternating pain and pleasure, creating temptation, and using the devilish power of words, another favorite, are just a few of the many ways to create desire for your service or product.
It all goes back to something you may have heard before: everyone loves to buy. No one likes being told that they’re wrong, or that you want nothing but their money. The same exact idea goes into getting someone to love you, and this book details several ways to do that.
Secrets Of Closing The Sale
All customers want empathy for the pain they’ve endured, and a way to FINALLY alleviate it. Zig explains this idea and also uses tons of examples to showcase the overall objective of selling: how he turned a prospect into a customer.
Do you see why I saved the first legit business book until now? Storytelling, sales psychology, character, and many other things we just covered can be seen in Zig’s discussion on becoming a great sales person.
Made To Stick
Why does the story of people stealing kidneys or losing weight by eating Subway stick in a listener’s mind? Because it breaks the audience’s thinking patterns, and takes them beyond what they ever thought possible.
(How do you determine an audience’s thinking patterns? With the books we discussed earlier.)
In this great marketing book there are six factors in a sticky message: it’s concrete, simple, unexpected, credible, emotional, and has stories.
This book has many great examples of how to create a sticky marketing message, but after you finish this book you’ll already have plenty of storytelling, concrete-image making, and unexpected ways to move your audience.
Check out this headline by copywriting god John Carlton, which contains one of the most legendary sticky headlines of all:
“Amazing Secret Discovered By One-Legged Golfer Adds 50 Yards To Your Drives, Eliminates Hooks And Slices, And Can Slash Up To Ten Strokes From Your Game Almost Overnight.”
Think about it. Who’s the LAST person you’d ever expect to make you better at your golf game, and deliver all these super specific benefits? Other than someone with no hands, a person with one leg struggling to tee up would top that list.
And who’s the last person you’d ever expect to sell a million dollars of product in a day? A slacker who claims to have read only 4 marketing/business books like Frank Kern…..
Tested Advertising Methods
All this new psychological insight will do absolutely no good if you can’t use it in an ad, which is why I saved this one for last.
There are 3 chapters on headlines alone, and one of the best secrets to consumer psych ever with the News + Self-Interest + Curiosity formula. Caples analyzes his own headlines and shows why they work so well, as well as showing examples of bad ad copy and headlines to avoid.
Gary Halbert, John Carlton, David Ogilvy, and many others recognized the fact that ads tell a miniature story that sticks in their minds, and empathizes with their own plight. Caples was a master of doing that, and these concepts, along with the others, will still be used when we get so tech smart that we can finally start cloning dinosaurs like they did in Jurassic Park.
(You’re going to need these books to help sell those fun-filled getaways)
Plus, his most famous headline “They Laughed When I Sat Down At The Piano, But When I Started To Play” spotlights one of the biggest psychological motivations every human being is implanted with…….
The overbearing need to win.
Like our review of Robert Greene’s Mastery explained, we all want to get further down the path of self-improvement, and every entrepreneur’s real job is to understand how to send our customers closer to that goal.
As John Carlton said in his famous product, “Copywriting Secrets Of A Marketing Rebel,” bad things happen to those who don’t seek to genuinely help others, and use this gold to rip off desperate people instead.
Love em n’ leave em isn’t a great business model. Your customer is not a $197 upsell attained from ad key number NYT – 10. They’re someone counting on you to find the means to be loved or survive in the internet marketing jungle.
I can’t think of any better way to make people dislike you than to constantly remind them of how small, insignificant, and powerless they are, and how great you or your product may be because you aren’t in that same hole. It may sell some shit, but it creates a society of winners and losers, haves and have-nots, masters and slaves, and givers and takers. Using this power to create pain for others and wealth for one’s self is not only bad business, but dehumanizing and life-denying.
The best business plan is to have products that consistently liberate the customer in some way, and creates positive outcomes that echo throughout their lives, and those that they intersect with.
This mindset will help you sell more because the prospect will feel that no matter how much rejection, strife, and chaos has set back their desire to live their life, they will, with your product, get that chance to win big. That’s because you understand them, and have shown how far you’ve gone to do so.
It ain’t no idealistic kumbaya – It’s Win-Win.
Did I miss any? Let me know below.