Truth be told – but how?

Galileo versus Emily Dickenson


“As lightning to the children eased
With explanation kind,
The truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind.”   Emily Dickenson


In 1609, Galileo perfected the idea of the telescope. His refinement afforded an unprecedented albeit extremely narrow view of the night sky that proved the earth was not the center of our galaxy.

Unfortunately for Galileo, and for science such as it was during his time, hardly anyone cared to look through his telescope to validate the truth of his discovery. He was ultimately forced to retract his revelation under penalty of death by the Inquisition.

Nearly 2.5 centuries later, the poet Emily Dickenson noted an important aspect of truth, or at least the presentation of it. That is, it’s best not to spring it all at once, i.e. Galileo style.

If there’s one thing that has changed since Emily Dickenson’s time, it is the use of “man” as a pronoun to refer to all humankind. That represents some progress! But getting back to our point, how should one approach the presentation of a truth? Emily Dickenson style — easing into it gradually?  Or Galileo style — boldly proclaiming one’s discovery and offering unequivocal evidence?

Arguably, some truths are of much greater import than others. For example, the truth of a heliocentric universe had a much greater impact on the world than the fact that roses are red. But let’s understand the question we’re examining here is not content of a truth, but its presentation.

Consider your own life. Let’s say you have an important issue or observation you want to express to a friend or partner about your relationship. Do you deliver the message straight up? Perhaps you have concerns that it might come across as too critical, and you feel the need to preface it with some warm sentiment?  Perhaps you sense the need to bring up all kinds of supporting evidence to support your claim?  Or, maybe you feel the situation is self-evident and requires no further proof beyond simply declaring it. How you answer these questions is a clear reflection of what we at Minds+Motives call your cognitive or motivational style.

Since marketing is a people-to-people business (it’s always good to remind ourselves of that), it stands to reason that the same questions we might ask ourselves when communicating with the people we know on a personal level apply equally to a consideration of the manner in which a consumer might be addressed. Yet, what is rather astounding is that most marketers rarely examine these fundamental questions when it comes to their own advertising and message strategies.

For example, say your company is introducing a new breakthrough service or product that is genuinely innovative, and the acceptance of this news is contingent upon a successful launch.  How should you frame this development so consumers believe you?

The answer is that it depends on the motivational make-up of your audience. Some people need facts, as many as you can muster. Some people will consider the source, meaning the stature and reputation of your company, and not require a litany of supporting evidence. Some people will look beneath the words to glean the emotional content of your message. It should be noted, however, that all these expectations and ways of evaluating a product claim or a customer communication are largely unconscious.

Galileo was a man who put thinking and knowledge ahead of the prevailing attitudes and conventions of his time. He was, in our parlance, a “Discerner.” Emily Dickenson was a brilliant poet who spoke her truth by way of her heart. She was an “Advocate.”

By examining the marketplace through our telescope, Minds+Motives can show you the motivational truths that are waiting to be revealed in your customer data. If you care to look, you will be amazed at what you’ll see. And you’ll quickly discover a new and better way to communicate your company’s truths because you’ll know who’s listening. Who isn’t. And who should be.

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