Marketing Wisdom Hidden in Christmas Movies

We watch a lot of Christmas movies at my house. A lot, like the DVR is 78% full just from Christmas movies.

Most of the time I’m too much of a tough guy (in my own mind) to admit that I like them, but it’s one of the ways my wife and I spend quality time together during the holidays.

Something interesting happened while we were working our way through hours of these movies this year. Some prominent themes jumped out at me as particularly helpful in terms of marketing and business growth. As you’re thinking about resolutions and goals for the new year, these ideas could very well impact how you move forward in 2014. Even if you’re too tough to watch Christmas movies.

1) If It Ain’t Broke…
How many versions of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol have been turned into movies (not to mention plays and books)? Dozens.

How many spoofs of the “I wish I’d never been born” motif from It’s a Wonderful Life have you seen?

And I don’t think I can stand to see even one more fake holiday relationship that ends in a marriage proposal on Christmas Eve, followed by the falling of winter’s first snowflakes.

These films are produced year after year after year. And we keep watching them.

One thing that becomes eminently clear as you pay attention what Hollywood is cranking out is that when something works, keep doing it. Too often, entrepreneurs and marketers feel the need to be original and creative. There’s nothing wrong with that desire, but why reinvent the proverbial wheel? The legendary David Ogilvy noted that most marketers “worship at the altar of creativity, which really means originality — the most dangerous word in the lexicon of advertising.” When you have a message that keeps generating the results you want, don’t throw it away until you find something even better. If a marketing channel is producing high return on investment, don’t abandon it to chase after the hot new fad. Always feel free to test, but don’t give up on anything that hasn’t stopped delivering.

Remember, business owners often get bored with their own marketing before their audience does.

Also, consider taking inspiration from what is working for other successful people and businesses. Modeling is one of the fastest ways to create effective systems, products, services and messages. Sometimes taking a shortcut is the smartest thing you can do.

Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing.” ~ Salvador Dali

2) Envision The Alternative
I can’t tell you how many Christmas films I watched over the past month used the aforementioned motif from It’s A Wonderful Life (or the more recent Family Man). The protagonist has some sort of character flaw or they’re about to make a bad decision when they’re magically transported to an parallel dimension where they’re married instead of single, middle class instead of wealthy, etc. They’re “blessed” with the opportunity to see things how they should/could/would be if they did things differently.

This is precisely the purpose of your marketing. You need to create a vision in the mind of your prospect, showing him how much better his life will be when he starts using your product…how much he’ll miss out on if he will be if he procrastinates…the danger he puts himself in if he trusts the “low cost provider.”

Don’t hand out brochures or send emails or make webpages that simply state cold facts about your business, product, service or founder. Tell stories that paint a picture of the better future that comes along with what you have to offer. Answer the question “what’s in it for me?” thoroughly and vividly, from the perspective of the would-be customer.

“We did this” and “we have that” and “BUY NOW” probably won’t get the job done, especially if you haven’t already established a solid base of happy customers.

3) Don’t Buck Tradition
Christmas has more tradition associated with it than most other holidays, and many of the people who uphold them are borderline fanatical about keeping them. In several of the movies I’ve seen recently, commitment to these traditions often drive the plot forward and add structure, silliness or some other significant element to the story.

Roman poet Ovid noted thousands of years ago that “Nothing is stronger than habit.” Traditions are probably a close second.

Pay attention to your customers’ traditions and habits.

Attach yourself and your products to their currently-existing traditions; take a cue from Maxwell House’s Haggadah.

Make it easy to form a habit of buying from you.

4) It’s More Blessed to Give than to Receive
When you were a child, the holidays, including your birthday, were all about the presents you were about to get. In adulthood, most of us (especially parents) find that giving is much more satisfying than receiving ever was.

This concept doesn’t always translate easily into the business realm. We operate our businesses to gain a profit. That’s not just the way it is, it’s the way it should be.

But we should not base our decisions primarily on how we can extract the most money from the people we do business with. Rather, we should commit to giving as much value as possible to the other party. Then we set our prices accordingly. Always give more than you plan to get.

On Christmas day, a terrific story about giving was posted online. You really should listen to The Big Give, a 15-minute story by Jim Signorelli. A lot of things come into perspective as you listen to Jim describe one particularly memorable Christmas.

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Another Judo Move

There has been some great feedback on my post “5 Judo Moves Every Copywriter Should Know.” If you haven’t read it, please do so. I’m more than 99% sure you’ll be able to get at least one benefit from it.

So, how ’bout a sixth move to add to your judo repertoire?

Ancient Roman poet Ovid said that “Nothing is stronger than habit.” George Santayana is quoted as saying “Habit is stronger than reason.

So, if you can attach your product or service to a habit that exists in your marketing, you have a tremendous advantage: there’s a force of nature working on your behalf!

For example, you don’t see most cigarette lighter manufacturers do much advertising. They don’t really need to. They’ve attached their product to a habit/addiction. Smokers are going to smoke, and they need matches or lighter to make that happen. All a company has to do is put lighters where smokers can see them, and they’ll sell.

On the other hand, there are companies that create habits around their products or services. What percentage of people buy the same toothpaste every time, without even thinking about it? I bet it’s a pretty high number.

A researcher at Duke University published a paper in 2006 which found that over 40% of the activities we perform every day are habits, not conscious decisions. We’re not nearly as analytical and rational as we like to think we are!

Can you think of any ways you can use the force of habit as one of your best salesmen?

  • Become associated with something your target market already uses habitually.
  • Help your market engage in those habitual behaviors instead of trying to get them to change those habits (which is what a lot of marketing attempts to do)
  • Make it easy to form a habit buying from you.
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Quote of the Week 26

Have ever started a new project or activity full of excitement, only to find your enthusiasm shrinking over the coming days and weeks?

I think everyone who has lived a few years has probably had this experience. It’s a pretty common occurrence amongst us humans, record-setting track athlete Jim Ryun has some advice for us.

“Motivation gets you started; habit keeps you going.”

Achieving the things you really desire in life will usually take hard work. We don’t always feel inspired to keep at it, though.

Most people you and I know mess up at this point. When the emotional charge that accompanies the early stages of a new venture dies down, we give up. We lack the willpower to push through.

The old proverb that says anything worth having is worth working for is 100% true. If you want to reach your goals in life, you’ll have to put in real effort.

Jim Ryun knows quite a bit about hard work. He set world records, after all!

His recipe involves forming habits to keep moving forward after the motivation wears off.

Roman poet Ovid is quoted as saying “Nothing is stronger than habit.” Even motivation.

What’s all this boil down to? You have some challenging goals to accomplish, right? You know you’ve either already felt that initial excitement or you soon will. Begin immediately to form habits that will continue to propel you toward the finish line when the feelings cool down. Be purposeful about it.

You will find yourself to be more successful than you’ve been at any point in the past when you’ve allowed emotion (or the lack of them) to dictate your actions. And you’ll probably outperform most of your peers that are working on the same goals.

Sounds like a good plan to me.

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