The number of blog posts published every day is absurd.
Let’s just say it exceeds the population of the four largest countries in the world and be done with it.
Maybe that’s true and maybe it isn’t. The point is — and we all know it — the volume of written content online is overwhelming.
And let’s not forget about other media: videos, podcasts, Google+ Hangouts, photographs, et cetera.
Shock is one way to describe our reaction to the tonnage dumped each day.
Despair is another — especially for content producers who want to find an audience.
The conventional advice is to find a viable niche, the territory competitors have overlooked. Once you occupy that ground, you will stand out — you will rise above the noise.
That plan leaves us jockeying for the content gap, looking for a way in. Miss your opportunity, however, and you are just another contributor to the landfill that is the World Wide Web.
But you can do better than that.
Identifying a niche is important, but it isn’t enough.
You need to understand your audience’s outlook. In other words, you need to tap into their worldview.
Introducing the worldview
What is a worldview? It’s a descriptive model of the world. Your worldview, whether you’re aware of it or not, answers questions such as:
- What should we do next?
- What is true and false?
- How should we attain our goals?
- How do we explain our intentions?
Your worldview is not systematically developed. You don’t sit down, set your chin on your fist, and say, “What do I need to do to become a postmodern pragmatist?”
No. Your worldview develops over time. Your parents, friends, education, experiences, and your genetic makeup all influence your worldview. And, like your favorite Instagram filter, it colors how you see the world.
As we get older, we can choose and change this filter, but because our worldview informs everything we do, think, and say, a dramatic challenge to it can feel devastating.
You might be wondering what this metaphysical notion has to do with marketing.
The answer is: everything.
Let me prove it to you.
The worldviews of popular Super Bowl ads
You don’t have to be a football fan to enjoy Super Bowl commercials. In fact, I have a hunch that the entertaining ads contribute to the Super Bowl’s popularity.
First, take the GoDaddy “Perfect Match” commercial. Supermodel Bar Refaeli kisses nerdy actor Jesse Heiman. The model represents the sexy side of GoDaddy; the geek represents the technical. The kiss is the perfect blend of these two “disciplines.”
The worldview? One of pleasure that says you can and should have it all. It elevates self.
Then there’s the Ram Trucks “Farmer” commercial, better known as, “So God Made a Farmer.”
Portions of a Carter-era speech by Paul Harvey, a Christian lecturer, flows over images of hard-working and weathered farmers who embody the ethics of selflessness, strength, and solidarity — the values that embody the Ram truck.
That, my friends, is how great advertising can tap into worldview. Both campaigns communicate messages that resonate with their intended audience’s worldview.
The worldview of the most-loved advertiser
Perhaps the most-loved example of worldview in advertising is the 1984 Apple commercial. Its message is simple: be a non-conformist. It’s a worldview that embraces individuality, originality, and creativity.
Apple also did this brilliantly with The Crazy Ones campaign.
On one hand, self-identifying with outcasts contradicts conventional, mass marketing wisdom.
Yet here’s the brilliance of the ad: don’t most of us actually feel like we don’t fit in? Don’t most of us feel like we are misfits?
The message is, of course, that truly great people don’t fit in and — oh, by the way — those people own Macs.
It was an effective approach that displayed an ultimate message.
And it still resonates, despite the ubiquity of Apple products in the marketplace. Apple users still feel like rebels because worldview isn’t about reality — it’s about self-perception.
It’s the same thing for you.
The potency of worldviews: a wine study
Did you know that the same glass of wine will taste differently to you depending upon your emotions and circumstances?
The same glass of wine will taste one way at the end of a productive writing day with the temperature hovering around 70 degrees on a hillside in Sweden, cherry blossom petals falling gently to the ground …
And quite another way when you are crowded into a hot kitchen with your mother and her sisters yelling at you to hurry up with the stuffing, the residue of an argument with your hubby lingering in the back of your mind.
Same glass of wine. Two different tastes, according to a live-action experiment conducted by neuroscientist Daniel Salzman of Columbia University.
Salzman began with a hypothesis: we don’t experience objects or events in complete isolation. Rather, these objects or events are colored by:
… our past experiences, our current mood, our expectations, and any number of incidental details — an annoying neighbor, a waiter who keeps banging your chair, a beautiful painting in your line of sight.
The same thing can be said about the content we consume and the products we buy.
It’s about empathy — really understanding, seeing, and relating back how a person views things.
When you confirm someone’s worldview, he or she is attracted to you. That’s the power of an ultimate message.
As Dr. Frank Luntz said in his book Words That Work, “It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear.”
Luntz, who’s helped dozens of Fortune 500 companies and politicians communicate, goes on to say,
You can have the best message in the world, but the person on the receiving end will always understand it through the prism of his or her own emotions, preconceptions, prejudices, and preexisting beliefs. It’s not enough to be correct or reasonable or even brilliant. The key to successful communication is to take the imaginative leap of stuffing yourself right into your listener’s shoes to know what they are thinking and feeling in the deepest recesses of their mind and heart. How that person perceives what you say is even more real, at least in a practical sense, than how you perceive yourself.”
A great example of this method is the one question Joanna Wiebe at Copyhackers recommends businesses ask people who visit their websites: “What’s happening in your life that brought you to my website?”
The answer to that question will tell you a lot about your audience: who they are, how they think, what they think about, what they feel, what troubles them, et cetera.
How to discover your prospect’s worldview
To start, review the empathy map I talked about in my last storytelling post.
Then, to get a more complete picture of your audience’s worldview, try the following methods:
- Conduct one-on-one interviews.
- Read the comments on your blog.
- Study Amazon reviews.
- Create a survey. (You can use tools such as Google Docs or Survey Monkey.)
- Eavesdrop on real-life conversations.
- Analyze your support emails.
- Review your testimonials.
- Monitor your audience on the social web and across forums.
You’ll discover that it is difficult to put a simple label on your prospect. What you are after, however, is a general sense of the way the world works. In your interviews, surveys, and conversations, it helps to ask questions such as:
- Are things handed to us? Is luck part of success? Or is hard work the difference between success and failure?
- Can anyone succeed? How important is formal education?
- Do you view the world as one of abundance and opportunity? Or do you see the world as one of scarcity and competition? Or both?
- Is life a game? A war? An adventure? A giant cocktail party? A chess match? Meaningless?
- What truly matters in life? Is taking action pointless? Should we have it all? Or is that selfish?
- What virtues mean the most to you? Independence? Intelligence? Compassion? Duty?
- Are you practical, or do you gravitate toward the abstract? Are you a lover of literature? A lover of pop culture? Or both? Do you love ideas or prefer people?
- How do you view death? Is it something to be feared or embraced? Why?
Again, these specifics may sound a bit metaphysical for the world of business, but remember that our worldview informs how we behave, including how we spend our money.
You have to start there.
The game is won at the beginning, at the research phase, when you begin to understand who you want to reach and what will make them do business with you.
That’s where an ultimate message is born.
Two hypothetical worldviews
Very few people fall into a strict worldview category. In fact, you want to create your own label.
For example, let’s say your ideal audience believes in the act of creation.
They are creatives, so you define them like this:
My creatives believe they can carve out their own worlds. They believe in determination, honesty, and perseverance. They believe in maximizing human potential. The world is not a field of competition, but a community, a commune where we should all share our resources and be at peace.
Here’s another example. Let’s say your ideal audience is made up of athletes:
My athletes have a chip on their shoulders. Life is hard and resources are scarce. If you don’t take care of yourself, then nobody will. They have something to prove, nothing to lose, and everything to gain. No matter the cost.
By the way, the discoveries you make about your ideal audience may startle you. Keep in mind, your job is not to change their beliefs, attitudes, or behaviors. Your job is to create a message that resonates with those beliefs, attitudes, or behaviors.
That is the ultimate message.
And the person who creates that ultimate message consistently over time will stand out because content marketing is a long game.
The difference between worldviews and personas
You’ve probably noticed that a worldview has a lot in common with a persona. But they are not the same.
Here’s a good definition of persona:
“A persona represents a cluster of users who exhibit similar behavioral patterns in their purchasing decisions, use of technology or products, customer service preferences, lifestyle choices, and the like. Behaviors, attitudes, and motivations are common to a ‘type’ regardless of age, gender, education, and other typical demographics. In fact, personas vastly span demographics.”
A worldview, on the other hand, tells you the why behind those behavioral patterns, purchasing decisions, use of technology, and so on that make up the persona. It serves as a bedrock to that persona.
Take this worldview quiz
If you’d like additional information to help you create an ultimate message, check out the online marketing training in these sixteen free ebooks. Then download the series of podcasts on the 11 essential ingredients every blog post needs. And stay tuned: I’ll also expand on this topic in future posts.
In closing, I thought it would be fun to end with some worldview-identification practice. So here’s a quiz …
Guess the worldview of each company, product, or advertising message below:
- American Apparel
- “Where’s the Beef?” by Wendy’s
- “Just Do It” by Nike
- Energizer batteries
Leave your answers on Google+ here.
And we can’t forget the bonus question: What worldview does the New Rainmaker podcast tap into?
We look forward to hearing from you!
Flickr Creative Commons Image via Dimitris Papazimouris.