You cannot create desire, only channel it…

Chapter 1 of Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz starts…

“Let’s get right down to the heart of the matter.  The power, the force, the overwhelming urge to own that makes advertising work, comes from the market itself, and not from the copy.  Copy cannot create desire for a product.  It can only take the hopes, dreams, fears and desires that already exist in the hearts of millions of people, and focus those already-existing desires onto a particular product.  This is the copy writer’s task: not to create this mass desire — but to channel and direct it.”

If one of the world’s greatest copywriters, salespeople, and marketers didn’t believe he could create desire, I think that’s worth paying attention to.

Our goal then, in creating our marketing message, is to identify the desires that already exist in our prospect, identify which our offer can fulfill, and tell the story that links the preexisting desire to our offer.

The question then is: what does your prospect desire?

I recently ran across the work of the late Dr. Steven Reiss, a Dartmouth-, Yale-, and Harvard-trained psychologist who, among many other accomplishments, helped us understand the intrinsic human motivations.

In his book, Who Am I?, he laid out his model for the 16 Basic Desires.  That is, the 16 desires that encompass a total model of human motivation.

What struck me, among other things, was the profound similarities between this and John Caples’s list of why people buy.

What follows is the list of Dr. Reiss’s 16 Basic Desires, with brief comments on each.

My recommendation: study this, understand it, internalize it.  And sincerely consider, as you develop your selling narratives, how you’re able to help your product get what they desire through your selling messages.

If your product does not serve at least one of these basic desires, it’s unlikely to ever gain market traction.  If it fulfills many (and most really good products do), make the most of each, with care and subtlety, as you present your selling message.

The desires (alphabetically)…

  1. Acceptance, the need to be appreciated

When we were children, we’d get a star on our homework, and we’d bring it home to our parents, beaming, looking for recognition that we did a good job.  And, more subtly, that we were good enough, that we were worth something, as humans.  As grown-ups, that hasn’t gone away, even if we’re better at hiding it beneath layers of masks.

  1. Curiosity, the need to gain knowledge

Every time we discover something new, we get a little dopamine spike in our brains.  That’s the same feel-good chemical our brain dishes out big time if we take a drug like cocaine.  We have a natural drive to discover, and new and interesting discoveries are needed to fill it.

  1. Eating, the need for food

If we don’t eat for long enough, we die.  Short of not getting water, this drive is the one that will kill us quickest if it’s not ‘fed.’  While eating is not about survival in most modern marketing, gourmet food and the eating experience still taps into this fundamental drive.

  1. Family, the need to take care of one’s offspring

Our children are our legacy.  They are us, projected forward through time and generations.  They are an extension of our ego.  When our children are good, it helps us feel better about who we are.  We will do things for our children above and beyond what we will do for ourselves.  (I once heard that products for babies and small children are the least likely to do well as generic brands — even when we’re willing to buy a generic substitute for ourselves, we want the brand name for our little ones.)

  1. Honor, the need to be faithful to the customary values of an individual’s ethnic group, family or clan

As we mature, our sense of self extends beyond ourselves and our immediate family, to include our tribe, community, or an even bigger group.  That new identity is something we will protect fiercely, for as long as it represents an offshoot of our identity.  To appeal to this is to appeal to a crucial element of the self.

  1. Idealism, the need for social justice

When we’re young, we develop a sense of what’s right and wrong in the world.  And with very few exceptions, we believe we are right and we know what’s right for the world.  And, we see a whole world of wrongs that need to be corrected.  This is a powerful motivator, especially after our core needs are taken care of.

  1. Independence, the need to be distinct and self-reliant

The fundamental battle between parents and kids, I believe, is about independence.  By necessity, parents must make decisions for their kids while the kids are young.  But as the kids get older and develop a distinct sense of who they are, they want to make their own dang decisions.  This is reflected for the rest of our lives as we resist being told what to do by authority figures, and seek to maintain a sense of control over important parts of our lives.

  1. Order, the need for prepared, established, and conventional environments

While we love spontaneity, we also want predictability.  We want the world to be largely the same today as it was yesterday.  Too much change, too quick, makes us uneasy.  Nostalgia and a nod to “the good old days” is a persistent winner in times of rapid change and crisis.

  1. Physical activity, the need for work out of the body

Not everyone wants to be a professional athlete, but we want to know that we’re physically capable of doing whatever activity it is that we want to do.  I once heard that the best alternative word for health is movement.  That is, if you’re healthy, you’re able to move.  If your movement is somehow restricted by your capability, you no longer feel healthy.

  1. Power, the need for control of will

We hate to feel powerless.  We seek power over ourselves, our situation, our outcomes.  We want to control ourselves at the very least.  And we want to control others as much as we need to in order to get our desired outcomes.  It’s not necessarily about controlling others in so much as it about feeling in control of our situation.

  1. Romance, the need for mating or sex

Our species wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for sex.  You wouldn’t be here, and neither would I.  Our culture can put all kinds of labels on it, but at its most fundamental level, sex and all the feelings around it are the byproduct of the fact that we don’t continue as a species until a man and a woman get together and make a little baby.  Today, and throughout life, the same powerful drive to mate stimulates all kinds of desires for pleasure, and is one of the strongest forces outside of hunger in terms of controlling our behavior.

  1. Saving, the need to accumulate something

From an early age, we realize the power of resources.  We need to eat, and if there’s food in storage, we can.  If not, we can’t.  Whatever we want, we realize that the way to get it is through resources.  Either having the resource itself, or being able to trade one resource as a store of value for another.  At its most extreme, an abundance of resources represents near-total security, lack of resources represents death.

  1. Social contact, the need for relationship with others

Did you know that a baby that goes untouched for a very long period of time can actually die?  If we are starved of physical touch, it can create massive disruption in our wellbeing.  With that, we crave all kinds of connection, and in fact flourish when we have it.

  1. Social status, the need for social significance

Back the ol’ ego.  We want to to be respected, to be significant, to be recognized.  And not just on an individual basis, but in the context of our peer group.  We will go to great lengths to get this kind of status, and it represents a compelling motivator above and beyond the survival drives.

  1. Tranquility, the need to be secure and protected

Most of us want peace.  We don’t necessarily want fighting or war.  In fact, the justification for going to war is often with the promise of a future peace and security.  Think what you will about that particular logic, the desire for tranquility and security is a big driver, especially after basic survival needs are met.

  1. Vengeance, the need to strike back against another person

I once heard that nearly every successful person has a version of this story in their background: someone told them they’d never amount to anything and everything they did to become successful was in some way tied to proving that person wrong.  I don’t know that to be true in 100% of cases, but it’s definitely a powerful motivator behind a ton of successful people.  Vengeance and restoring your status as worthy of respect is probably even more powerful than pursuing that worth in the first place.

Which of these are most powerful for your market right now?

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr

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