It sucks to have taste…
It sucks to be really smart about something. It sucks to know what’s good, and what’s not.
Because the vast majority of people have absolutely ZERO clue about what makes something good, and what makes it terrible, in your area of expertise.
I was talking to someone earlier today who, like me, is a house music DJ.
I got into house music last century. In the 90s. When I did, it was rare to hear anything on the radio with a programmed beat, that wasn’t hip hop (and even that was usually sampled from live records).
I became a DJ, and had a $100/month vinyl habit when that was a huge chunk of my monthly income. I developed a “taste” for specific kinds of house music, and could identify sub-sub-genres through subtle nuances.
In the past 10 years or so, house music became BIG business in America. At least, under the banner of EDM. And in EDM, there’s almost no nuance.
This guy who I was speaking with has pretty sophisticated taste in progressive house music. It’s as rhythmically and musically complex — and as heady — as house music typically gets.
And it’s VERY different, musically, from the popular EDM music played by the DJs at the top of DJ magazine’s international poll of the top 100 DJs.
Pop EDM has a big fat synth riff, a catchy hook that means nothing, and it’s over-compressed to the point that it’s all loud (because our brains automatically interpret louder as better). Oh yeah, and if you want to get really popular, make it a thing to throw a cake at your audience.
In the eyes of most people with sophisticated taste in house music, pop EDM is tasteless trash.
But here’s the thing. Much of pop music SUCKS. But it’s what SELLS.
House music didn’t catch on in America until it became homogenized and artistically bland.
There’s a huge marketing lesson in this…
Take anything you’ve developed some taste or discernment or intelligence in or about.
By developing taste in something, you’re able to pick up nuances that others are ignorant to. And in those nuances, you see greatness. Because you understand. But to those who don’t understand, the nuance is often irrelevant. Or worse, it’s actually something that decreases the appeal.
Take wine. My friend Charles is one of the top — if not THE top — sommeliers in Nebraska (I know…). When he hosted the paired wine dinner for my Financial Copywriters Workshop in Lincoln a few weeks back, he had carefully chosen wines based on having complementary flavor profiles to the food he served. I paid him good money for these choices. But ultimately, I was the dumb person with very little taste, simply having an experience and deciding, “I like this!” Toasted oak? Maybe it was there. But I couldn’t discern it like he could — and I didn’t care to, either.
Or take beer. I used to be just fine drinking Miller Lite. You know, because it has “more taste.” (Seriously — that’s their claim — and people buy based on that.) Then, I started trying a ton of different brews from folks were making beer for the craft, rather than mass production. And I developed a discerning taste. I’m not a total beer snob, but now that I know what I know, it’s very hard to un-know that there are much better beers out there. And yet the best-selling beers in America are all still lagers (and pilsners) that are mostly watery and have very little nuance or real flavor.
The mass market doesn’t care about the finer qualities…
The mass market doesn’t care about what’s good, or right.
The mass market pretty much goes with their gut, with what’s spoon-fed to us as the default option.
And before we get on our high horses, realize that even those of us who are experts in one area use this form of “social proof” to make decisions in so many other areas.
For example… I can tell you if a song is “progressive house,” “tribal house,” or “tribal progressive house.” At least at a level that most DJs around me would agree.
But I have ZERO clue about, for example, paintings. What period? What influences? I don’t freaking care. I could probably get into it and appreciate it, but for my occasional foray into the visual arts, I’m happy to trust the curator at a museum and then have my unsophisticated experience and reaction.
The same goes for a thousand different choices I make.
When is this a problem?
For the most part, this is just the way the world works.
But I actually used the above bit about pop music as a metaphor earlier, for the difference between selling people what they want, and selling them what they need.
Investors are NOTORIOUS for making horrible decisions about when to invest, and what kinds of investments to make. So, for example, you’re probably better off today limiting risk and avoiding most growth and tech stocks. But today, investors are in love with growth stocks. When they crash, investors will sell, and lock in some big losses. Because — once again — they bought at the top and sold at the bottom. The types of things investors want to buy today are the exact opposite of what they should be buying.
Knowing this is a curse though, when it comes to selling investment newsletters.
Because if investors want to buy growth stocks that could double in 12 months, what kind of promises do you think are getting them into investment newsletters? Hint: Exactly the same.
If you know that investors need to be ultra-conservative in an extended market with a tightening yield curve (a predictor of recession and market crash), but investors WANT to be greedy, what do you do?
The elitist and snob will try to push on investors what they need, and simply tell them they’re wrong to want what they want. But that doesn’t sell newsletters.
You can’t go to a tailgating party with coolers full of Bud Light, Coors Light, Miller Lite, whatever, and tell them that they’re drinking swill. Doesn’t matter if you’re right or not — you will face rejection by your “market.”
When you have sophisticated taste, you must introduce it gently…
Let’s say someone only drinks mass-market light beer. But you want to introduce them to craft beers. You have to give them something close to what they like, but that leans toward your taste.
Let’s say someone likes pop EDM, but you want to introduce them to more sophisticated forms of house music. Maybe you find DJs who bridge the genres as a path in.
Or for investing, maybe you have to find a narrative that speaks to what they’re interested in (greed in a late-stage bull market) that is a bridge topic toward the destination you want to get them to.
This has a ton of relevance to yesterday’s message about emotional bids.
You can’t turn away or turn against someone where they’re at, if you want them to deepen their relationship with you. You can’t reject the conversation going on in their head. You have to turn toward them, show you understand them, and then you can start to guide the conversation in the direction you want to go.
And most often, in your areas of expertise, this means YOU, as the expert, have to turn towards things that you disagree with or even that you think suck.
In doing that though, you’re taking the long view, and aiming to help them develop a taste that will reward them down the road.
Which is exactly why you’d sell someone what they want, in order to deliver what they need.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,