The Monday Morning Memo: Selling: Civic vs. Idealist

Monday-Morning-Memo-Logo1By Roy H. Williams

You want an example?

Romulus Whitaker is saving the rainforest in Tamil Nadu, and with it, dozens of species of animals. The problem is complex, but so is Romulus Whitaker.

Memo-113009 Selling-Civic-vs-IdealistTim Bauer is fighting air pollution in the Philippines with a 2-stroke cylinder head that reduces hydrocarbon emissions by 89 percent. Thousands of engines must be retrofitted. The work is rugged, but so is Tim Bauer.

Gomel Apaza teaches villagers about sustainable food production high in the Andes Mountains of Peru. His techniques are reliable, so the villagers live happier lives.

Reliable. Rugged. Complex. Apaza, Bauer and Whitaker: making a difference.

Making the world better for everyone.

And the watch they wear is a Rolex: Reliable. Rugged. Complex.

Because time is important to people who get things done.

Your Rolex is waiting patiently for you to come and pick it up at Nevland Jewelers. I’m Dave Nevland and I’ve got a Rolex… for you.

I wrote that ad for the “we” generation of 2009. Spotlighting the selfless servant as modern hero, the ad begs two questions:

1. “Do you want to make the world a better place?”

2. “Are you the kind of person who gets things done?”

If so, you should be wearing a Rolex. Hand Dave Nevland some money.

You might remember a quite different ad I wrote for the “me” generation 14 years ago:

You are standing in the snow, five and one-half half miles above sea level, gazing at a horizon hundreds of miles away. It occurs to you that life here is very simple: you live or you die. No compromises, no whining, no second chances. This is a place constantly ravaged by wind and storm, where every ragged breath is an accomplishment. You stand on the uppermost pinnacle of the earth. This is the mountain they call Everest. Yesterday it was considered unbeatable. But that was yesterday. As Edmund Hillary surveyed the horizon from the peak of Mount Everest, he monitored the time on a wristwatch that had been specifically designed to withstand the fury of the world’s most angry mountain. Rolex believed Sir Edmund would conquer the mountain, and especially for him they created the Rolex Explorer. In every life there is a Mount Everest to be conquered. When you have conquered yours, you’ll find your Rolex waiting patiently for you to come and pick it up at Justice Jewelers. I’m Woody Justice and I’ve got a Rolex... for you.

This ad features the individualist as hero and asks very different questions:

1. “Are you the kind of person who wins against impossible odds?”

2. “Can you take a minute to come pick up your trophy?”

That Mount Everest ad was hugely successful 14 years ago, but We, the People, have changed. Have you noticed?

Our transition from the Idealist “me” mindset to our current, Civic “we” way of thinking began right on schedule in 2003 and was essentially complete by the end of 2008.

Right on schedule? Yep. We shift from one mindset to the other every 40 years and we’ve been doing it with the precision of a metronome for more than 4 centuries.

Want to make your ads work better? Abandon the idea that your customers should reward themselves. Quit saying to them, “you deserve it.” Tell them instead that your product “makes a difference,” that it “helps,” and use the word “give” in a variety of applications, such as, “Give it a chance.”

Sadly, the Apaza, Bauer and Whitaker ad won’t be given a chance.

Rolex didn’t approve it.

Sigh.

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