Stay with me here for a moment.
This is NOT going where you think it is.
Here’s the story: The European’s have more fun than we do. I love America, I really do… but sometimes I feel like we’re trapped in a 1950′s-era loop, forever trying to crawl out of the sensual rut the Puritans kicked us into centuries ago.
No such problem across the pond.
The European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology just held a 4-day “info binge” in Holland. The hit of the show was recent research into what parts of the brain are activated when people have orgasms.
This is paid research, people. This is doctors standing around in lab coats watching volunteers screw.
Anyway, the Reuters spin was all about how women can’t fake out the “orgasm meter” — because science has located the part of their brain that bleeps when they boink.
And it doesn’t go off when they pull a “When Harry Met Sally”.
Listen carefully: Men and women have different parts of their cortex activated during the Big Wow.
But the researchers sort of lost focus on the men, once it became clear they were on to some intriguing “inside” info on the ladies.
Turns out that women, during orgasm, shut down their fear and emotion centers. You don’t slam the doors on those rooms, no fireworks.
Now, the rest of this article was full of astonished quotes from the guys in the lab coats. None of it was very sexy — while the Netherlands may be one long rockin’ party, their scientists are still uber-geeks, clueless about social interaction.
And this is where we take an abrupt left turn.
At the Galletti “Web Tracking and Online Testing” seminar in Vegas last weekend, I had the pleasure of hanging out with a Rogue’s Gallery of top Internet marketers — Jim Edwards, Michel Fortin, Armand Morin, and several others.
During one shop-talk session, we explored the effect that recent psychological discoveries could have on salesmanship. For example, the color of the lights you use during a talk can get the crowd excited (red), distracted (yellow), or lulled into a relaxed, receptive mental state (pink).
Also, many top speakers are experimenting with how different word choices affect response during talks. If this were a small thing, it would be of only passing interest.
But it’s not small.
Some of these discoveries are revolutionizing the way cutting-edge marketers operate. It’s not cheating — it’s just using the available science.
Don’t get paranoid.
Now, the advertising world has always had an unhealthy fascination with psychology… mostly about finding some secret magic way to hypnotize people into becoming customers. There were some truly creepy moments back in the sixties, when ads for alcohol and cigarettes were purposely studded with subliminal messages about death and sex — barely discernible skulls in the ice cubes, vague outlines of genitalia in the tousseled hair of models.
This was also around the time that, during the long scenes in the burning desert in the movie “Lawrence of Arabia”, theater goers were flashed with subliminal photos of glasses filled with Pepsi.
Get it? Desert. Thirst.
Madison Avenue really thought they were on to something… but the results were spotty, at best.
It was, however the beginning of the end of relying on proven salesmanship. The classic brand of salesmanship, practiced by David Ogilvy and John Caples and Rosser Reeves.
Brave new world, the up-and-coming ad honchos said. Time to get hip to the breakthrough new science of selling.
Now, I’m actually pretty excited about some of the revelations coming out of the testing laboratories. I’ve dabbled in NLP, I’ve been fascinated with social psychology for thirty years, and I eagerly read the releases from the weirder frontiers of science and brain study.
But I run all of it through my Bullshit Detector.
During one of my very first jobs as a copywriter, I met a real old-time salesman who sort of took to me… and he delighted in sharing with me all his favorite discoveries. This guy was pushing 70 back then, but could still sell ice to Eskimos.
In fact, he was on his THIRD Miss America finalist wife, forty years his junior. Didn’t win her with diamonds, either. He sold her on a life with him… just as he had Miss A #1 and Miss A #2. (This latest version was a stunner from Brazil.)
He was all about the classic tactics of killer salesmanship. He never tried to trick you, never lied, never even hid the fact that he was selling you on something.
You knew exactly what he was doing… and yet you did his bidding anyway. Glad for the opportunity.
God, he was good.
Anyway, he often related selling back to sex. He was an expert at both. And he told me, once, about how necessary it was for most women to feel safe and anxiety-free in order to climax.
He didn’t need any scientist with a clipboard and bleeping monitors and blood-flow gauges to figure this out.
He knew it because he was awake. He paid attention to people, and he studied them, and he learned from every single experience he had.
He was not dispassionate about people, either. He liked the idiots just as fervidly as he liked the smart-asses like me. Enjoyed lazy people as much as his closest energetic friends. And genuinely thrilled at the company of frumpy women as much as the beauties.
This guy was a true work of art. Not many like him, then or now.
Killer salesman. Could have taught every psychologist in that Dutch Reproduction and Embryology seminar something about human behavior, no matter what the test results were.
And here’s my point: The Web is a rockin’ piece of technology that is changing our lives. It’s damned exciting, and I love everything about it — I feel like I’m living through a real-life science fiction movie.
It’s just so cool. And there’s sooooo much money to be made online.
But there is also a huge temptation to believe that all the old rules need to be thrown out the window. That it’s (again) a brave new world online, and it’s time to get hip to the bells and whistles of truly modern commerce.
And that temptation will murder your bottom line.
There’s a place for science. I’m a fan. I use it.
But there’s also a place for the human “gut” feeling. Especially when that gut feeling is coming from experience and expertise.
That old-time salesman knew intimately of everything the guys in the lab coats had discovered about female sexuality, long before any of the test or studies had been done. He probably couldn’t have identified the exact parts of the cortex that were activated… but he knew, metaphorically, where those parts were in the street-level psycho-emotional scheme of human interaction.
The power of classic salesmanship — with it’s basic psychology and visceral persuasion techniques — is just as critical to good marketing as it’s ever been.
Maybe more so now… with the increasingly compelling stare of the computer monitor lulling us into a deeper and deeper sleep.
Learn your salesmanship chops. Learn them well.
And embrace this brave new world with the most powerful tools you will ever own.