The funny thing about things
I am walking into the Starbucks across the street from our office when I see a woman in full rodeo gear. She’s rocking a vest with the rawhide fringe dangling things, lots of blonde hair and what appear to be custom crafted, red cowboy boots. She looks great. The back of her suede vest has words encrusted with rhinestones I can barely make it out through her hair, but I manage to read “Lamb & Goat Auction Committee.“ She is super proud to be on that mutton committee. And, hell yeah, she should! She’s got a look and a role and she’s owning the ostrich leather out of it. It occurred to me that everything this woman cares about I didn’t even know existed before this moment. And, that’s the thing about things, they only really matter when they matter to us.
As I am standing in line, I realize I am being a Creepasaurus Rex after staring at her for way too long. I look away and almost on queue walks in exhibit B. Exhibit B is a Bezos-bot. Beautifully bald in a black suit who most conspicuously exits his Model S Tesla. And, who can blame him? He looks money, and spent a lot of it to master this motif. And, at this point, I am feeling a smidge smug as I study human nature as if I am in a removed or remote role.
Until of course, Upgraded-Adam walks in. Look at his guy… will you get a look at this dude? Russian prison tattoos, tattered tee, black jeans and some boots I’ve never seen before. Where did he even get those? Is he in a band? Because he certainly looks like someone who looks like they’re in a band. Why is he in a Starbucks if he is so cool anyway? I am supposed to be the cool guy in this Starbucks. As he leaves taking my self-confidence with him, I catch a glimpse of his car. A 1970’s something Jeep Honcho that he has undoubtedly restored himself. It’s too much for me to handle. He’s a honcho and I feel like a not-cho. I am no longer above it all. I am now fully in my own head about a bunch of things I know don’t matter. But, that’s the thing about things.
So, Upgraded Adam is the only one who is make believe. But, if he did (and he does), this is how I would’ve reacted (and have). I care about his things. And, the funny thing about things is that they have very little to do with money. Unless, they do.
And, what does any of this have to do with marketing and branding? Everything.
Status roles are at the core of who we are. They change how we spend our time, our money and most of all, our imaginations. “We define ourselves in relative terms, not absolute ones. More stuff, more power, less this or less that. Who's up and who's down?”
If you have a product or service you probably need to pay a lot more attention to status. If you try to sell a rhinestone vest to me you’re not going to get very far. And, if you’re selling rare adidas gazelles, don’t bother with the big-haired beauties. Again, you may say “duh, bruh.“ But when I say focus on your audience, I mean laser-cat focus. It’s not about the funniest ad or bullet-pointing all your features. Ignore almost everybody and talk directly to your audience. Talk so specifically that they feel like you’re talking only to them. Speak so selectively that it scares you. Say things that you’re almost certain people won’t get. Things like “laser-cat focus.” The people who get it will feel “in” that they get it. The people who care to get it will google it. And, the people who don’t care, never cared and likely never will.
The people who seek the same status your product offers will subscribe. If you do this well and often, they will share your service with their band of beauty queens. They will be the best and fiercest marketing team you could have never hired. They care because they care. Because it is about them and not about you. That’s why we love to discover a new band and share with others we think will like it. It’s not about the band, it’s about us and it’s about human connection. “I like this, and I like you, and I think you and I should like this together.”
Status and marketing is not about money. Unless, it is. There’s a reason every one agrees there is nothing better than word-of-mouth marketing. Which should be called humans talking to each other marketing. And, if want your things to matter, don’t make them for customers, make them for people. People who think dangling suede vests matter. People who think Teslas matter. People who think, “Seriously, though, where the hell did Honcho get those boots“ matter. If you make your product for them, they will take care of your humans talking to each other marketing. Because the funny thing about things is they only matter if we believe they matter.