When was the last time you actually changed your mind?

The hardest thing a brand can do is convince – to go against what people already believe and to ask them to believe something different. Actually, that’s not just true for brands, it’s applicable to anything or anyone. In the scheme of natural human interactions, conversion is relatively rare. To succeed at convincing, you need to overcome all the natural resistance that comes with encountering something new. Essentially, you need to break down all the inclination that has already amassed for an idea or a storyline. You need to destroy the loyalty that already exists for what people have and replace its equity. That’s amazingly difficult. As Seth Godin once observed, “If the story of your marketing requires the prospect to abandon a previously believed story, you have a lot of work to do.”

Redirection is simpler. You change soaps. You change airlines. You change shirt brands. Particularly if soap, airlines and shirt brands don’t mean that much to you. Changing from a brand that says and does one thing to another brand that seems to say and do the same thing under a different name is easy. That’s why and how things commoditise. When we see no difference between them, when changing makes no difference for us, because it doesn’t represent a change to our core belief system, we can do it without hesitation. Add in a good price, and we’re gone.

The irony is that as consumers, we all say we welcome change. We don’t really. What we really welcome is improvements, additions or extensions. And we have strong preferences and priorities. Some things, packaged in some ways, appeal to us more than others – but only if those elements conform with our worldview. A dispositionalist would explain this by saying that as humans we are significantly, if not completely, influenced by the cache of beliefs that we run behind the scenes and that subconsciously decide huge amounts of what we agree with and disagree with every day.

Marketers are optimists. We naturally believe that the power of a strong, well-presented argument must win through. It’s simply not true.

The easiest thing a brand can do is confirm – to give us more, by way of physical product or perspectives, of what we already know and agree with. Loyalty jumps when brands tell their customers, show them, present them with something they had always wanted to hear, see or think about. Launching iCloud recently, Steve Jobs told Apple fans the world was entering a post-PC age. It was an idea that was readily and speedily embraced, because it confirmed what Apple fans believe, or would like to believe, anyway.

Marketing may help decide preference but it cannot alter fundamental inclination. On the contrary, inclination pre-decides the success of so much marketing.

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