Has Someone Been Planting Ideas In Your Head And Making Them Seem Like Your Own?
Are You Sure?
WARNING: This Post Contains Spoilers (And The Links Out Contain Some Serious Ones!)
This season’s blockbuster, Inception, is set in the future where it’s possible for people to enter shared dreams and uncover their deepest secrets, in a process known as extraction.
However, the challenge for our heroes is not to extract an idea, but to plant one.
To be really effective, the idea must feel like it originated within the subject’s own mind. They must lead the victim of this ‘mind crime’ to reach the conclusion on his own.
Inception Is A Film About Film-Making
The movies we watch in the cinema are in fact shared dreams. We experience them together. And the very best ones leave us thinking and feeling differently. The director, Christopher Nolan, is commenting on movies and storytelling in general.
Throughout history, and across cultures, stories have provided one of the most powerful tools of influence. Traditional cultures passed down their beliefs and values in stories.
Psychologist Howard Gardner even studied the impact of storytelling in leadership. According to Gardner, in his book Leading Minds, a leader is “an individual (or, rarely, a set of individuals) who significantly affects the thoughts, feelings, and/or behaviours of a significant number of individuals”.
Know Anyone Else Who Wants To Influence The Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviour Of The Masses?
Umm… Marketers maybe?
Stories can be incredibly influential in marketing. People can be very receptive to stories. It feels much less like force-fed marketing. You’re just listening to a story, right?! And the audience reaches the intended beliefs about you and your product all on their own…
Or, At Least, That’s What They Think!
So let’s take a crude example from the world of SEO. There are a number of marketers using persuasive techniques to whip people into a buying frenzy. It might go something like this…
“A few years ago I was stumbling around in the world of SEO. I’d listened to all the gurus, bought their products, and was still getting nowhere. Then I discovered a secret loophole in Google that worked liked gangbusters.
Within 2 weeks my website had rocketed to the top of the search engines. I shared it with a few friends and they had massive success too. Now this isn’t black-hat, it’s not article link-building, or any of the usual suspects.
This one technique completely transformed my business, and my life. I’ve since launched multiple businesses using this one simple technique, and I now earn an insane amount of money on auto-pilot!”
The storyline here is a take on the most timeless of plots – The Hero’s Journey. I was lost but now I’m found. And when they’re done well, you join the storyteller on the journey. You feel their pain, you experience the highs and lows before eventually emerging victorious.
You Create The Movie in Your Mind
Now the previous story might sound a bit crass, and I do include it only as a crude example, but still, whenever I see these things, I often find myself sucked in. Like the dreams in Inception – you don’t realise something’s amiss until you’re out of it.
And our marketing friend is hoping you won’t fall out of that trance, until you’ve hit the big shiny button – ‘Buy Now’.
But let’s be clear – the act of telling stories isn’t the problem really. It’s the question of ethics in using any form of persuasion.
Does our marketing friend have our interests at heart? Possibly (arguable, but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt). Can his system provide the results it promises? Probably – but here’s the big question…
For How Long?
Could there be any adverse consequences in the long-term? The chances are Google will get wise to the scheme sooner or later, and it will be another SEO technique cast upon the pile. And it could take your website with it.
Personally, I’d be concerned about anything using the phrase ‘loophole’. He’s practically admitting it’s a bit shady.
If you’re looking for quick-hit affiliate profits with no view to the long-term, knock yourself out. But if you want to build a long-term proper business, purchasing this kind of thing could be disastrous.
Steven R Covey warns us against looking for quick wins without considering the long-term consequences (fancy another piece of cake?). He also encourages us to be guided by principles, not techniques.
So if you find yourself tempted by one of these methods, allow yourself time to step out of the dream. Does anything seem strange to you?
Do You Get A Funny Feeling Something’s Wrong?
Take a moment to ask yourself, does this comply with the principles of SEO? In other words:
Am I adding value to the web, through my website and my link-building activities?
Are the links I’m gaining relevant?
And am I building up credibility as a trusted resource?
As an aside, if you’re using persuasive techniques in your own sales and marketing (and let’s be honest – every business does), just make sure your product kicks ass both in the short-term and the long-term.
And if you ever feel yourself whipped up into a buying frenzy, remind yourself what Flava Flav would say… Don’t… Don’t…
“Don’t Believe The Hype!”
Inception – Movie-Trailer.com
Derren Brown – Official Site
Crazy 3D Glasses – Dvice
Escher Drawing – PlanetPov
Flava Flav – StarPulse
Mark Johnstone SEO Consultant