Your prospect’s self-identity drives their behavior. Disregard this at your peril.
One of the deep motives your customer has is a need to express, maintain, or enhance their sense of self-identity. Who they WERE/WERE NOT, who they ARE/ARE NOT and who they WANT TO BE/DON’T WANT TO BE are fundamental aspects of their existence which gives deep meaning to their life. In this sense, everything an individual has in their lives either SUPPORTS, ENHANCES, or REPAIRS that sense of self-identity. Anything that does not will either begrudgingly accepted, ignored, disregarded and at the first opportunity abandoned.
As examples, you can see the jettisoned aspects of people’s lives in such things as:
- A divorce
- Change of careers
- Selling their home
… NEW things have replaced the OLD …
Afterward, these people enter a brand new phase of their life where their sense of self-identity is SUPPORTED, ENHANCED, or REPAIRED by the NEW things they have replaced the OLD with.
- A divorce allows you to replace that no-good husband
- Changing careers allows you to fulfill yourself with a new challenge
- Buying a new home gives you a new neighborhood, perhaps more suitable to your “station in life”
Marketers must understand that self-identity is one of the key foundations upon which their prospect’s lives are built upon. How can you use this? Two studies by Stanford researchers Christopher Bryan, Greg Walton and Carol Dweck will offer an example.
Voting in free elections is a right and a hard won privilege. But surprisingly the overall trend in voter turn out in the US and Canada is on the decline. In the 2011 US Presidential election, a lowly 57.5% of those eligible to vote actually did. Declining voter turn out is enough of a problem that there is even a formula1 to determine whether one will vote:
PB + D > C, where
- P is the probability that an individual’s vote will affect the outcome of an election,
- B is the perceived benefit that would be received if that person’s favored political party or candidate were elected,
- D originally stood for democracy or civic duty, but today represents any social or personal gratification an individual gets from voting, and
- C is the time, effort, and financial cost involved in voting.
It was clear to the researchers that the marketing of elections had to change in order to improve voter engagement. They conducted two separate experiments during major elections in New Jersey and California. Three hundred prospective voters were divided into two groups and asked one of two questions:
- How important is it to you to be a voter? [noun]
- How important is it to you to vote? [verb]
The first question uses a frame which refers to the individual’s self-identity, while the second refers to an action that they might perform. When the results of who actually voted were tabulated, the research found that the group exposed to the self-identity question voted at a rate that was almost 14% higher in the first election, and almost 17 % higher in the second election. In an election setting, the addition of 14% – 17% more people at the polls can dramatically upset “predicted” results with incumbent governing parties ousted, new presidents elected, and kings dethroned.
Bryan states, ‘When voting is framed as an indication of the kind of person you are, it’s likely to feel more meaningful. And you’re more likely to do it.”
How can you use this knowledge?
In your marketing, recognize that your prospect’s self-identity is longing to be recognized. If you were promoting an environmental cause, you could use the Support, Enhance, Repair, or Don’t Want to Be framework by:
- Reinforcing who they are. e.g. “People who care about the environment use ….”
- Showing them who they could be. e.g. “Our gold level sponsors have restored over 3.4 million acres of wilderness.”
- Helping them Repair/Repent of their past sins. e.g. “Contribute to World Wide Fund for Nature today and help us restore …”
- Showing them How they Won’t Be Who they DON’T WANT to BE. e.g. “Contributors to our fund care about restoring the environment.”
Helping your prospects assert their self-identity THROUGH your product or service is a powerful way to connect with them. Show them how they can do that.
1“A Theory of the Calculus of Voting.” American Political Science Review. 1968. 62:25–42.