Monday, April 23, 2007

40 Days of Shared Emotions

Part 3: The Dopamine-Driven Church

esearch suggests giving preferential treatment to a few generates demand from everyone
By Robert Weisman, The Boston Globe, April 8, 2007
Envy is a powerful force in the human psyche -- and a tool to be exploited in marketing.

"Consumers clamor for products endorsed by celebrities or people with whom they identify, new research suggests businesses can stoke the enthusiasm of some potential customers by giving preferential treatment to others.
"The promise and perils of this slight-the-customer approach are explored in a recent Journal of Marketing Research article titled 'How to Attract Customers by Giving Them the Short End of the Stick.'
"It draws on a half dozen experiments conducted at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, where student volunteers from the master of business administration program were presented with a range of products and scenarios. The authors conclude that, under the right circumstances, 'consumers judge the same offer to be more attractive when a seller offers a better price or more benefits to another group than when the seller treats everyone equally.'
"The article is based on the dissertation of Alison K.C. Lo, a recent doctoral graduate of Fuqua. She cites a number of examples of how the theory has played out in the real business world.
"Swimwear maker Speedo International used the 'relative mistreatment' of customers to its benefit when it stimulated demand for its Fastskin bodysuits by giving them away to Olympic swimmers. Millennium Import Co., which sells super-premium vodka from Poland, did the same when it launched its Belvedere Vodka by hosting free tastings exclusively for bartenders.
"The Coop in Cambridge boosts sales of its Harvard and MIT sweatshirts and T-shirts by discounting them to alumni of those schools. 'Doing this authenticates the brand,' suggested Lo. . . .
"'People always love to compare themselves to others,' Lo said in an interview. 'Companies can use this to their advantage.'" [emphasis added]

According to Greg Stielstra's book PyroMarketing, discussed in the previous Herescope post, the "force behind the incredible success of The Passion of Christ and The Purpose-Driven Life, or any other runaway movement" (p. 145) is peer pressure. He doesn't exactly call it that, but technically that is the crux of the 5th chapter of his book entitled "Fan the Flames."

Under the subheading "Forty Days of Shared Emotions," Stielstra explains that the 40 Days of Purpose Campaign "fanned its flames by providing nearly perfect conditions for emotional contagion." (p. 163) This is the essence of the push for the small group format in churches.

Stielstra explains this process of "fanning the flames" when selling a product:

  • "92 percent of consumers made a purchase decision in the last year based on someone else's opinion." (p. 144)
  • "people spread messages more effectively than advertising. The fire is hotter than the match." (p. 144)
  • "In PyroMarketing, fanning the flames involves equipping your customers to spread your message through word of mouth. . . . Harnessing its power is the key to expanding a fire beyond its point of origin." (p. 145)
  • "Converting them into zealous evangelists and equipping them to influence others is what you must do next." (p. 145)
  • "you can transform those initial buyers into customer evangelists whose personal influence makes an unstoppable marketing force." (p. 145)

Herescope has frequently mentioned psycho-social techniques that manipulate people. One of the best descriptions of these techniques and why they work can actually be found in Stielstra's book. For example, he refers to the classic Solomon Asch studies in the 1950s in which people, under group pressure, actually doubted their own visual judgment to the extent that they went with the group's decision. Building upon that, Stielstra cites psycho-social theories of "bounded rationality," "social proof," and "decision externalities": To be concise, what this means is that if humans are overwhelmed with too many choices, we begin to look at others to see what they are doing, and then copy it. And, Stielstra notes, "Certain people, relationships and circumstances exert a disproportionate influence over our choice." Therefore, in the marketing world "you can design marketing programs that take advantage of them and better fan the flames of your growing fire." (p. 151)

Synchrony -- the New Agers have long noticed this but attribute it to emergent global convergence. The marketers pay attention to it because it sells products. The term "synchrony" has to do with people acting in unison. Stielstra explains:

"It's called self-organization because no one leader coordinates the group's actions. Synchrony emerges instead from the interplay of the group's individual members in a way that scientists are only now beginning to understand. . . .

"Paying attention to others enables synchrony and, in the words of sociologist Duncan Watts, 'We humans continuously, naturally, inevitably, and often unconsciously pay attention to each other when making all manner of decisions, from the trivial to the life changing.' Every day our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others. Paying attention is simply how the process begins." (p. 152)

Stielstra also cites Albert Bandura's "social learning theory" about how people imitate one another by watching others.

"First, he noticed that people are more likely to imitate someone they like. Mimicry increases when the observer finds the example setter to be smart, attractive, or popular. Just how much the observer copies them depends to a great degree on how much they want to be like them. This makes a person's circle of friends and family especially influential.

"But, perhaps more important, whether an observer copies modeled behavior also depends on how much they believe they
are already like them. People follow others' examples because they want the same outcome." (p. 154)

To be a good customer evangelist you have to be emotionally excited about the product. Stielstra observes that "people tend to 'catch' each other's emotions" and so, therefore, "If someone feels good about a product they recommend, we are likely to catch their good feelings as they recommend it." (pp. 155-6)

To undergird this point, Stielstra discusses mimicry, Malcolm Gladwell's research in the "facial-feedback system," and Edman and Frisen's research on "Facial Action Coding System [FACS]." Shoe leather is put on these concepts by mentioning the success of The Passion and the Purpose-Driven Life, attributed to "people's ability to accurately express and interpret genuine, positive emotions like affection, excitement, and satisfaction." (p. 159)

The best way to catch these positive emotions is by deriving our "self-identity from membership in groups," and our "emotional attachment to those sending the emotions." (p. 161) Notably, women are more susceptible to "catching" other people's emotions, something which Scripture talks about from Eve onward. We can guess that the serpent was very "subtle" by presenting "genuine, positive emotions like affection, excitement, and satisfaction."

"For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts," (II Timothy 3:6)

Small groups are key to the whole process because people "derive their sense of self from their membership in a group" and then "catch emotions from its members." And, "Smaller groups have a larger influence because it is easier for people to feel integrally involved." (p. 162)

Of course, this small group thing works. It is human nature. "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:6)

The chapter goes on, but we'll stop the book report here to analyze what has just been stated above.

First, all of this is explaining how the Purpose-Driven Life book and concept were marketed by Rick Warren. To see further documentation on this point and read the interesting story about how there was an attempt to suppress the publication of this book read here and here. After one reads this book it becomes obvious that this advertising campaign was extremely sophisticated. And one can presume that the next campaigns will be even more so.

Second, this book discloses the marketing plan used by many evangelicals today. The advertising industry as a whole seeks to SELL A PRODUCT above all else, and is very pragmatic. Whatever works. Whatever sells a product. When the whitewash is removed, this could be a formula for preying on people's lusts. And there appears to be no higher ethical code for evangelical marketers. In fact, this book is a cutting-edge new style of network marketing; so, in effect, evangelicals could actually be paving the way on this one.

"It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak." (Romans 14:21)

Third, the tiny little word "covet" is not ever mentioned in this material, but it seems rather obvious that this style of marketing works best off of this particular sin. The rationale goes like this: If Fred buys a new car, and you are a member of Fred's group, then lust or envy or covetousness -- or possibly Fred's contagious emotional excitement -- could push you over the edge to buy a new car just like Fred's. Even if you can't afford it or don't need it. Remember the previous two posts. Rational thinking is bypassed in the brain when you catch the emotional "fire" of dopamine.

"Thou shalt not covet" . . . (Exodus 20:17a)
"Woe to him that coveteth an evil covetousness to his house, that he may set his nest on high, . . . (Habakkuk 2:9a)

Fourth, take what has been learned from this column and begin to apply it to your own life -- not only in the evangelical world but also in everyday life. The best offense is a good defense. The more you know about how this psycho-social manipulation process works, the better you can resist the temptations that are daily thrown your way from every sort of media, whether it be secular or religious. Just how many decisions do you make in life because of "the group"? If that group isn't godly, then consider your ways. Who do you wish to emulate? How much of your life is dictated by styles and fads of the marketing industry? Examine the content of the ads that are directed to your age group, interest group, sports group, etc. From now on you might view this kind of marketing more objectively.

If you are interested in the background and history of these concepts, we recommend the materials posted at

The Truth:

"And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you; whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not." (2 Peter 3:2)