Sell more by leveraging our child mind impulses

Marketing and sales become much simpler when you realize that we are just children and teenagers in adults' bodies

Sell more by leveraging our child mind impulses
Photo by Anna Samoylova / Unsplash

Marketing and sales become much simpler when you realize that we are just children and teenagers in adults' bodies.

In other words, it's often primal (usually pre-verbal) impulses* that drive the decisions, actions and thoughts of your prospects and buyers on a near daily basis.

And yes, it also drives you - as well as those in your closest circle including your family, friends and employees/contractors.

Think about the instincts that primarily drove you before you became a "responsible adult" - it could have been being part of the popular kids (status), having the right clothes and shoes (prestige), being Student Council President (power), getting into an elite college (recognition) and attracting a boyfriend/girlfriend (love). 

Of course, these and other drives matter to different people in varying degrees.

However, if we boil it down to the simplest terms, it means we're intrinsically attracted to what (and who) is popular, socially approved, makes us feel good, helps us avoid pain and elevates our status. 

Business-wise, what this means for you is that oftentimes the most effective marketing and sales strategies are to lean into, and leverage, these drives to motivate action from your prospects and buyers (which includes buying your product, resharing your social media post or joining your mailing list, among other things).

Practical, real-world examples of how you could implement this include (but are not limited to):

  • Aspirational marketing: Showing the "pre-transformation" and a sought after "post-transformation" such as 6-pack abs, commanding higher income or enjoying more respect
  • Exclusivity: Waiting lists or membership-only benefits
  • FOMO (Fear of Missing Out): A narrower version of exclusivity. With FOMO, a product will disappear after a certain amount of time if appropriate action is not taken
  • Social Proof: Validating, and then increasing, the attractiveness of your product by leveraging other people's positive opinions of it. A supercharged version of social proof is using the validation of well-known (or even famous) people such as celebrities
  • Community Building: Creating a sense of belonging with other community members who share desired traits
  • Leveraging desire and emotional connection: Using aesthetically-pleasing visual, sound, video, and typographic design to create emotional desire (e.g. nostalgia)

If you look at the above list, you'll see why luxury handbags, high-end electronics, premium skincare, fitness community subscriptions and elite education and training are so in demand. 

Think back to primary school or high school - what urges (distilled down to their essence) drove your desires, actions and thoughts?

As a business owner, you decide how much of all this to lean into.

Some founders go all-in, while others not so much.

And you can - if you want - avoid all of this (it's your business after all), but you would be remiss if you did not take these understandings into consideration when setting strategy for your company.

In other words, you choose how much of this dial you want to turn. 

It may also be uncomfortable to know that what drives so much of modern societies around the world is at the core, these primal impulses.

I've split my life between the West and East.

I've observed that different cultural values and practices don't override our core human design as engineered by biology and millions of years of evolution (these tendencies were implanted in us well before our ancestors became modern humans).  

In other words, what works in one part of the world with respect to leveraging these base instincts for sales and marketing often works just as well in another part of the world (though you may need to make a few surface-level tweaks).

Should you feel weird that we’re essentially children and teenagers in adult bodies? 

No, you shouldn't.

A better way would be to accept that even with the passage of time into adulthood (and any wisdom we might have picked up along the way) our core mindset is still driven by much of the same things that drove us on the playground and in the school hallway. 

Does everyone operate like this all the time?


But I bet enough of your target audience does, so it is to your advantage as a founder and businessperson to know what makes your prospects, customers and competitors tick so that you know how to act and react in the marketplace.

Under the thin veneer of civilization lies our sometimes (conscious and other times unconscious) instinctive impulses which drive much of our daily thoughts but are restrained and moderated by our higher level rationality. 

Because let's be honest - civility, decorum and conscientiousness isn't really the default state of human beings. Just turn on the news and you'll see ample evidence of this. 

Understanding what (and why) a lot of what works in marketing gets much simpler when you realize that in many aspects of our business and personal lives, we’re just children in adults' bodies.

*I avoid using the word "emotion" because emotions are psychological states that usually have a feeling (joy, anger, jealousy, contentment, etc) attached to them, but the instinctual drives I describe in this article don't always have such feelings associated with them.