Motivators: What Are They?

December 22, 2015       Herschell Gordon Lewis      

Look through the time machine, back to the distant past. Those were kinder, gentler times, before electronic media and their bastard children Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and Tumblr and Yelp and Linked­In and Flickr and Bebo and YouTube and Foursquare and the whole gang of “social media” that long since have abandoned the prefix word “social” came storming into our alternate universe.

Each brashly claims it has originated selling copy based on a specific motivator … even as desperate defenders argue that corruption and origination aren’t synonyms.

In the words of Al Jolson (or Bad Company depending on your generation), you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Social media rise and fall as quickly as gasps of breath. Ever hear of Habbo? Some 270 million Millennials have heard of it and they swarm onto that medium like bloodsucking vampires.

Purists point out that the very word “media” is non-exclusive — it’s a plural. So proper grammar is “the media are…” rather than “the media is….” But aficionados, whether militating for or against buttoning your shirt, accept only what their own cronies accept as genuine.

Back to ancient times, when those in direct response could claim dominance in explanations and clarifications. We didn’t and don’t claim that we’re the original source of motivators. We claim only that we’re a means of disseminating reasonable explanations. It parallels Aristotle’s “Rules of Drama:” He didn’t invent them; he reported them. Uhhh, hi, Ari. Welcome to our club meeting.

Worth a “So what”?

If you were involved in “force-communication” before a seminal year — 1985 will do — you long since had been exposed to a list of what many force-communicators regarded as motivators. Built-up lists, compiled as the capability of keeping score improved, accepted these as a base for constructing a sales argument:

  • Fear …
  • Exclusivity …
  • Greed …
  • Guilt …
  • Need for approval.

That last one was dicey and often was tossed into the acceptable but lower-level rhetorical ghetto along with specialties such as anger and second level ancillaries such as pleasure and convenience.

All right. You know it all … if you accept raw definitions as knowing it all.

What you probably also know, or you wouldn’t be in the professional position of being exposed to updates such as the one you’re reading, is that a successful motivator generates a reaction that targets don’t recognize as a reaction. They think they’ve come to a logical conclusion without goading from the outside.

Temporary rumination-ground

As a starter for what might be an impossible dream — update the list of motivators based on social evolution of the past 20 years or so — to increase response. Please, please, read the next paragraph twice.

Implementation of that purpose, specifically: to encourage the recipient of a direct response message to perform a specific positive act as the direct result of exposure to that message. Not just an act; a specific positive act. That eliminates from the mix both random acts and suggestions or directions that are out of sync with the delineated purpose.

Two reactions that help validate the listing were anticipated. One is agreeing to include or decision to reject “need for approval,” which the brasher of our browbeating brothers regard as a sign of weakness rather than just-off-the-rink coaching.

The other differential certainly was expected, because creative types as often as not — no, make that more often than not — resent, perhaps unconsciously, being told what they already know and might have preached. Their prideful reaction: “I thought of this first.” They’re reciting an ancient dogma but have coached themselves into believing this is their original idea, and they’re the original source. Gee, where have we encountered that before?

In upcoming issues we’ll explore individual reactions, by individual successful “creatives” … that include vital opinions you might or might not use as criteria for the next ad, email, direct mail package, or love letter you’re about to wrestle out of your keyboard. It’ll be a bumpy, worth­while ride. NPT

Herschell Gordon Lewis is the principal of Lewis Enterprises in Pompano Beach, Fla. Author of 32 books, including Internet Marketing Tips, Tricks, and Tactics; On the Art of Writing Copy (fourth edition recently published); Asinine Advertising; Burnt Offerings (fund raising); and Creative Rules for the 21st Century. His email address is herschell@hglewis.com

  • direct response
  • social media