Let me start by saying I love Seth Godin’s work. I am 100% on board with his vision of good marketing. But recently a couple of phrases of his have started rubbing up against my personal values, and I might go so far as to call them ‘disrespectful’.

He has talked about how as marketers we need to “understand the irrational forces that drives each of us”, and that in making a purchase we are satisfying a “…feeling, not a logical truth”.

But I don’t believe any purchase is irrational and that there is a logic behind every one of them. To suggest that customers just buy stuff without logic or reason does a huge disservice to the decision-making abilities of all of us, and diminishes the need that the purchase satisfies.

Sometimes, as customers we may not really know why we buy something, but I can pretty much guarantee that if we unpicked the purchase and the reasons behind it in a therapy session, we’d get to the logic in the end.

As humans, I believe that we all have an innate ability to know ourselves; to get to the core of ‘us’. Many people never experience this level of self-knowledge, and of those who do, this may have come about through therapy, coaching or deep soul-searching and quest to know ourselves.

But as marketers, it is our job to really understand our customers. To get in their heads, walk in their shoes and see their worlds as they see it themselves. It is our job first and foremost to develop an empathic understanding of our customers, and fellow humans.

I’ve quoted Seth before: “Nobody needs your product” and I think it’s one of the most powerful phrases in marketing today. I love saying it to people because they almost find it offensive, and when I explain the thought behind it, the realisation that follows is wonderful to observe.

But it’s true. I don’t need a new dress. I want a new dress, and if I buy it, my husband will certainly think it’s an illogical purchase because I have a wardrobe bursting at the seams with dresses. What I need is something new and on-trend, because I want to look up-to-date, I want to signal that I care about what’s in fashion and as a kid whose parents were on a budget, I like the fact that as an adult, I don’t have to wait or save up for the latest trend, I can have it. And that’s important to me. What I need is to prove to myself that I am successful because I can buy the clothes I like, when I want, and this means they’re current. I need to demonstrate that I know what good taste and style is and I do this through my wardrobe (most of the time).

Now, the companies that sell the kind of dresses that I like know this. They know about people like me, and their marketing strategy is geared up to sell to lots of people like me. They know what we need and they communicate that they understand this in what they say, how they say it, where they say it and when they say it. They don’t think my purchase is illogical. They don’t have a marketing team sat sniggering around a boardroom talking about all these irrational women, making crazy, illogical purchases. They know what we need, and they know how to communicate that to us. Because they can empathise with us. And if that is communicated respectfully (a whole other topic in itself), I’m in. They can have my hard-earned cash.

So my dress purchase is based on my logic. A rational but emotional logic.

And it’s your job as a marketer to get inside the head of each of your customers and understand what it is that they’re buying and why they’re buying it. And by acknowledging that their purchases are based in an emotional logic, you show them some respect.

If you can’t create an empathic connection with your customers in every communication and transaction, you’ll never have the relationship you need with them where everyone wins and feels valued.

So maybe I’ll end by saying this is how I’d reword Seth’s comments, that we need to “understand the seemingly irrational forces that drives each of us”, and that in making a purchase we are satisfying a “…feeling, an emotionally logical truth”.

Empathy, Respect and Consistency are the 3-pillars of Person-Centred Marketing; a new philosophy that we are developing into a marketing theory for the new world. If you’d like to hear more about Person-Centred Marketing, you can pre-register here and we’ll let you know when more information is available.