Four Major Marketing Principles: Part 1 of 3
by Jim Rubart
[I’m taking time off this week, but I’m leaving you in good hands with this great series on marketing principles. Have fun! ~Rachelle]
Marketing Principle #1:
You Must Shock BROCA
In the early 90s, when I sold radio for a Seattle station, I answered the office phone one morning with, “Dominos Pizza!” This was before caller ID, so I had no idea if it was a friend or a client. It was the latter; one I would describe as devoid of the humor gene. But my slightly insane greeting broke through and she didn’t miss a beat. “Large pepperoni pizza please, extra cheese, we need it by 12:30.” We laughed and then talked business. After I hung up, I called Dominos, put in her “order,” and had it delivered to her office.
Did the fact I got a huge amount of advertising dollars from her later that week have anything to do with my moment of insanity? Of course. Why? I surprised Broca’s area of her brain.
In 1861, French surgeon Paul Broca discovered the area of the brain responsible for speech production, specifically assigning syntax of words while listening and comprehending structural complexity. Broca’s area sits just behind the pre-frontal cortex, the area of the brain where we choose to take action. It’s where we process the pros and cons of a decision and ultimately choose path A or B. But before any sensory input—what we see, hear, read—can get to the pre-frontal cortex, it has to pass through Broca’s area. Broca is the nine-hundred pound bouncer of the brain.
What Broca hates: Boredom. What Broca loves: Surprises.
We hear this regarding our writing: “Open with a strong hook!” “Surprise the reader!” “Develop an elevator pitch that will grab ’em!” Successful authors have learned these skills, but when it comes to marketing, we tend to say the same things, in the same way that everyone else is saying them, so we bore editors, agents and even readers. We end up sounding like Charlie Brown’s parents. “Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah.” It. Does. Not. Get. Through.
When you’ve heard a joke fifteen times and a friend starts telling it again, it’s Broca’s area of your brain that screams, “Enough!” Its Broca’s area of the brain that says I’ve seen that story, pitch, Web site, one sheet, etc., a thousand times before, and I’m bored out of my mind. It’s Broca’s area that is thrilled when a movie or book twists our brain into a pretzel at the end. Remember The Sixth Sense? Or The Usual Suspects? Broca loved those movies! Surprise Broca and you’ll make an impression that can last for months, sometimes years. With our Web sites, phone calls, business cards, thank you notes, one-sheets, conversations, in everything we do we must surprise Broca.
These days we live in an age of information overload on steroids. There are a zillion blogs, Web sites, Facebook posts, tweets, articles to read, let alone the books clamoring for our limited time. How in the word do we stand out? How do we get noticed as authors? How can we get ourselves to the pre-frontal cortex? Surprise Broca.
After one of my first writing conferences I wrote this to an editor I’d met: “If there was time in this life, I think we might have become friends. Maybe in eternity.” Not your typical—and boring, “It was such a pleasure to meet you.” Two weeks later I got an e-mail from him which started our strong, on-going friendship.
Novelist Wanda Dyson puts yellow crime tape around her table when she does books signings. Do you think that attracts more readers than tables that have nothing interesting to draw a reader’s attention?
When author Sharon Hinck ran around ICRS in 2007 with a sword in her hand and a cape on her back, did it surprise Broca? Yep. Did she sell a ton of The Restorer series? Yep. Are the two connected? I think so.
One final thought: Surprising Broca is risky. Will you crash and burn with some people? Yes, absolutely. (Some people will laugh at your crime tape or your cape.) But as I tell my clients, love me, hate me, just don’t ignore me.
Jim Rubart is the owner of Barefoot Marketing (www.barefootmarketing.com) a marketing & consulting firm in the Pacific Northwest, and his first novel ROOMS comes out in April from B&H Fiction (www.jimrubart.com). He is represented by Chip MacGregor at MacGregor Literary. (www.chipmacgregor.com)