Marketing In Real Life #1

Photo by Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash

You might know I’m a marketer, copywriter and market researcher.

Either way…you know how it is…you do something long enough and start seeing it everywhere…and it’s automatic.

Just like you, I can’t help it with marketing…

A lot of what I see, hear, touch and smell go through this mental marketing processing “filter” that’s developed…

Ever since I began studying good marketing, it’s been this way.

Before I can give you the definition of what good marketing is, you have to know what marketing is…

One of my mentors put it like this:

“Marketing is the act of changing beliefs with the intent of a sale.”

He’s right. That’s all marketing is: believability.

The thing is…you still have to take that definition and apply good marketing to change someone’s beliefs (this is my own terminology, so stick with me here…keep reading…)

And so good marketing is applying my mentor’s (Stephen Larsen) definition of marketing.

I’m going to show you in a bit, but to really get it you need to understand this…

A sale does not start when you’re asked to take action (or when you ask if you’re the salesperson)…

It starts with the message you send.

This is very important… I’ll repeat it…

It starts with the message you send.

Not the message you wanted to send, or the message you meant to send…

Do you know what message you’re sending?

First, this isn’t just for making cash money sales…

This is true even if you want to sell an idea, like “Hey, why don’t we go to the movies tonight? People are saying this one totally makes up for The Last Jedi debacle. Whadda you say?”

It goes for colleges trying to get straight-A students and stud athletes to go to their school, offering tens, even hundreds, of thousands of dollars in scholarships…

It goes for any matter requiring some convincing.

The message you’re sending…is the one that they hear…

You can send any message. But if people see and hear something else, then you need to look at your message…

Because your audience isn’t wrong…

Now…that’s the beginning to good marketing…

Steven Spielberg Gets It

A message is the whole package to what you’re “delivering” — it’s the sum of all that you’re saying, showing, wearing, doing, etc.

It’s the words you use…it’s the score in a movie…it’s what you’re doing…it’s what you’re not doing (too)…it’s facial expressions…it’s the clothes you wear…and so on.

Each of those is an optional part to a whole message. There are so many more parts; I can’t list them all. You can get very specific with them, too.

It may be obvious, but not all parts have to be present in every message. Like, there’s no background music to a letter written on paper (except if you got $9.99 for a Hallmark card)…

And although one part may carry more or less weight than another part within the same message (think, “Actions speak louder than words”)…

Each part still has to be congruent with all the rest in your message.

This means that what you say should match what you do. The background music in a movie should match what’s happening.

So, don’t expect to hear a sad song in a movie while the main character is visibly achieving success. That’d be pretty confusing to the audience.

And so the point of all this is… good marketing sends clear and congruent messages.

It isn’t enough to focus on just one part of your message.

All of these things — these parts — have to be congruent, so people watching, reading and listening get the right message — the one you intended to send.

And so…

Good marketing happens when the message you intended to send matches the message understood by your audience.

Now, when you’re marketing in real life, you don’t have to think about as much as a movie director.

I know… I know…

You wish you had sick background music when you were walking around, right?

So do I. I’m jealous of MLB players.

One day, my wife and I were driving in center city when I saw a beggar sitting outside of a pizza shop.

She was holding a cardboard sign. Written on it was a message asking for help; she wanted money.

This is normal in Philadelphia.

Now…I don’t know what the average person makes daily begging for money in center city…but…I could almost guarantee that, whatever it is…

This woman could only be making a mere fraction of that average…

Why? She wasn’t believable. I’ll tell you in a moment exactly why she wasn’t believable. But first, here’s what it comes down to…

She wasn’t practicing good marketing; not a congruent message at all.

Look, good marketing is everything.

If I told you I was a musician and said I dreamed of touring the world someday, then there are things I have to do to be believable, right?

I better spend 10 hours a day practicing…

I better spend 2 hours a day finding places that will let me book a gig…and so on…

If I spent 30 hours a week playing Xbox, basketball and writing blogs, I’m not believable; I’m a poser.

It takes a cooperative effort among each part in your message to make it absolutely and entirely believable. Your message has to be congruent to change beliefs.

And so when I saw this beggar…puffing and blowing on a cigarette, I thought she was making a huge marketing mistake!

My wife brought up a good point:

“You don’t know…she might have picked it up off the ground.”

I honestly didn’t think of that, and I replied…

“Good point…but…that’s what YOU thought. There was a different story going on in my head though…”

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

Imagine this…you see someone 10 feet in front of you, and they ask you for help. This person is dancing…and dancing really well!

They’re in rhythm, their moves are cool and crisp…but…

Their call for help was “Can You Please Help Me Learn How To Dance?”

(By the way…what a hook that’d be, right?)

What’s your first reaction? Are you a little confused?

The last thing you’d believe was this person needed dancing lessons!

Now, to bring this hypothetical “dancer” scenario on the same level as my real-life encounter…

Since I was driving in a car in real life that one day, we’re going to end our hypothetical in the same way; and we can only be distant spectators to the person sending the message.

There’s a saying, and it goes like this…

“A confused mind never buys.”

Even if you wanted to believe the person’s message…you can’t. Because the parts in the message each “told you” contradicting stories…

Seeing the woman holding a cardboard sign asking for money while smoking a cigarette stopped me from believing her that day.

I was confused.

Yes, she could have found the cig on the ground and got a light from someone walking by…

Yes, someone could have even given that cigarette to her.

But that’s not what popped into my head…

The first thought that pops into someone’s head (consciously or subconsciously) is what matters…

The message your audience receives is the one you sent.

Because instead of thinking: “Let me see if I have cash. Maybe I have a dollar to give to her”…

I was thinking about things like:

“I’m not giving her money so she can go buy more smokes with it.”


“She clearly doesn’t need my help if she can afford cigarettes.”

So, Practice Good Marketing.

I didn’t believe that beggar. Not only did her actions dominate the written part of her message…the parts we’re congruent.

Until next time,


Follow me, here, on Medium as I begin to ramp up the “Marketing In Real Life” blog series.

P.S. I really didn’t give her any money. First off…I was in a car. Secondly…if I had been on foot, I still don’t think I would have because I seriously didn’t believe her!

P.P.S. Start observing more of what you see…Look at the whole message — the actions and the words. Ask yourself if they’re in harmony with each other. Ask “Does what I’m saying match what I’m doing?” Then, you’ll start to notice a lot more.




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Kris Russo

Kris Russo

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