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Friday, 17 May 2013

About Safety

Danger and safety are sides of the same coin. 

We humans forever feel the pull of both. Once we have achieved one, we long for the other. 

First and foremost we long for safety; together with food and shelter, it makes up the first layer of the Piramid of Maslow. In highly organized societies with high levels of (social) protection though, danger works well in marketing. 

I believe this is the reason for the appeal of the new Safety Currency. 

We know that its goal is to find a way to provide safety and it's a tool to protect us. Against a fall of the Euro or Pound, against a sudden policy of a huge tax on our savings, or against the dictates of banks. 

At the same time, we feel that the ones behind it are playing with fire. How will banks or governments react? Thank God it's them who take all the risk, and not us.

We might find them crazy, we might think they're dreamers, or even megalomaniacs... but after only 2 days of having gone online, it's clear that we do join. 

We do so because it's an ideal mix: it's safe, but it's dangerous. 

I can't think of any other reason why it's going viral so quickly, even in these very first days of just testing the waters, with still lots of bugs and flaws, and not even having started any publicity whatsoever. 

Safety with a little craze in the mix. 

When I am sceptical (and I can be VERY sceptical), I think it will go nowhere. At one point or the other it will need a leap of faith; someone actually offering services or a product in this currency. I don't see that happen very soon. If they can pull that off, then it will be a major shift in this time of transition. 

You have got to admire people who dream this much. Who throw their full 80 kgs, all its muscles and grey cells and focus and dedication, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, behind and into a dream like this one. Non-stop and against all odds and against all criticism. Hats off! Dreamers make the world the rest of us lives in. 

I can't help it if it's not my dream. And I'm the one injecting the frowns and raised eyebrows. 

But there you go, also me I feel the pull... it's safe, but it's dangerous. 

Safety being primordial. It's the livelihood of insurance companies and marketing consultants alike. It's the basis of our lives. We will work towards it or defend it unlike anything else. Any person or any company or any product or any service that guarantees safety will get our vote. The very first thing a website needs to do is to radiate reliability, confidentiality, safety. 

And once we have achieved it - we start feeling the pull of the other side of the magnet.

It's the never ending story of humanity. 

After the rocky 1930's and the terrible 1940's we started a world of neat bungalows in neat neighborhoods, being very content that life, finally, was about getting a washing machine and a plastic fruitbowl on the Minnie Mouse tablecloth. There had been drama enough! Give us boredom and superficial comfort!

And the next generation felt they were hibernating and rebelled against just that. And the Yuppies had enough of the rocky existence of their hippie parents, etc.

Such is the balance between our needs for safety and danger. 

Which many a marriage may testify: we marry one, but need a fling with the other.

Ben




About Danger

Lately I talk a lot about safety on Befriend me
That is because of the launch of the Safety Currency.
There's only so much you can tell about safety, and I felt myself being pulled towards the opposite: danger.
One of the 3 main triggers in marketing.

Sex, we all know about that one.
Food, that no longer comes as a surprise either.
More and more often I see hotel websites using photos of tasty dishes, even before showing a photo of a room; exactly because the web designer knows that our taste buds jump into action. Our reptilian brain craves that food, wants instant satisfaction - but the only action we can take is click on buttons.
It is no miracle that websites offering pizza deliveries come with such a high, if not the highest average conversion rate: such websites can turn 10% up to a staggering 15% of their visitors into buyers.
The visitor was already thinking about eating (if not, he or she would not search for online pizza delivery), and seeing all those colourful pizzas and melting cheese... no, that's too much. No way that we are going to browse for another pizzeria, or compare prices. We click. We want it now.
Danger however, is less obvious.
But is it?
From reading a thriller or whodunit to watching a horror movie, from bungee to parachute jumping, from rollercoasters to backpacking through a country everyone warns us about... there is a strange magnetism between us humans and danger.
Rest assured, I won't start again about those hundreds of thousands of years, all alone with the sabre tooth tigre in the savannah! (Dracula, anyone? Vampires? Even Hannibal The Cannibal has got sharp teeth).
The best and surefire way to get your young kid addicted to cigarettes, is to forever repeat just how much you forbid him to do that (him, since males are more attracted to danger than females).
If our governments really wanted to protect us against smoking, they would forbid it. Easy as pie. But they can't. A large part of our economy and tax department depends on it. They do have to act as though they protect us. Dilemma...
So, there you go: "Smoking kills"! "Smoking harms your health"!
Everyone satisfied. Big Tobacco is, and the governments save face.
If you truly want people to stop smoking, you start by stripping it of its sex appeal (done), and replace the message of danger by photos of healthy, happy people.
(We would not say 'stop' or 'quit' smoking either; that makes a human feel to be a loser, a quitter. We tend to want to start something, not stop. 'Start a healthy life' or 'break free' would work much better).
Last year we performed a test in my small village. A group of people was led through the village, and then to a house where the door was open. Then we stood in the living room and hushed everyone to be quiet; the landlord did not know we were there.
Sure, part of the group followed because of the navigation: the guides acting all normally, as though it was part of the plan. Another part followed because they knew it to be set-up. But a 3rd part really thought we were entering someone's privacy and cooperated... because it was exciting. They felt like being naughty kids again.
Which, in the end, we all are and, sometimes, like to be.
Safety is the foundation of the Piramid of Maslow, and thus highly attractive. And as per usual, the opposite is also true: once the desire for safety has been fulfilled or secured, we feel the annoyingly attractive invitation of danger, to come and join, if only for a while.
Ben

Befriend me

About Openness

Marketing is nothing but opening the door towards the market.  
 
Open wide, very wide.
 
In your showroom you've got a glamorous car, outside there are people yearning for a glamorous car... so as marketers it's our job to create the right windows and glass doors; the connection between product and buyer should be a match made in heaven.
 
Your website is one window. If it looks bad, then there it stops.
 
It's no use to tell just how good and reliable and luxurious your product and services are; it needs to show.
 
Just how many websites are there out there, filled with pages and pages of exhuberant descriptions and hysterical testimonials, but that simply never convert a visitor into a client?
 
We humans make our decisions within a matter of seconds. Nor you nor me will walk into a bar if the very first impression is not a good one.
 
We will not give that bar the benefit of the doubt, tell ourselves 'well, maybe the barman has got great conversation' or 'perhaps if we sit there the lights do not look so harsh'... we take a peek inside and leave. There are just too many neon lights or jazz sounds or cosy laughter anywhere else.
 
It needs to click. Instantly.
 
Any very good marketing strategy is like an attractive person, with the big smile and wide open arms of a Russian peasant in a musical, saying: it's YOU I've been waiting for, you and me are made for each other!
 
It's the main reason why I'm so bad at sales.
 
I'm trained too much in being open, and not only let customers walk in, but all the way into the most secretive corners of the showroom. Somewhere between the door and the car a Sales Person should interfere and say: "This is actually payable".
 
Some sales people are brilliant marketing for their company, some marketers are great salesmen; but if you find such a person, please introduce us!
 
If that is you, can you please drop me a line this instant, for I have been looking for you for years. .
 
Ben
 
 

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

About Quality

What is quality? 

One of the most puzzling questions of all time; ever since ancient Greece thousands of papers and articles have been written about this subject, so I will keep it short. 

Pirsig says: "Quality is what makes you choose one thing over another". 

In short: one can't describe it, nor put the finger on it; but we do make a choice. 

As a web designer and marketer I do know what NON-quality is. 

It's the art of spending much more time, more energy, more man hours and more posts on social networks in order to achieve less than others. 

A quality website makes money, a non-quality one loses money. 

People are sometimes shocked when I tell about prices. 3000 euro for a website? (Do not even get me started about those that involve programmers and go direction of 50,000). "Here I found one for 200€"! "There are free templates online"! 

Yes, well, the 50,000 one makes the double each week. The free template attracts 1 client a month. 

As impossible it is to describe quality; we humans recognize it, and go for it. 

That does not mean something cheap cannot have quality. Far from it! And often even the opposite! 

That beauty product of 2€ in Lidl can be far more effective, than the 80€ one of a high level brand. Whole teams of scientists and researchers can actually prove that. But to no avail... we humans have the tendency to go for what LOOKS good. 

In that sense, we are no different than the magpie. We go for shine. 

Which basically every product on the shelves of any supermarket knows. Why on earth would crisps have to be packaged in gloss and colours and stylish fonts? 

What is that, with people in shirt and tie begging for money in the subway, being the biggest collectors? 

Or that study that shows that people who wear a shirt with a Branded symbol or logo... encounter more friendliness than those who don't? 

Yes, we can shake our heads and debate about superficiality or snobbishness. But there you go. 

Remember our history is one of hundreds of thousands of years of very difficult and very dangerous living conditions. More often than not, our survival depended on our ability to take split second decisions. They made the difference between life or death. 

We were not going to stop to try to figure out: is that really a sabre-tooth tigre? Perhaps it's just a buffalo? Or perhaps the sunlight is so sharp and it's just a spot on a rock? 

In today's world we are surrounded by such a forest of signals and triggers, that we rely on the automatic pilot of our intuition and instinct. 

None of us is ever going to open that bag of crisps, read the descriptions, to check if it is real quality; there can be thousands of brands on the shelve, only 2 catch our attention, and we pick one... in a matter of seconds. 

And those are only those brands that made it to the shelves of the supermarket. You can imagine the hundreds or thousands that never even made it there. 

That is Internet marketing for you. A supermarket with over a trillion web pages. 

Good or deplorable... such is modern life, and it will become sucher and sucher :) 

The very, very good news is: any thought spent on quality, is always worth the while. Not only business wise, but for the development of our own brains, creativity, self development. 

You could say: 'Do you find it worth the while to dedicate your whole life to such an insignificant thing as SEO'?  Yes, I do find that worth the while. 

For in the end, SEO is all about quality. I can't think of a better job for myself. 

I hope you feel the same about your profession. Since you are reading this, and you actually read this article about quality all the way up to this last phrase... I know you do. 

Thank you for being there!! 

Ben










Monday, 13 May 2013

About Friendship

So, nowadays we say that this or that person is 'a Facebook friend'. 

That is as much as saying: "I've got nothing to do with that creep"! 

We use the word 'friends' all day long; there are sayings about good neighbours being better than far away friends; songs about friendship being an illusion; and a TV show about friends ran 9 seasons long and turned an army of actors, writers and half of Hollywood into billionaires...

Friendship touches a nerve accross all countries, cultures and classes. 

So what, if a far away friend is not as good as a good neighbour? A good neighbour is a friend. He or she displays all the characteristics, respect and understanding, at the right time at the right moment in the right dosis; and consequently is the right sort of friendship at the right time and place. 

So what, if friendship is 'an illusion'? Can we live without illusions, especially one as beautiful as this one? 

There is no such thing as just '2 ships passing in the night'; for at that moment in time, in that situation, during that passing by and exchanging a silent flash light greeting, they are each others' life rescuers. 

I'd rather have that illusion-far-away-temporary thing than anything else in the world. 

They say 'friends help each other with everything'. As though we're an association of handymen. Which only shows how difficult it is for us to define friendship, or tell what it actually is. 

Personally I believe: friends are those people who lift each other up to a higher level. 

We are all climbing. We want to climb. It's in our nature to climb. To go higher, increase our potential, ensure that we leave life as a better person than when we arrived. 

The hand that comes down from the sky to pull us up; that hand belongs to a person who is or will become a true friend. 

At one point that hand will be exhausted, it will loose the energy or focus to climb... and then we are the ones to stop and help our friend to climb further. 

'Choose your friends wisely'. I believe that not a single quote in this whole blog is as important as this one. 

Do not look for better advice in this blog - or anywhere else for that matter -  not regarding happiness nor regarding a career, not regarding motivation and not regarding remuneration, not regarding health nor regarding success in online marketing - as this one. 

If you wish to turn your life into a long, wide, tranquil river; this is the source. Friendship.  

There will be friends who will wish you to stay with them, forever stuck and content on the same rock. Or will wish to bring you down. A friendship can be a chain, a dog lead or even a poison. 

There will be times you wonder 'what on earth am I doing in this friendship'? Asking that question, is knowing the answer. 

Are you going to end that friendship? Are you going to use it for self-development, and analyse what it is in the other that made you friends in the first place?  Or... are you going to be a true friend and help the other to get onto a better frequency?  

The chemical reaction named friendship is a massively strong one. It can propel 2 people towards the stars, just as it can bring 2 people down. 

The one who reaces for the stars, should be the strongest hand. 

That can be exhausting. You might bump into 9 seasons of objections, misunderstanding, refusal, negativity... someone who has sat on the same rock for years, has developed rusty limbs. If not, resistant ones. No elephant might be able to pull him or her higher. 

In such an occasion, you might have to let go. But not until you have done everything you could. 

For in the first place, you need to be a good friend, you need to develop your friendship muscle. 

If we want to have good friends, we have to put ourselves onto the friendship frequency. 

Do not give a person what he wants. Nor what he needs. Pull him up towards that shimmering light up there. That star we all feel that exists. 

Our potential. 

Friends are people who help each other detect and climb towards their potential. 

We all want to shine, and friends are the ones who are going to make that happen, and we for them. 

Ben




Wednesday, 8 May 2013

About Now

Now is the most difficult moment to live in.

Your fingers are already itching to click forward or backwards; living THIS moment though is hard. Whereas you should stay. 

It doesn't matter how intelligible or dumb the words are you are reading right now. Or how much you agree with them or not. Or to what extent you are aware of them. This is simply a pure excercise in living the here and now.

Take a FEW seconds to think about it:  Just how many times do you act and seem to be a living person... but you are simply not there? 
Your thoughts are in the past, or in the future, with the bill at the table miles away or a problem at the office where you are not. 

And there is nothing as rich, full, 4-dimensional and beautiful as the here and now. 

Don't throw that away.
Living in the now is an excercise in happiness, health, beauty - everything. 

Do yourself a favour every day and stop for one moment to truly try to experience and enjoy the NOW. Hold it, for just a few minutes. It is so rare, that you will feel refreshed and inspired, as though you had been on an excursion - or a vacation to a new place.

Through assimilation, it will become a habit. Which you can pull up every time you feel bored, or restless, or - our natural state - vague.

NOW is also the best moment to start practising that.

It doesn't matter if your current state is a 'negative' one: feeling sad or depressed or sceptical. Those too are human emotions that you need to go through, come with their beauty and purpose (if only because we can only achieve the summit if we've gone through the valley). 

I wish you a merry, happy, funny and fascinating NOW.

Bernardus

PS: What is this doing in a blog of a web designer? Everything. Split second persuasion is the basis of all successful marketing. You need the 'now' to be at the same wave length as your website visitors. 



Monday, 6 May 2013

About Marketing

In order to excel in marketing, one needs to understand humans.  

This blog was born on the same day as this insight.

More: in order to understand humans, you need to understand yourself. 

For what is marketing? It is opening the door as wide as possible, between your product and your market. And you, as marketer, are that door. 

You are the door, the doorman and the person on the street handing out flyers or asking people to come in. 

Just as the youngster at the door of a discotheque, you are not only asking this to the right people with the right, trendy attire, you also need to be like them. 

I could never be very good at organizing a marketing campaign directed at Americans. Nor at those who like soccer and beer. I excel in marketing towards that part of the market that likes Jack Daniels, listens to Jazz and buys Mercedes. 

That might sound arrogant. Which it does so, because it is. 

But there you go; I did not choose to grow up there, finding myself as a baby in that corner of 'the market'; and so, naturally and organically, it has become 'the market' I live and breathe, understand, make a connection with, and the people there connecting with me. 

'Know thyself'. 

How is it that such a simple expression has become the most famous, most known and most appreciated of all ancient Greek aphorisms? 

How come that people, very intelligent people, people you'd think to have read tens of thousands of pages of Supreme Literature, rave about that one single aphorism? 

You would think that more intelligent things have been said since the era of ancient Greece. And aren't there dozens and dozens of more spectacular, heartbreaking or extremely funny sayings or quotes? Every single day you find thousands of them on Facebook. 

So why was this one carved in the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, and we remember it 2200 years down the line? 

For it is the most wise insight of them all. 

Having wandered over this earth for 45 years, I tend to state it's almost the only thing that matters. 

If you know yourself, you will know people. 
If you know yourself, you will be happy. 
If you know yourself, you will be a success. 
If you know yourself, you know the enemy, and you will win the war.  

Why is a SEO and marketing strategist writing about human emotions?  This is why. 

This blog is about marketing, and thus about humans... and thus about you and you going on an exploration of you, all your caves, sunny and shadowy sides, up to the smallest corners of your mind and body. 

Analyse your own behaviour... and you know everything you need to know about high rankings in search engines, about Branding and about website conversion. 

My thanks to all my friends out there who help me to understand people. When someone asks me how I get these high rankings in search engines, I can only say: because of my friends. You make me fly. 

Ben






About Love

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold met as teenagers. They became friends. 

Three years later 13 people died at their hands at the Columbine High School Massacre. 

Would they never have met, nothing much would have happened. But this inexplicable friendship shaped a Perfect Storm: dominant, sadistic boy meets depressed inferiority complex.

Any friendship is a variation of 'being in love'. For it creates a chemical reaction, resulting in something that is bigger than the sum of the parts. You could say it's a third person. 

Nor Bill nor Hillary would ever have made it to president of the United States. It was Billary who did that. Brangelina is world famous. Both Nicolae and Elena were breathtakingly mediocre people - but 'the Ceausescu's' were a dragon from hell. 

For our genes are not always aspiring to find that partner who will optimize the chances of our offspring. It can be something else too. 

'I love youbecause you have what I'm lacking. And I have what you lack'.

I'm too much Brain and you too much Heart. Together we find an ideal equilibrium, improving both of us, polishing our edges and make ourselves more healthy and happy. 

Our genes are over the moon with that. They just want to reproduce, ad nauseam, and want to find the most optimized 'recipe' for survival.  

Look at that too tall man with that tiny girl. Their genes would not want to create a giant nor dwarf. Look at that extrovert with the extravert, the  intellectual with the Lolita, the shrewd businessman with the innocent blonde. 

Mind, we do not have to reproduce together - I can also use your useful lesson for my reproduction with someone else  - nor do we have to leave babies of flesh and blood; our collision can result in something completely new, powerful and immaterial.

Let the friendship between you and me be a good love. May the magnets that draw us together, result in something good. Let's leave a 'baby' that contributes and builds, rather than destroys. 

I believe even the relationship between a writer and a reader is one of love. 

Every very interesting conversation in a bar is, and every moment of silence shared by two strangers is. 

Agree with me or don't. React positivily or negativily, that doesn't matter. 

For on our own, we are rough and sharp stones. It is only by being dragged down this furious river called life, colliding with and bumping into other stones, that is making us round and smooth; a brilliant beautiful stone at the riverbank, shining in the sun. 

Bernardus
www.bernardus.biz




Friday, 3 May 2013

About Charisma

We humans are driven by Brain, Heart and Balls. 

These are our control centres. The 3 pilots in our cockpit. 

Sure, that is a matter of speaking. In reality they represent the layers of our brain, and how it evolved over the course of 5 million years: 

The very primitive reptilian brain, then the limbic brain, responsible for emotions and memories, and the superstar of modern age, the neo cortex.
But let's call them Head, Heart and Balls. Or brain, feelings and courage.
From a very early age on, society pushes us to solely focus on the head. The neo cortex rules the waves.
Schools, parents, neighbours, friends, newspapers... they have but one message only: "Is that a very wise thing to do"? "Use your head", "Learn this", "Get that degree", "it's better to be nice", "Latin is useful for everything", etc.

Friends playing cards: development of the neo cortex. School: neo cortex. TV quiz: neo cortex. 

Just do the test for yourself: you are being confronted with a situation and, woosh, you feel how all energy is compressed together in some ball in your forehead. 

This is so society-wide and perpetual, that the connection with our true inner feelings or most primitive instincts has become a very frail, thin and  hesitant one. At every crossroads in our lives, after every single question that is asked: whoosh, we consult our neo cortex.

What our limbic brain thinks of the matter, that is secondary. What our reptilian brain has to say: push it away.
Our brain is our muse, consultant and CEO in every single situation.
Hence why...  we love people who are all heart. Or all balls. 

Because they are so fucking special

(Pardon my French. That was my reptilian brain taking over).
Not only are they just rare; we would also love to be like them. If only we could.
If society and education had not, slowly and steadily, made us live in a straitjacket. Or, very gently, suffocated us under the pillow of what is considered civilized, sociable and clever.
(For the record: that is a good thing. We would be throwing sticks and stones at each other right now, if it weren't for our good old neo cortex). 

It's the reason why Spaniards are so charismatic in the eyes of North Europeans. (Or why Spain is in such a mess every X decades). 

One always has to think of Bill Clinton in this respect. There's no shortage of American presidents who were/are charismatic, but Clinton still tops the, er, bill. 

He would look you in the eye. Touch your arm while listening. Look at you as though you were the most special person on earth, with a fascinating conversation. 

Mind: this was no act. He DID love any person he met. It was not for political gain, not calculated. He was all heart - his heart searching for and vibrating on the same wave length as yours. 

(Or, why he also made very bad and impulsive decisions). 

But there's Reagan (balls and heart), there's Bush the younger (balls only)... you might not like their politics, but large masses did, and that was not about their politics, but for their charisma. 

Obama, Nelson Mandela, MLK, Mother Theresa, Pope JP 2... charismatic people. 

Neo cortex world provides us with safety, stability, justice, security. That's all great and precisely where we need to be. But sometimes, sometimes it also feels like hibernating, a place where everything is correct, and nothing beautiful. 

Too much safety, and no more adventure. Everything marble and concrete, and no more greenery. 

Meeting a charismatic person, is a very short escape towards that other oasis, we also long for but always suppress. 



Thursday, 2 May 2013

About Dreams

It's not difficult to achieve your dream.
That is easy.
The problem starts when you have several dreams. Dreams that collide or dreams that obstruct each other.
You want to be a construction worker, but also live in the desert.
You want to have a Masaratti, but also 3 children at university.
Be rich, but also live a calm, peaceful life.
Be a well earning marketing consultant, but also live in a remote hilltop village.
If you have one goal, it's not difficult to reach it. All you want is to run the 100 meters in under 10 seconds? You'll make it. But in the mean time you also want to enjoy the landscape and try this picturesque country road on the right or the left?
Not only will you not run the 100 meters in under 10 seconds, you will not thoroughly enjoy the views either, and be forever frustrated that you never knew where this picturesque road actually leads to.
Now frustration sets in. The sense of being 'a loser'. To not have fulfilled your dreams.
You are being bombarded with images of people 'who fulfilled their dream'. They are everywhere (well, on YouTube they are, on Facebook, on television... but if you check around you you wouldn't be able to spot one).
What a loser you are.
Really?
So, how is you finding the absolutely right balance between all your dreams, finding the best of all worlds - turning you into 'a loser'?  I'd say you are richer and wealthier than any one-trick-pony.
Having dreamed for 10 years of going to Iceland, and then pouring much money into achieving that dream, and having spent months preparing for that trip - and then actually climbing over glaciers... I can tell you that fulfilling dreams is rather unsatisfactory.
Is that all it is? I had pictured the mountains to be higher, the plains to be more deserted, the ice fields to be purer and larger... what I am standing here between the tourist coaches and truckloads of tourists taking pictures of that one single, small iceberg?
I wish I had gone to climb Kilimanjaro...
I no longer dream of Iceland, nor the Kilimanjaro. That trip is easy to conjure up in the mind. I can do that from my home, feel the wind and the cold and the sense of being alone in an African savannah. Without the mosquitos.
I no longer need my dosis of excitement in Six Flags or on a roller coaster in an entertainment park. Hey, I move about on a blue ball, it is spinning, and turning around a huge yellow ball, and together we twirl through a solar system, which goes, woosh, through an unimaginable universe. What on earth do I need a rollercoaster for??
As every day isn't rollercoaster enough, if not around me, then within me. With our emotions, who needs drugs?
We carry the whole universe in ourselves, every aspect of it and every experience.
You are the Ferrari, the car itself is just metal with paint.
Don't be frustrated about not living your dream. Fully unaware of it, you are living it. Every little step of your life, has brought you here. All the tiny tubes and threads in your head, all the elements of your character and temperament, all the experiences of your childhood and youth, all your physical specifics, all your sensitivities and knowledge of what you could cope with and what not... all of these things have brought you here.
You don't think you know better than them, do you?
Dreaming is nice, is good, is healthy and is beautiful. But don't ever forget you are already living it too. 

Where you are right now, is exactly the place where you need to be. 

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

About Honesty

In this blog I can say everything I want. 

I can be bluntly honest and say that I hate your guts, with your stupid hat. 

For I am protected by 25 Kms of mountain range and you will not find this tiny village anyway. 

But I won't do so. 

Complete honesty is not an intelligent virtue. It's easy and it's basic. Any peasant can be honest. 

Only when balanced with understanding, empathy, mildness, and the wish to contribute rather than to tear down, honesty can turn into the most brilliant of virtues. Then it shines as the inside of a diamond. 

Who am I to say your hat is stupid? Perhaps that hat makes you happy? Perhaps you come from a background where such a hat meant something? Perhaps it has a deep, not yet discovered, meaning for you? 

Am I so egocentric I see my own idea of what a hat should be as the one and only guideline for everyone? 

I believe this is the discussion between Aristotle and Plato. More: I believe it's the battle between Islam and the west. 

Aristotle always was more popular in the west, and Plato more popular in the east; because they found fertile ground there. In fact: they only said what people already believed. 

In the west we are Aristotelians. Is it right, correct, honest, clear, simple, mathematical, one plus one = 1. "Do you swear you will tell the truth and nothing but the truth"? And we say: "Yes". 

And then the judge and jury and the whole court will sit down because truth will be told. Because that man said so. 

In the east we are Platonians. Is it friendly, kind, harmonious, in balance, 1+1 might be 3.  

"Will I find a job here"?  
No, of course you won't. There's a 66% unemployment rate. You don't speak the language, you don't have the degree and nobody is going to hire you with that stupid hat. 

But don't you look sad and lost. Isn't this a far too beautiful evening to make you go to bed with even less hope for tomorrow. And we are sitting here in such pure harmony, with our tea, enjoying a rare moment of friendship. "Of course you will find a job. Look at all your talents"! 

Let's make a charicature of it: The American president goes to the Middle East. 

He hands over contracts with stipulations. The host president responds with smiles, nods and a tea, to reinforce the harmony and beauty of the moment. One month later they are furious with one another. "Arabs are such liars"!  "Americans are so rude"! 

Aristotle or Plato... who is the better friend? It's impossible to tell. We need both. 

One that puts us with our feet on the ground, and prepares us to be stronger for the future. And one that shines a bit of light in a rather difficult and unsatisfactory life. 

"Do you think my hat is stupid"? 
Well, we have not left the house yet. I do not want to hit you in the face with it but yes, your judgement of hats is not perfect. Let's try another hat. 

Or no, we are already at the party. Telling you my opinion about your hat will make you feel ashamed and ruin your dancing mood. And don't you look all excited and hopeful about the evening... your glow and happiness outshine your hat. You could be naked or wear a tracksuit and still be beautiful. 

I am not being dishonest when I say "no, your hat looks great". Because I think that in reality, it's not the priority and maybe not even your real question. You should not be worrying about hats anyway or pay any attention to the opinion of people who do. 

I want you to feel beautiful, because if you feel beautiful, you are. And not wearing 20 stupid hats will change that. 

And THAT's the truth, and nothing but the truth. 

Ben

About Marketing

"About marketing? How is this blog about marketing?
 
All I see is you writing about human emotions and virtues"!
 
Really? So is one thing disconnected from the other?
 
Isn't really every succesful businessman someone who was able to tap into the desires and needs of the market, and thus people?
 
Which explains the overrepresentation of guys in jeans and a T-shirt who became Internet-millionaires, because they understand - and are one of - an immense army of buyers.
 
I believe that in order to be good at marketing, one needs to understand humans.
 
If Nike increased their sales simply because of the tagline 'Just do it', it's because they could really put themselves in the shoes of that person standing in the sports store.
 
'Mm, this is so expensive. I know I want to take up jogging, but maybe I should go for a cheap shoe. Or perhaps it can wait another month. You know what, they are right, JUST DO IT, my health starts here and now, and I love that can-do attitude. Let's go for it'.
 
It only depends on your product which person you want to understand.
 
Do you want to tap into the primal, and thus massive market, of sex and drugs?
 
Do you want to tap into the market of Mercedes-driving, jazz-listening, Johnny Walker-drinking 40-something?

Do you want to tap into the feelings of thousands of people who, each day, in every sports store, feel that their wallets and dreams are in a never ending battle?
 
Either which way, 'I don't have time for reading' is a surefire way to make your more refined marketing strategy fail, or forever become an uphill struggle.
 
You want to excel in marketing? Read. Psychology, sociology, anthropology. Or: good literature.
 
Jane Austen taught me much more about human behaviour than the combined works of 10 famous marketing gurus.
 
Or, on an easier level: what about Miss Marple?  "You do not have to leave your village in order to understand the world".
 
In my tiny hilltop village in Spain I often realize what Miss Marple meant. I see the whole of New York here, compressed into an easier and more obvious structure - a basic template of what every website should be.
 
Studying the behaviour at the Thursday market - makes me understand the global market as a whole. It makes me understand what makes Google tick.
 
What makes people tick.
 
And then wonder which people I would want to attract and cater to.
 
In the end, these are the people I like or admire. I am one of those who can't just sell anything - only what I think contributes to society and makes lives of those people better.
 
What is marketing other than just throwing a door wide open? - between the product you love and the people you want to attract.
 
This is where business owners struggle with marketing. They offer such a fabulous brand of car. And out there are people yearning for that kind of car. But the door in between is shut. Sends out the wrong signal, is addresses to the wrong sort of people.
 
Marketing is that door.
 
And to open it, you need to be galant and charismatic.
 
Which you will only be, when you understand what makes people tick.
 
It's got a terrible reputation ('Don't tell my mum I work in marketing, she things I play the piano in a brothel') but marketing is psychology, sociology and art.
 
Marketing to my market, that is. If it weren't, I wouldn't dedicate my life to it.
 
And you wouldn't be reading about it.
 
Marketing, done well, is not unethical at all. It's fascinating. It's our lifeline. It's connecting us to people. It's our front door, in which we welcome the people we love - and are just like us.