Motivation: The Mission of Marketing

There is a great book published in 2000 by Jeffrey Pfeffer called The Knowing-Doing Gap which highlights the major challenge of shrinking the gap between knowing what to do and actually doing it.

I was thinking about the knowing-doing gap this morning and one of the primary solutions to shrinking that gap: motivation. Most individuals know why and what to do; some know how to do it. But so few actually do. The reason? A lack of internal motivation required to fight through obstacles and actually do something that is somewhat difficult.

Think of all the good things we as humans don’t do in our personal lives: exercise, eat right, spend more time with our kids, be extra patient with a spouse. At work, many struggle to adhere to that new process the boss asked us to follow, or take an extra minute to make sure the customer is completely satisfied. 

Desire. Motivation. It’s the secret sauce that turns a passive consumer into an active one and a disengaged team into a fired-up, butt-kicking ninja squad.

Much has been written about how motivation is developed and maintained. There is the famous Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (needs being the building blocks of motivation). There is Daniel Pink’s treatment called Drive, which champions a more evolved and optimistic understanding of human motivation involving “our innate need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and do better by ourselves and our world.” And there are those who argue over which model is most accurate.

I won’t get into the debate, but I did want to highlight that, at its core, the discipline of marketing is about sparking motivation. We can lay out the most sophisticated search engine and social media plan, but if your marketing lacks an understanding of customer motivations, you’ll fail.

Customers in consumer and B2B markets are overwhelmed, and we as marketers are asking them to change something. Change their minds, change their buying habits. And motivating change is insanely difficult. For the most part, only those customers who catch a meaningful spark of motivation will stop and consider something different, which is what your brand needs in order to grab a new customer (coincidentally, that difficulty in sparking change motivation is why it’s so much easier to grow from within existing customers vs. new ones).

Creating motivation is why the infusion of emotion is so critical in marketing. Consumer goods marketers are a bit more adept at this discipline of creating emotional motivation than their B2B counterparts, but I believe we could all understand this a little better.

Tapping the emotions of an individual – engaging their primary motivations – are key to getting them to pay attention and consider changing. Product features, case studies, testimonials are all important, but they are secondary to the primary role of marketing: to engage fundamental motivations that lead to change.

It’s why Axe tries to inflame the hormones of young men in their ads.

It’s why babies and animals are the stars of so many Super Bowl commercials.

Mythology strategy workshops help you identify the core motivations of target customers and build your marketing system around them.It’s why insurance companies use fear (sometimes softened with humor) to get you to think of what might happen.

It’s why many companies are clarifying their corporate values and aligning with causes they believe matter to their most of their customers, sometimes losing customers along the way.

It’s why tapping into the real anxieties and self-image of women has Dove delivering a viral phenomenon.

What are the primary motivators of human beings and which ones does your brand engage directly? Understanding which emotional trigger to pull is central to aligning your brand and instigating motivation within target customers.

A note on humor: Humor is a tried and true creative tactic for getting people to pay attention. It’s great for building awareness, and in the right context can grow affinity. But I’m not so convinced that humor is the most effective tool for motivating a consumer or B2B customer to change deeply ingrained habits. Most of the time that requires tapping into an emotional trigger that is more sustainable and applicable to the hard work of change.

So what’s your personal motivation as a marketing or business leader? Why are you reading this blog post? Is it an unselfish desire to bring success to your team? Is it an innate desire to be the best you can be? Are you after a promotion?

At Mythology, we really enjoy working with senior executives and marketing teams who are fired up, who have an innate ambition to grow and succeed. After all, without that motivation, why bother with the difficult task of transforming how you do marketing with a more effective marketing system?

Reading The Knowing-Doing Gap was one of the motivations for launching Mythology. Through the application of the Ten Pillars of Meaningful Marketing, we seek to help organizations apply marketing best practices more intelligently and consistently in order to reach their goals. We don’t just want to help you know better marketing; we want to help you do it. Witnessing the excitement of team members who embrace an “A ha!” moment of strategic clarity and then seeing it work in the marketplace…Well, we get excited about that!

If you’re a motivated marketer, let’s talk. I’ll bet we get even more excited discussing the possibilities.


Progressive's 'Rate Suckers' Gets Sticky Messaging Right

It's soooo difficult to nail the right level of unexpectedness and humor and combine it with a clear unique selling proposition, but it's the essence of great advertising. This new ad "Rate Suckers" from Progressive does a great job of getting the message across in a humorous way. 


Mythology supports creative agencies by infusing the right level of rapid research to inform the strategic messaging goals of the advertising. We also provide campaign measurement services to optimize and squeeze return on investment from creative campaigns. Here are examples of how we've done that with several clients. 
If you're a marketer or an agency, contact Mythology to learn how we can help generate more return on investment from your creative efforts. 

The Meaning is the Message

Marshall McLuhan may have claimed that “the medium is the message,” but in today’s highly dispersed, word-of-mouth world of media and marketing, I would argue “the meaning is the message.”

What I mean by that is, customers engage in your brand’s content in many different formats these days. No longer is it primarily a :60 second television or radio spot; research shows that shoppers engage multiple channels of communication, with their preferred platform being Internet and mobile because of their on-demand nature.

So in reality, it’s the many different touch points that must be knit together to communicate your message. And if your message doesn’t have consistent meaning to the recipient, it is quickly tuned out.

Today, more than ever, marketers must ask themselves: “What’s our message? And what is the meaning behind it?”

The answer to that question, in many ways, forms the basis for our consulting firm, Mythology. We believe that marketing is, at its core, “belief management.” That’s why we focus on “building belief in your business” through data-driven storytelling strategies and creative engagement approaches that change behavior in customers.

Here are some examples of “meaningful marketing” messages that we’ve developed with our valued clients through our Assessimize workshopsassessments and strategic planning services.

Aetna Student Health

Aetna wanted to rise up out of the crowded competitive world of commodity insurance plans for college students, so we helped them think about the issues that kept their target customers (senior higher education executives) up at night.

Through some rapid research, it turned out that these senior decision-makers were extremely worried about college dropout rates (only about half of college students graduate in six years). As it turns out, a large part of the reason college kids don’t make it through school are emotional or physical health-related.

Since Aetna’s insurance and wellness services addressed those very issues, it became clear how Aetna should position themselves: Aetna wasn’t really about selling commodity insurance plans anymore. They are now about helping colleges and universities build sustainable students who are more likely to complete their degree and go on to more productive, fruitful lives.

Boy Scouts of America

How do you convince thousands of Boy Scouts (and potential Scouts) and their parents to believe that Scouting is fun, cool and a little edgy again after years of losing brand cache’? And how do you fill the registration at Jamboree 2013 at the brand new, amazing Bechtel Summit Reserve scouting center?

You encourage Scouts to Go Big. Get Wild.

Through close partnership with the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America and their research team and the WELD digital content agency, this positioning was the clear winner among boys 13-18. Go Big. Get Wild. is a central message point for the Scout’s marketing for this $300 million scouting center and 40,000-kid summer experience.  

CSC Cloud

CSC was late to the cloud computing game, so they asked Mythology to help them a) position themselves successfully against competitors such as IBM, HP, Amazon and Google who had a jump on them, and b) launch into the world of conversational social marketing, a new concept for this traditional Fortune 500 government/corporate IT services firm.

Mythology partnered with the CSC Cloud executive team to develop a powerful, differentiated message at launch: CSC is the one organization who can help you choose the “Right Cloud, Right Way.” CSC went on to be ranked in the top “magic quadrant” of cloud services by Gartner and is now an established leader in the category.

Element Federal Credit Union

WV United Federal Credit Union was noted as one of the most innovative federal credit unions in the country after being the very first financial institution of any kind to deliver an iPhone-based deposit application, among other innovations. Yet their brand didn’t match the level of their awesomeness and lacked a connection with younger, tech-savvy consumers.

The foundation of their rebranding to become Element Federal Credit Union included messaging research and strategy that helped financial consumers understand what it’s like to truly have a financial organization be “in this together” with them, and how those consumers felt “in their element” when it comes to innovative, affordable, empowering financial services.

University of Charleston

How does a private liberal arts university justify its higher tuition and attract a healthy flow of new students in an era of online learning and escalating concerns over student loan debt? By establishing their unique and value position as the school where you don’t just train for a job, you embrace a life of opportunity that teaches core liberal learning objectives such as innovation and critical thinking.


What is your breakthrough message that is filled with meaning and consistently influences target audiences, regardless of the medium? We have a workshop that will get the ball rolling. If you’d like to learn more, please contact us


A Very Contagious, Sticky, Viral Marketing Tool

Contagious: Why Things Catch On is the latest to document the "how" behind word-of-mouth

Developing a truly viral idea is insanely difficult. In other words, #buzznuggets don't come easy

To help you make your marketing ideas more contagious, and perhaps help you develop that once-in-a-lifetime viral hit, we created this CSV Tool (Contagious-Sticky-Viral) for marketers. It's a compilation of the best practical advice for developing viral ideas (which can be attached to products, services or causes) from such best-selling guides as The Tipping Point, Made to Stick, Viral Loop and the latest entrant to the category, Contagious

Use the questions below to prompt a new level of viral potential for your idea, or better yet, download the Word template and fill in your own ideas. 

 We filled in the template with a sample concept to help guide you. We hope to see your #buzznuggets soon. Good luck! 

Objective: What are you attempting to achieve with this idea or concept?

To get eighth-graders to eat more vegetables


Summary: Provide an overview description of the basic concept.


Eating locally-grown green vegetables is one of the absolute best ways to improve health and maintain healthy body mass (along with cutting down sugar, drinking more water and exercising).

Our idea is to associate positive benefits and peer-relevant rewards (i.e., “hallway cred”) for eating vegetables by setting up a school-based competition between eighth graders around the country.

Kids earn prizes for reaching certain goals, and grand prizes such as personal virtual interaction with middle-school celebs (i.e., Skype session with One Direction member or China Anne McClain) for being a regional/national winner.

Story: What broader narrative theme can you wrap your idea in or around? 

We want to associate eating vegetables with something positive, something bigger than “it’s good for you.” Related narratives:

  • Stop the Sugar Syndicate! Obesity and sugar addictions among this generation; how food industry is tricking us to eat unhealthy; not unlike smoking issue came to be viewed 10-20 years ago
  • Love a Farmer! Local foods, local farms; sustainability themes
  • Feed the World! World hunger and food disparity; why are we so overweight and other kids don’t have enough to eat? It’s a justice and compassion issue

Practical Value: How can we craft content or an experience that seems useful?

  • Individual keychain or backpack clip “veggie counter” that translates the number of vegetables eaten into a simple health or contest encouragement
  • A smartphone app that sends reminders and encouragements from celebrities, helps you visualize and calculate the health benefits and tallies your school’s points
  • Bright, fun poster for tweens’ rooms featuring celebrities and simple, fun visuals highlighting health impact of vegetables

Simplicity – How can you reduce the concept down into the simplest form possible? Is the idea easily explained? Is the name simple, clever and easy to remember?

  • Veggies = life (Don’t bug me; I’m veggin’)
  • Visuals connecting the ripple effect of eating vegetables to benefits within the local economy, your body and the world
  • VegeGram (connected to InstaGram, the most popular social media tool among today’s teens)

Unexpectedness – Does the idea surprise the audience with unexpected information, visuals, experience or results? 

  • Share shocking health implications for eating or not eating vegetables
  • Share surprising examples of how kids’ favorite stars are eating vegetables
  • Share unexpected truths about how “Big Ag” actually mass produces food and the positive benefits of locally-sourced natural foods
  • Somewhat controversial message theme: “These weeds are good for you.”

Emotion: How can we craft the message or experience to make people feel something?

  • Connect the contest to a cause; for every vegetable eating level you reach, a donation from a sponsor is made to a family in selected country
  • Inspiring “feels good” stories, tweets shared by peers
  • Encourage teens to adopt their favorite veggie - #whosyourveggie

Credibility – Are there ways to demonstrate social influence from authorities or “anti-authorities” (for a sense of rebellion, as needed) relevant to the audience?

  • Participation by teen celebs
  • Widespread tweet and Instragram stream comments from peers around the country

Social Currency: How does it a person’s reputation to talk about the idea?

  • Celebrity retweets of veggie posts
  • Buzz that occurs after a celebrity Skype session for a winner or randomly selected participant

Triggers: How are people reminded to think, talk about or act on the idea?

  • Favorite teen celebrity sends you a text before lunchtime or dinnertime
  • Earn points when you tweet or post your veggie on Instagram

Public: Can people see when others are using the product or engaging in the desired behavior? How could you make it more visible?

  • Via Twitter and Instagram
  • School signage and progress charts
  • Local earned media in school’s community
  • Backpack badges or clips

Concreteness – Are there ways to make this concept engage the five senses?

  • Set up visual, hands-on displays in schools who participate
  • Use portable hands-on display in malls
  • Create an interactive, humorous visualization tool with humor and graphics appealing to teens; delivered via web and smartphone app

Viral Prompt – What visual cue or invitation exists to continue encouraging the sharing?

  • #vegegram and #whosyourveggie hashtag and link to program attached to all initiated Instagram posts and messages

Viral Loop – Is there a way to make the idea more valuable to the first adopter when they share it? (i.e., the sharer amplifies the value of the idea to themselves via emotional or functional benefit by sharing)

  • Teens tag who their circle of friends are and their group earns multiplied points and donations when when anyone in their circle send #vegegram messages

Early Adopting Community – Is there a small, defined affinity group that will establish the idea first and serve as its starting point?

  • Pilot the program in influential urban schools and progressive, innovative teachers/principals (such as Stephen Ritz from Green Bronx Machine

Law of the Few – Identify the following influencers in the target community(ies) who will help establish and spread the idea:

Connectors – Who are the people acting as a conduit between individuals and groups to carry the message

 Mavens – Who are the people with a strong compulsion to help other individuals make informed decisions

 Salesmen – Which people are extremely persuasive in inducing others’ buying decisions and behaviors? 

A major challenge will be to make schools aware of the program and get them to participate in an academic environment where there is very little opportunity for new programs to be adopted.


  • Regional youth health leaders (government, school district level)
  • Local hospitals/physician groups/nursing organizations
  • Teachers’ unions
  • Stephen Ritz from Green Bronx Machine
  • Other innovative teachers culled from “Teacher of the Year” award winners (needs researched and prioritized)
  • Identify a persuasive, dynamic current or former teacher and principal as spokesperson – speaking tour, YouTube video
  • Teen celebrities (for influencing teen participation)


Final Version – Restate the revised description of the viral concept based on your ideas above.   

VegeGram is a school-based program that encourages eighth graders to embrace increased consumption of locally-grown vegetables as part of their daily diet.


Kids compete to eat the most vegetables AND advocate eating vegetables, and in return they a) earn food donations from a sponsor to Third World school of their choosing and b) earn celebrity encouragements via Twitter/Instagram “shout outs” and live Skype sessions for the leading schools. Kids earn extra points for their schools by sharing their vegetable love via social media using the #VegeGram and #whosyourveggie hashtags.


Idea Score Sheet – How Sticky is It?

Self-rate your idea based on the critical CSV criteria. Better yet, have some friends, peers or random people in your target audience give you their feedback before launching your idea.

  • 100+ - Very good chance to go viral
  • 70 - 99 – May get shared among a significant group
  • 40 - 69 – Only the already interested will pay attention
  • 0-39 – If an idea doesn’t get a retweet, does it exist at all? 


Score 1-10



Practical Value










Social Currency








Viral Prompt


Viral Loop






(Possible 120)




Six Questions Every Marketer Must Answer for Customers

It’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day busy-work of marketing and forget the big picture goals and objectives required to be successful.

The following list of questions is a great guide to print out and hang on the wall of every marketing team member (and, really, most everyone in your organization to help them “live” the brand). How closely do your marketing investments trigger prospective customers to consider these critical marketing questions and how well do they provide compelling, convincing, easily understood answers?

Let's take a look: 

Do I need what you offer? (Pain)

Seems simple, but many customers do not “feel” the pain, and therefore see no need for your product/service. This could be because they are not aware of their pain, or maybe they’re in denial.

The “hottest” leads always begin with a “yes” to this question, of course. But there are creative ways to amplify the prospects’ awareness and understanding of pains they didn’t realize they had.

Do I want what you offer? (Aspiration)

Some customers are aware of pain, but lack the motivation to change. How is your marketing weeding out unmotivated customers and reaching those ready to improve based on your value proposition? Or, how is your marketing sparking desire and ambition that will ultimately lead to a purchase?

Why should I choose you? (Differentiation)

If you’ve identified a customer with a clear pain or goal to improve, you’re just isn’t over. Now it’s time to quickly, powerfully establish why you are the best choice. If you’re a low-consideration consumer product, this might be answered through the convenience/cost equation. If you’re a high-end or B2B product or service, you have a bit more work to do.

Very few companies do a compelling job on this step. A great way to evaluate how you’re doing on this: Look at your competitors’ web sites side by side with yours. Are you saying the same things? Making the same promises? Showing the same happy visuals?

Why shouldn’t I worry? (Confidence)

The customer is making split second decisions in her mind: What’s the risk of me investing my limited time, money and emotional energy into this decision? Will I look stupid? Will I waste time? Will it cost me more later? Who else has made this decision, and are they happy? 

What is the cost/benefit equation? (Return on Investment)

What must the customer invest of themselves in order to realize the benefits? Has marketing made these tradeoffs easy to understand? Have you reduced the perceived pain and enhanced the perceived and trusted benefits of the transaction?

How do I get started? (Call to Action)

How is marketing making it easy to learn, experiment, consume and share? Can you get more qualified potential buyers to try your product or service with minimal risk of time, emotion or money?

Here is a brief PDF tool explaining these questions that might be worth sharing with your marketing team, company executives and partners. Here is how we answered these questions for ourselves: Should you hire us