Perfect Reverse Psychology Marketing by docpi.
Photo by docpi

First, the title’s meant a touch colloquially. Second, that doesn’t budge the fact there’s a lot of truth to it. Third, if you’re into lifehacks (presumably that’s why you’re reading this blog), particularly marketing ones, I’ll reveal why the best marketers knowing each other matters to you.

There’s no shortage of self-help books that claim to help you get what you want. Some of them drown in quackery and kooky pseudoscience (like The Secret), while others are about practical applications which are rational and empirically demonstrable through results which can be measured — the scientific process. Suffice to say, join me for a fun thought experiment. answer these 3 questions without second-guessing yourself:

  1. Name a famous painting in a museum?
  2. Name a wild-haired scientific genius?
  3. Name a marketer with a popular blog?

Alright…

You have nothing to be ashamed of if you answered the Mona Lisa and Einstein for #1 and #2. #3 isn’t as ubiquitously defined, but if you’re knowledgeable, I’m betting it’s someone hugely influential, like Seth Godin or Guy Kawasaki. They’re supernodes in the marketing world.

Here’s where things get fun: click-through and learn a bit more about Seth and Guy if you don’t already know them (I’ve done my part promoting them to prove a point), and let’s continue on…

Torley’s epiphany can be yours for free!

Over the past stretch of months, I’ve read over two dozen of the top books on lifestyle improvement focused on marketing. “Top” defined as in sales, popularity, and positive reviews, which I mostly deduced from Amazon.com. The best ones have earnest, obvious, time-tested principles wrapped in layers of delicious eclecticism. Or as I like to say, Stats & Stories (S&S). They cover overlapping areas from different angles, like sitting around a sculpture with friends. Some are more marketing-oriented from a business perspective, others talk about marketing yourself (as a personal brand), but all are part of a Venn diagram that talks about the dynamics between work and play.

Some books use very structured systems (like Michael Port’s Book Yourself Solid, which I’m in the middle of now). Others are freeform and have sections, but are told in a story form (such as Tim Sanders’ Love Is the Killer App). And in every single one of them, you can expect the same fellow authors to come up time and time again.

At this moment, a skeptic might growl:

“They’re rehashing the same material over and over to sell more books! They’re all buddies and they sure know how to milk the marketplace!”

to which I say,

“Yes, but how does any of that lessen their success as a marketer?”

Lest you think I abstract too copiously, I shall drill down.

As Seth and others point out themselves, you’re not going to remember an ad (meant loosely) unless you see it multiple times. And each subsequent viewing/impression may get you closer to buying the product/service. Furthermore, many ideas are obvious as water is wet — one of the biggest is “being likeable will make you more popular!” — but obvious ideas and goals are nothing next to executing them with excellence.

To the “buddies” point, yes, it’s clear many of these authors are friends. Even across generations. But they aren’t the same people, and it’s intriguing to spot the differences in their philosophies, specifically how they suggest you make progress. For example, Jay Conrad Levinson, aka “the father of guerilla marketing”, is from an earlier generation than Seth Godin, and he advises being resourceful about TV ads — something which Seth is generally seen to be against, since it’s not part of his permission marketing (ads which are personal, relevant, and anticipated) ethos. Nevertheless, they’ve collaborated, and the guerilla marketing brand has led to dozens of spin-offs in its own right. Seth’s “ideavirus” ideologies can be seen as descendent strains of Jay’s earlier memes.

I’m getting to the point

You can make a game out of seeing how many times some of these marketers namedrop each other from cover to cover. Or look for forewords & afterwords. That doesn’t invalidate them, it only reinforces “OH MY GOSH, THEY’RE PRACTICING WHAT THEY PREACH!” insofar as marketing themselves.

For instance, Michael Port mentions both Seth Godin and Jay Conrad Levinson in Book Yourself Solid. Oh, and Tim Sanders too. (Pay attention to chronology.)

Not only did Seth Godin do the foreword of Andy Sernovitz’s Word of Mouth Marketing, you should also be aware Guy Kawasaki did the afterword. As I joked to my wife, it’s like Andy’s sandwiched between two great gurus! Which lends him credibility and boosts his profile, and no doubt accomplishes the word of mouth purposes he writes so enthusiastically about. Certainly, they hold similar beliefs to be true, too — no one introduces a text without approving of what’s to come.

Naturally, Guy Kawasaki did the foreword for Rohit Bhargava’s Personality Not Included, and since I have no end of examples, I’ll leave it there.

Now —

Uplifting each other by energizing an ongoing, positive connection is the key reason why all the best marketers know each other. Obvious, yes. True, even moreso. Recursive, recursive. But did you ever notice this so acutely before?

*string cue plays*

So, that’s the point of this post. But if you’re intrigued in what else I’ve observed, I’ve got more gems to share:

Marketers who talk about social networking are even more impressive when they repeatedly show off publicly, like how “I make money showing you how to make money” John Chow recently photographed himself with Tim Ferriss (#1 self-promoter, Wired sez) and… YOU GUESSED IT… Guy Kawasaki.

Guy Kawasaki and John Chow by marketleverage.
Photo by marketleverage

Really, the best marketers are all connected. And if you rise up the ranks, you’ll be too.

That is actually a blunt barometer of your success as a marketer.

(Not accomplishing this would be hypocritical. Think about it.)

Amazon.com, save us!

Ever use the “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” feature on Amazon.com? You’ll see many “clumps” of the same books. Sometimes even package deals. And often, they get associated in search due to name value alone; there are numerous times when a foreword/afterword author gets the same lead billing in Amazon’s formatting as the main author. Why, I don’t know. (Can I hypothesize “Marquee marketing?”)

That leads to the unequal growth where certain titles carry more “gravity”, and the further up the charts the go, the more they self-perpetuate and are bought. People look at a Top 10 list and they buy #1 more than they think about how it got there. That distribution curve relates to the Pareto “80/20″ Principle, which — as you could’ve predicted — was emphasized by Tim Ferriss as a way of focusing on the very best stuff while “cultivating selective ignorance” (I love that phrase) about the rest.

The same examples, over and over

When you get to be an old hand at this like me, there’s only so many times you can see Steve Jobs and Apple’s design cited as an anecdote. Yes, brilliant marketing. Yes, being #1 like that with a devoted cult will get you repeatedly cited. Pudding, meet more proof! Speaking of food, this applies whether it’s the “Don’t eat iPod Shuffle” as a remarkable (Seth’s fave-word) form of “personality marketing” (cited by Rohit), his success despite not graduating from college, or any one of a number of Steve’s most excellent triumphs over adversity.

Do not eat iPod shuffle by re-ality.
Photo by re-ality

Speaking of more food, Krispy Kreme has often been used as a company that stands apart and how the opening of a new franchise attracted crowds, but more recently, they tend to be brought up as an example of “losing your way”, with decline in profits used to illustrate this (I don’t know which caused what).

If you’re not quite sure what I’m talking about re: repetitious examples, if you read the top marketing books, you will, soon enough.

Get me right (which is more positive than “don’t get me wrong”): repeatedly using the same story across multiple tomes by different people makes it no less valid. But what I’ve learned from this is, empowered by those examples, I search for new ones in my life. Only ones I’ve experienced can be spoken of with such conviction. For example, the exceptional customer service I’ve experienced at the professional-yet-humorous hands of DreamHost, Wufoo, and Lijit — each & all of them encouraging me to spread the word (without explicitly doing so) with their delightful personal care.

But, beware of ideological incest

A lot of these books — and I generalize — are inspiring. However, I’m starting to feel diminishing returns. I’ve observed many copycat and derivative books about social media crop up, with far less punch and potency than the originals. Too many established ideas rehashed with no new insights. I desire new ideas + successful execution which keep invigorating me, and you should too.

And to riff off of Seth Godin, some marketers really are liars. In the worst way. This post isn’t about them at all. Nor is it about about superficial interaction and glib blurbs exchanged which have 0 impact on our lives when it comes time for us to die. It is about connecting with other likeminded marketers and promoting what you stand for, while simultaneously emphasizing how you can benefit others through consensual exchanges — knowledge, money, action figures, etc.

Torley gets Seth Godin action figure at Archie McPhee by you.

Ah, I haven’t explained “ideological incest” yet: it’s when ideas inbreed too much without anything new entering the meme pool. Some say this happens in an echo chamber. They have redundant mutations which render them stagnant, then unhealthy, then degenerative, and ultimately, crippling. Luddites suffer from advanced stages of ideological incest, as do political polemicists who engage in too much wordslinging and not enough changebeing.

The best marketers have immunized themselves against such a plague of mindjunk, and in knowing each other, just as I’ve said, are able to share common unity, while injecting divergent life experiences into each other. This keeps the diverse discussion going with the strength of focus, generates multiple possibilities for followup, and perhaps most earnestly, wards off anti-spam and corporate drone-ness by establishing that marketing can be humorous and human.

It’s true that a lot of popular marketing, and in a broader sense, ideas are fresh views on conventional wisdom that’s oft-quoted but little-changed: Dustin Wax’s declaration that “People LOVE change” when it comes to leading change is a great inhouse example. Nevertheless, it’s important that beyond judging whether something “sounds good” at surface level, to test ideas, you must actually apply them to your life. The results, both what you feel inside and external measurements — such as metrics, people sharing personal testimonials — will tell you whether they hold validity or not.

Are you passionate about self-promotion & marketing? What eclectic insights do you have which you feel others haven’t noticed? Share them with me in the comments! :D

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