Thursday, 13 August 2015

We do what we are

It's the premise of all marketing. 

And marketing in all its shapes and forms. 

'My front door is of quality, for ME I am quality'. 

You can apply that to the physical appearance as to the voice, a leaflet, business card, website or any other personal or professional marketing tool: anything that is meant to leave an impression. 

There's not a s-h-r-e-d we put online or its subliminal message is: this is me

No message on Facebook or it provides the person seeing it with a wealth of information and it's decisive

90% is unconscious communication: We are not aware that we're aware of it. 

Neither the person posting it nor the person seeing it are not rationally aware of the meat of the message. It's picked up nevertheless: not just what you care about. But how much. How much time you have put in it. Care. Commitment. Money. Energy. Quality of thought.

Everything you are not saying or don't know that you are saying is transmitted anyway - from one unconscious brain to the other.

We do what we are and we are what we do

At least, that's both the perception, the expectation as well as the hope. Ergo: it's everything. 

Example: I do not need to write an 'About Me' page: For your impressions have already long been made. 

You already know it's about cost-effective marketing for small businesses. For you already see the 'cost-effectiveness' and the 'smallness' in everything. 

Your emotional decision to see me as a reliable source or not, was made within seconds after you landed on this blog. Whatever I write or do not write in this page, has no relevance or purpose. It's done. It's too late. You have made up your mind and have taken your emotional decision. 

That was the hardest and most difficult lesson I learned in marketing: 

It took 1 year to rank in the Top 3 for 'SEO advisor' or 'SEO Brussels'. 

It took 1 year to understand that these rankings were not cost-effective marketing at all.
It took 
1 year full time studying conversion techniques before my own website started to run by itself, without further marketing costs.
But it took me 8 years to truly and fully grasp the above. 

Don't tell what you can do, show it, from the very first second. 
For we are perceived to be doing what we inherently are.  


TIP: If you hate this article, you'll also hate Silence is a language too and definitely How is your Halo Effect?

Monday, 20 July 2015

The 3 secrets of happiness

I'm at that age where it starts to feel natural to spread wisdoms.

There has been enough mud, mist and wilderness to also stumble over diamonds. 

Enough time has gone by to let most lose their lustre,  and recognise the ones that still shine decades later. 

Here are the diamonds that made all the difference for me myself - small and simple, for great truths do not need capitals nor exclamation marks:

'Choose your friends wisely'

For we are nothing but the average of the people we spend most time with. They are decisive for your quality, ethics, integrity, wisdom, fun, mildness, reliability, stability, freshness, self-motivation, spice, success - and ultimately your happiness. 

'It's never the destination, always the journey'

Try to avoid destinations at any cost - be them geographical, financial or psychological. They are good to have, for they provide direction and are the icing on the cake, but nothing more than that. Destinations, especially the popular ones, are, per definition, downtrodden, beaten, unoriginal, lacklustre, inside the box. The city-trip can be 'OK', 'cool' or 'great' - it's the journey that can provide four-letter word extasis, satisfaction and insights. 

'When you come to a fork in the road, take it'

Don't get grey hair pondering about the choice. Great opportunities are very rare: cease them. In fact this is also a bit of a sad wisdom: it's already been decided. Whether you take the left or the right, your personality, character, temperament will still be with you - and ultimately lead you to the very same point. DID you make the wrong decision, no worries: 'It's never the destination, always the journey'. DO you think that your character or temperament or background obstruct you: 'Choose your friends wisely'. 


Monday, 22 June 2015

Rather a Spanish bull than a Belgian cow

What's so noble about treating animals as crop? 

A country where you can find road signs such as this one, is not a bad place for bulls.

In the north of Europe I've never seen 3 cows have a whole valley to themselves. Nor road signs warning: Chickens crossing! Pigs crossing! For sure the end of their lives is more 'humane', for they have none.

Instincts deleted, adrenaline repressed. Capacity to mate or fight: not necessary. You're nothing but a vegetable, a grain of sand in the mass industry of a forever growing meat consumption. You end up on a plate while people discuss the flavour of the sauce. You're a cog in the statistics of the obesity rate, not to mention Global Warming. 

But we come to southern Spain and say: "Tsss".

It's in our genes to want to expand in all directions. Our opinions, our cultural habits. As though the town we grew up in is the measure of all things. And, of course, it's also in our genes to strengthen our defense when under attack: the best way to keep the tradition of the bullfight alive is for foreigners to criticize it. 

(A few things regarding gay rights in Africa or democracy in Russia jump to mind too). 

By the way, I met some Andalusian men who are bulls themselves, so much so that sometimes I can see that it is a fair fight. To be able to live all the adrenaline, power, speed and tactics that evolution has provided... oh yes, as Hemingway I'd much rather be a Spanish bull than a German cow. 

OK, I'm in Andalusia again and, as always, my love for the region is skyrocketing. For sure I'm telling things that might upset others - you know how it goes when you see thin ice... you just have to tread on it. You just have to step closer to that canyon.

This is not a pro-corrida article. Only one to stress that there are 2 sides to every coin. Together we will find a middle way. 


Sunday, 3 May 2015

The grand return of German in marketing

Over the past 5 years I've noticed a clear increase in the demand for German. In basically everything: website translations, SEO, set-up of paid advertising, you name it. 

Nothing new under the sun: businesses go where the market is thought to be. 

Lately though I do notice something new: enthusiasm.

The demand for the translation is not always just for strategic reasons, but also for liking the language. 

Or for feeling connected to those who speak it. 

Sure, both are related. We tend to see a culture or country that is economically strong in a more positive light in other domains too. And for sure an Angela Merkel has topped up the existing 'perception of the brand' from mere Reliability... with Likeability.

As all great Brands know: nothing can make you successful as being loved. Do not push but pull

The main expression that springs to mind though is: Cultural Determination. 

Or: our opinions and feelings are only the average of those around us. And fluctuate. 

In this, a language is absolutely no different from the rise and fall of a celebrity or a trend or a song in the pop charts: all things go through a wave of being seen as hip/cool/beautiful/trendy/great to the opposite - and, sometimes, back again.

Today, yes, even 12-year olds here in Brussels might still say that 'German is an ugly language'. But they no longer connect it to 70 years of movies reducing it to one trademark only. The negative reputation is slowly fading. It might be the very last tiny waves on the beach of collective prejudices

People born before WW2 never thought or think of it as being 'ugly'. On the contrary, for them it often was and still is the language of Europe's great composers, finest poets and most influential thinkers. A European nonagenarian can drop expressions in German, just as a teenager does in English. 'Fingerspitzengefühl' they will say, or 'ins blauen hinein', savoring the sweet confirmation that this establishes them as being cultured. Or plugged in with society. 

It's funny that it's never a 'small' language that is named 'beautiful': only ever one of a very large country or very dominant culture. To the victor go the spoils: the attention goes to the beauty of that language, over the heads of that of any other. Its marketing is better.

For sure a language can be spoken beautifully or poorly. Some languages come with a very strong emphasis on the importance of speaking well, in other languages that's less the case. 

If the operas had been written in Finnish, we would all go: "What a beautiful language, how... musical"! Large sections of any society would be 'Finophile'. Others would scratch their heads and have to admit: "True, sauna... that's a nice word". Next thing you know we might focus on the beautiful sounds - and the language is on our radar. 

Sure, being liberated by the Finnish would hugely help. Their prime minister motivating Europe during dark nights. Their tall, brave soldiers distributing chewing gum. The Halo Effect kicks in and in a matter of 2 generations it will be the lingua franca of Europe. 

Where was I? O yes, the German language.

Very, very slowly - and for sure in some 10-20 years completely - we are once again entering a world in which the German shepherd does not have to be renamed in 'Alsatian', a royal family such as the British one doesn't have to change their name overnight for it sounding too German... and it can simply be the great language of Goethe again, of van Beethoven and the Lorelei. 

That in itself is a historic step.
It's how history actually works. Not by grand deeds on specific dates, but as a very, very slow river that takes a century to arrive in a very, very calm sea under a blue, sunny sky. 

You'd think that nothing has happened, but someting has. 

All together now: 



Friday, 1 May 2015

What website languages to use by 2025?

Ever since 2008 my inbox keeps flashing the words 'German', 'Dutch', 'Danish', 'Norwegian' at me.

As well as requests for Advertising in Germany, Holland and all Scandinavian countries. 

But that's today. What about the future?  Worldwide: personally I predict the return of the importance of the languages of our neighbouring countries. For the pendulum always swings back (in this case from mondialisation to deepening of own culture).

For Europe, the GlobalEurope Anticipation Bulletin, not just any source, predicts: 

1. A great comeback of German 2. Increase of importance of Russian 3. And, for communication outside of Europe, Spanish

They do indeed seem to be safe bets. Just safe bets obviously don't often result in much return, if any, so as small business owner you want to investigate and improve the chances.

Better it is...

To definitely first perform research around you
To people who represent your typical or future target market (not friends or relatives or whatever online forum). 

For example: I love working with web designers from India. But if I need a website for Brussels, the web designer just needs to come from there too: it's a Must that he/she lives and breathes the cultural opinions regarding quality, reliability, Golden Ratio, what constitutes a trust maker or breaker - etc.

Most communication is unspoken, it's already part of the fabric of a segment of society.

Still better it is...

To be clever.
Predictions as the one above create more competition. Such a serious prediction is read by tens of thousands, who talk about it to others, which quickly spreads over millions of articles... so rest assured that by 2025 everyone might target exactly the same languages/markets again.

Just as half of Europe is targeting Scandinavia in Google Adwords today - making that the cost per click is extremely expensive.

It's never the popularity of the language that makes a translation or knowledge of a language beneficial to you: it's the niche as well as being ahead of others.

Being ahead of others is a very clear advantage. It were the first who went onto YouTube, the first who started with a mobile website, that were able to increase their market share.

And being clever is that other pillar of all online marketing. Far better it is to target a language spoken in a country that, say, represents only 2% of the world population but stands for 4% of its GDP - and not 0.1% of the world can translate back or to this language. Etc.

I read the story about a Briton who learned Dutch. Yes, a Briton who learned Dutch. Take a moment to ponder about that. And wonder if you would have guessed that it also makes him more successful and more in demand than thousands of others who also offer more language combinations. For maybe only 1% of the market will demand a native speaker for the end language - but he's got that market completely to himself.

Even better it is...

It ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it!

It might be far better to target one extra language, than a 100 of them. For whatever the sport, the field of study, the craftsmanship or anything else in life: you have to be the best to win. Or at the very least better than others.

Marketing is all about emotional connection.

You won't connect with any website visitor with poor translations, only a bit with insipid ones, only averagely if the seriousness or cultural knowledge is average, and so on. You want to really connect on a very high level with (possibly) the ideal segment of the highest level of your target market.

Why even learn a language or translate a website - if we all speak English anyway? Well, did you ever try to get a mass audience on the dance floor? Or make them change from sitting there having a good time - to sing along and having a great time? What is that one moment that they do so? They can like or even love a whole evening in any language - but it's only a song in the own language that creates a shudder: 

Language is not merely a communication tool: it comes with a very strong emotional connection: it's a communicational knife slicing through the rational brain straight to the limbic system and beyond.

Any person addressing any other person in his or her own language, has a very strong advantage: the potential for an emotional click. In marketing: an increase in likeability, memorability, reliability, conversion. 

And it's not about whether or not there's a connection: but its quality. The quality of your connection or profitability will only be as good as the quality of the language used.

After all, it's enthusiasm that connects and sells, quality sells, reliability sells - not any order of any alphabet. 


Thursday, 30 April 2015

Get well soon, Web Designer

Half the world is Web Designer. But one that improves your business results? Very rare. 

One that improves business results very much? More rare than a unicorn!  

If you spot one, put a fence around him or her, and shower him or her with money.

He or she is that one moon in a milky way of specks. Something lovely, refreshing, unique, making your day, day after day.

Get well soon, you Unicorn!

It took me over 20 designers before your instantly noticeable touch and change in results.

You touching a website means it instantly changes (improves) in results. Simply for that very good feel for - and living in - the target market. 

That when talking a web designer we're talking many quality levels in the eye for design, web development, knowledge of SEO, conversion, psycho-social triggers, navigation, the balance between the pillars - not to mention the reliability, ethics and speed. 

Get well soon. In the mean time: no web design services through to July. 

Only for existing customers. 


PS: And thank you, Rafi, for your poetic photo! 

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Don't spend a penny on online marketing

Online marketing is an immensely big city. 

It consists of tens of millions of businesses trying to be the highest or most noticeable building. 

At any rate: to get noticed. 

Some invest millions, and others make do with searching online for 'rank high in the search engines for 49€'. 

The Internet is a permanent 'American Dream', making millions believe in the promise of wealth and success…  

if you just spend 50€. Or every month a bit. Or with these free tips. 

Now, rationally you and me know it won't work. We're not idiots. We know the real story.

Reality = 

That someone goes through years of efforts and expenses to become, say, a Pharmacist. For that's a title with potential: its reputation has been built by generations. We know that this person then scans the region for a location that increases this potential. And then picks a building that transmits reliability,  on a very centrally located spot. Next step: much money is needed for the decoration, stock, etc... to enhance the trust of the possible customer who will walk through the door. Without it, that person will not convert into a customer. Only when all that has been taken care of, he or she will install the internationally recognised symbol above the doors to start attracting the very first person.

The marketing potential has already been maximized before startingAnd that very first marketing tool, the light box, is an affair of hundreds of Euros.  

So why do we believe in the online promises of cheap, quick, free...? 

That the whole world might struggle when building a business, but you and me will manage with free tips? We will have a functional business with a template website design and a 22€ Euro book named 'How to be successful online'? 

How on earth is it possible that we believe that? 

One word: surfing online happens from home. 
It has always been our castle. Where we let down our guard.
Our survival mode is switched to the lowest possible level.

So we can belief that a millionaire in Nigeria has left us his money. That a photo model is in love with us. Anything that would make us laugh in real life... seems plausible when it happens online.

'Rank Nr 1 in Google for 49€'! 
'Attract more customers with a free website'.

Sure. It's a great New World, one where working or thinking very hard belongs to the past. Everything is easy now. 

What is the remedy?  

Don't fall for it. Realise that it's a World of Make Believe.

If any marketing tip online would be really valuable, make you get ahead of competition - it will not be online in the first place. 

Companies or platforms offering online marketing solutions are online marketers themselves. They know everything about the 'loss aversion bias': the human tendency to stick with programs not because they like them so much and are so effective... but because they are afraid to lose out when they stop them. 

"So, let's continue with this monthly cost, I have no idea what it delivers but results might be even lower if we cancel it".

They know about the Buyer's Stockholm Syndrome, and they know we are all dreamers, or lovers of lotteries and Casinos (where the odds are equally high). 

Treat your online marketing as professionally as anything else 

You have a small company. It works thanks to an immense investment of work, time, thinking and your strong belief in quality. 

Your online marketing will not be different. It's work. It's thinking. It's competitive

Don't spend a single penny on any online marketing tool or promise, untill you've looked at the offer from all sides, also from your desk in your professional environment and together with colleagues or partners who are in a very professional mindset.

Wait a month. Look at it again. Think whether the foundation has been optimized (it's no use sending traffic to a website that will not convert into customers). 

If it still looks good, then go for it.


Friday, 10 April 2015

The marketing and fun of quitting smoking

Yip, once again I quit smoking. I'm in day 12 and in a permanent state of being amused. 

(Edited at day 26 and day 40 and still quite amused).

Amused?  Am I not supposed to be a walking bomb in a bad mood? 

Surprisingly enough: no.  For the very first time in 30 years quitting seems to be rather easy. And my 'office' is in a café style, not even coming with a smoke ban!

Let me paraphrase a quote of Henry Ford: "Whether you think something will be difficult or easy - in both cases you are right". 

Things depend on how you market them to yourself.

We are all salesmen, having to find the right argument to our own brain 

That one argument or attitude that works for us. I seem to have found mine: 'Gosh, this is easy'. 

Normally attempts to quit smoking mean going through a minefield, weeks of exhausting plowing from one craving to the other, hoping that you'll soon make it to that Promised Land on the other side. 

There are hundreds of such moments of cravings, so during previous attempts I used to stock quite a lot of arguments to battle them all. That was obviously the problem. I can't even recall how many times I bought 'that book' again, that book that every smoker I know has bought at least once and that we all find so useful (with that one exception that it didn't make us stop stopping).

This time I didn't prepare a single argument 

No calculations as to how much money I would save, I didn't ask anyone for support, didn't think of 'replacements', there are no motivational articles or books in sights, no scribbles with the never ending advantages of not smoking… I just quit.

Arguably this is precisely the reason why it's so easy this time around: I do not send a single signal to my brain telling the opposite. Nothing in me seems to see it as 'a struggle': I told myself it was going to be easy and fun, ergo: it is

That could explain why some people who stopped smoking can be so spookily casual about it, as though it was no big deal. It wasn't a big deal for them, for they didn't see it as a big deal at the time. They didn't have superior willpower, but they just found a helpful point of view.  

Whereas if you prepare - The Right Time, The Arguments, The Replacements, The Self-Help Book, The Support - you might as well tell your brain: "OMG, we're going to cross the Sahara!" 

Edit: quitting smoking is not the problem

The weight gain is.

I'm one month further and love the human brain: it can only be obsessed about one issue at a time. I'm so busy with healthy food and jogging that the whole smoke stop seems to have taken a backseat. 

If I think about it, it's for 5 seconds and then my mind jumps to the 'real' problem again. After all, smoking doesn't have a single advantage, any advantage our mind comes up with is a fantasy or one of those childish tricks of addiction, so we don't have to exhaust ourselves in taking that decision again every 5 minutes - it's literally a no-brainer. All we need to do is to not smoke and further not waste a single thought on it.  

That doesn't mean it's a piece of cake

I lit up over a hundred thousand cigarettes in my life, hell, it's part of my branding!

So it's only natural that our lungs, hands and brains can be at a loss.

Everything in my body seems to be asking: Eh, hello there, what's going on?? 

It makes me laugh. Something that nags so much should not be part of my life in the first place. 

There are suspiciously many that talk of how difficult it is, making me wonder just how many people give up before even trying. Or meticulously plan it 3 months in advance, as though it's not something we can do right now, or have a little try-out this afternoon, or whenever we want to.

Not to mention all those articles saying that You Need Replacements, or that talk of 'Power Of Will' as though it's an invincible force of nature, not just one of the many little traits we all share. 

You don't need Willpower with a capital W, only your sense of humour. 

Being human means having all solutions in you: you're a superb tool that has been fine-tuned over the course of hundreds of thousands of difficult years. Don't let yourself be fooled into thinking something is not within your reach, or only with the help of aides. 

At one point or the other, you too might sit somewhere and then suddenly think: "hey...", put out your cigarette and laugh a month about the funny but useless tricks of your body and mind: it's all just readjusting and you could see that as the most important Spa you've ever treated yourself to.


Friday, 20 March 2015

The Sellers' Stockholm Syndrome

Turning a business around can be as difficult as turning a belief system around.

For when we talk humans, we talk patterns and habits

We keep striking the same note day after day, and few of us get out of it. 

Monitor a human one week and there's a big chance you can more or less accurately predict the rest of her/his life.

What he/she eats, does, thinks in those other 3000 weeks - can already be imagined by the habits detected in the first. 

As mentioned in the Buyers' Stockholm Syndrome, we are creatures - almost slaves - of habit: once a decision was made we keep falling back on it, as though it was a unique bolt of lightning of clarity and truth

For that's easy, and least energy consuming.

Nothing, literally nothing is as energy consuming as thinking, as actually setting the grey cells into motion - for they too will have the habit of forever turning back to square 0: the Habit.

After 13 years of working in marketing I can safely say this is one of the biggest obstacles I ever encounter. 

It doesn't matter for many customers that their social networking is not working, that they've tried out dozens of 'free SEO tips' online and they're not working either, that their website is not working "so maybe I should put a special on there"... 'we always do it likes this', 'it's what we always do'.

So they go on, forever pushing the same car uphill, not so much in the conviction or even vague hope that one day they will hit a gold mine - but because they won't have to go through that massively energy consuming mental U-turn. 

It's such an iron curtain that me too I have learned not to spend too much energy on trying to convince anyone to look at their marketing from a different perspective. I don't advise people to stop their social networking habits or to refrain from 'on top of Google for 29€' packages. 

And least of all that habit of thinking: "Well, I've got 2000 visitors a month but no clients, so maybe when I have 4000 visitors..."

That's what they do, that's their pattern, and I focus on those who are already convinced of the importance of quality. It's far, far, far easier to double your business by doubling your conversion than by doubling traffic - and near impossible to explain that to anyone else than those who already know that.

If we want our business to turn around, we need to turn around.
If we want our marketing to be better, we need to be better.

And that is: snap out of habits.
They're ineffective, waste money, energy and time.

For a seller nothing is as difficult as pushing the Reset Button. 
And for businesses wasting money on marketing without seeing much return, nothing is more needed than that. 


Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Silence is a language too

In marketing, silence is a language too. As an online marketer (unfortunately) having chatted away years of my life, I know it's even one of the strongest languages.

In an era of millions trying to get noticed, visually inundating you with posts and messages, silence is not just a breathe of fresh air.

It makes one company stand out over the other.

Silence stands out more than Italian. It's more cultured than German, more colourful than Spanish, more sexy than Dutch (guess my nationality). 

Without us being aware of it, we find silence to be cultured, musical, classy. The small company that can speak the language of silence on social networks, is a shelf above the rest.

For our species considers people who talk too much, too loudly or too quickly - as standing low on the social pecking order. We feel we're  dealing with a shaky sense of confidence.

We do so instinctively. As always, our instinct is there to make life easier by slicing through the clutter and the smoke, and that applies to humans and websites alike: we hear the subtext far louder than the text. 

When someone speaks little or very slowly - our radar says: he or she is used to listeners hanging onto every word. He or she can afford to speak very little. So much so that when he says something, it must be worth listening to. 

Our websites or profiles on social networks are seen as people
Surfing online is a lonely business and we hang out with the web pages we would hang out with in a bar if they were human. 

So don't tweet for me, Argentina. Definitely not too much. And if you do, let every word crush (or water) the lily in our soul.


Monday, 19 January 2015

Threesomes and stand-alones

Where does your eye go first?
What will you remember of this page? 

The message in the red square here below. It's not large, nor on top of the page and still it's the one message you will see and remember. 

1. Because it's the only colour
2. Because it's easy to grasp
3. Because it's a stand-alone.

You understand this message better, since I've explained it in a threesome 

We love threesomes, we're very used to it, it's the rhythm of the waltz, and so many things in our culture come with 3. (Father, Son and Holy Ghost, the 3 layers of our brain, etc). 

In a blur of texts, the human eye goes to a threesome because: 

  • It looks easy
  • It's a pleasant rhythm
  • It's a summary of everything

There are many, very many elements in marketing to enhance the chances of being noticed and being understood - and they do not all have to be difficult. 


Sunday, 18 January 2015

Notes on the 'Je Suis wave'

One can understand that Obama did SO not want to be included in that photo-op.

The acute threat of being kissed and hugged by the French president is one. The ever lasting importance of an iconic photo another. 

It would have been the precise opposite of 'winning hearts and minds'. For hearts and minds always remember just one thing and one thing only. And stick with that first impression for a very long time. It's practily irreversible. 

Just like an irreversible impression is made the second your website opens.

What good is it for Europe to have so much, if the unforgettable image etched into the world's collective mind is that of some cartoons somewhere? 

1% of the cartoons seen by 0.1% of the French and 0.001% of all other Europeans, and now some terror guys and some politicians seem to have turned it into our logo.  

I'm one of the 395 million Europeans who did not use that expression, but there you go, it's always about perception and symbols. 

Everybody, bar the average and well-meaning European, tried to brand himself that day. Quite annoying for Europe as a brand itself. 


PS: Tourist, it's safe now, the threat level of being kissed-and-hugged by presidents has been lowered to yellow!

Friday, 16 January 2015

All is fear in love and marketing

Fear sells. 
After sex and food it's the 3rd most sensitive human trigger - and thus the 3rd most used button in marketing. 

Fear, danger, urgency, warnings sell unlike anything else. 

I notice this all the time. So far I wrote 132 blog posts, loving marketing and searching for insight - and then look at the list of most read posts. It basically includes every article with a warning. Making me look like a rebel. Which I'm not. 

And it seems that not only commercial brands study psycho-social triggers: here's a cut-out, blurred and minimized - and you will still recognize it. 

Maybe only Coca-Cola has this level of 'Brand recognition'.

Marketing is both less expensive and more powerful than a tank - and someone at IS clearly knows what the most successful marketing campaigns have in common (and is very good at applying all techniques). 

Our fear radar is very sensitive. Hence why the radio no longer speaks of snow but 'snow misery', not of a warm day but 'heat alert'. Or why IS is going over the top, taking instilling fear to the highest possible level. 

(What amazes me most is how the western media go with the flow right now, adding injury to insult to tactic. Personally I switch them off, for if I didn't I would be in a permanent state of anxiety). 

And all this because we members of the human species have got a very long experience with extreme danger. We can even say: addiction

Do you remember smilodon, the sabre-tooth tiger?

You think you don't? An adversary from 2 million years up to only 10.000 years ago? 

We might have forgotten him in our Neo Cortex, but he still pops up in our nightmares, that world of monsters and long teeth. You'd think that by now the bad guys in our nightmares have got machine guns or bombs, but no, they are still Vampires, Dracula, Hannibal Lecter and the more unfriendly alien. 

You don't easily get rid of a pattern you've been practising for, oh, a few hundred thousand years. 

If we're not busy fleeing danger, we're busy chasing it. It's magnetic. 'Smoking kills' is a clever marketing strategy, not meant to make you stop smoking. Since you can also get immune to a sense of danger, marketers forever have to up the ante. 

The Whodunnit has to become a Thriller that has to become a Horror movie, until we're only still scared if a movie is about a gathering of 12 serial killers of whom at least one targets the whole planet. 

The message 'Smoking Kills' will be replaced by photos of diseases. In 30 years from now they might throw in a free skeleton with every pack of cigarettes. Or the Tobacco shop will be decorated as a haunted house. 

(One doesn't dare to imagine what IS will do next). 

I can't count the marketing messages that either target your desire for safety, or your wish to flirt with danger. 

"We should fear nothing but fear itself"
Rationally, we know that to be true. 
We know it's the one and only reasonable and right reaction. 
We know it's the only dignified attitude, triggering the least chain reactions. 

But it takes a Hercules, having control over his limbic and reptilian brain, to actually act upon it. Danger is a button unlike any other. And so it comes that millions are glued to the TV right now: looking for clues if there's reason to feel fear, and if so, how much, and because of whom.  

OK, we just went through the siesta of the lovely, newsless 80s and 90s. So everything that happens right now is like the landing in Normandy, Warsaw ghetto uprising and abolishment of slavery rolled into one. Who of us can say there's not a big ghost sitting on our shoulder calling the shots? 

(Damn that Hitler, that he can still poison our feelings today. But, well, there you go, if Smilodon still can,  than Hitler for sure. We're forever busy fighting the dangers of yesterday). 

So, there we go, even in the midst of our most cosy, peaceful moment... we just have to press the danger button.

For sure somewhere on Facebook there's something that will upset me? Damnit, nothing - maybe if I go to a page of people who believe the opposite of me?

For we just have to look into the cliff, have to test the ice, have to bungee jump or try that roller coaster. 

Think of that the next time you get marketing emails or offers telling you: 'Don't lose out on...', 'you risk to get behind...', 'your pension will...'.

It's a marketing technique. 

It's a given that this article will end up in the list of the most read ones - and not because it's the best one.   


Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Knowledge is Power

This post will be read by very few people. For knowledge is not researched. We have no instinctive or automated drive to search for knowledge. 

If you want to attract many readers, offer ‘panem et circenses’ – but do not talk about knowledge. With as result that knowledge is gold. 

To try to find it online, is as starting to dig for gold somewhere in the midst of a trillion hills. Hoping that someone has put a sign there: "Here's the gold the whole world is after" (*)

It's because of knowledge that today’s powerful are so powerful they are almost a different species

We wouldn’t even know who they are: a helicopter lands on the rooftop of a Manhattan bank: a satellite monitors the behavioural patterns of billions of people. We have no clue who is behind it. 

For the best way for an aristocracy to avoid a revolution, is to not be known. 

A search engine probably knows more about you than you. Your search pattern at age 16 can predict the potential of your voting or spending pattern at age 20. (Obviously no CEO is interested in you or me, but in the collective of tens of millions of you’s). 

Plato still thought a ‘6 to 1’ wage disparity to be fair – the owner of a company should earn 6 times as much as the worker.
In the 1920s the convention was ’21 to 1’.
Today we are at 500 and even 1000 to 1.

Of course, the earth's population has thousand folded. Thus the market. Thus the knowledge. Thus the wages. 

"Is that fair"? It's a question we can't answer with yes or no. 

If anyone studies for years, be it at University or online or as self-made man, he or she gathers knowledge in a specific domain, takes chances, postpones earnings. 

We could say that anyone can have the drive to search knowledge. Just as anyone can have the drive to spend life chatting and watching TV.
Those are choices, heavily influenced by background, parents, education, social environment, character, temperament and especially the people we surround ourselves with - but choices nevertheless. 

Some search knowledge for personal profit. Others search knowledge for the sake of humanity.
The economy also benefits from those who aim at personal profit, just as society can be damaged by those with an ideal. Humanity suffered as much from those who did not think of personal profit, as from those who did. 

So there is no answer. We would need to study the outcome of millions of people with thousands of levels of knowledge, to know whether the overall picture is a positive or negative one - fair or not fair. 

If knowledge is power, is non-knowledge slavery?

For sure
How to make a human addicted to a smartphone has been studied as much as to tobacco, drugs, sugar, entertainment... someone somewhere is making money out of that.  

Never forget though that there's no such thing as total freedom: there are only very many levels.

Also the trillionaire owning a satellite and being high above the 'mediocre millionaires' with their flying cars - is a slave of his cognitive biases, hormones, patterns, peer pressure, social and cultural determination. Neuro-scientists already long know that it's debatable whether or not we have a free will. 
You could even say: what's wrong with someone who has such a thirst for control? Isn't that a choleric temperament gone astray? Alpha-maleness gone coocoo?

And never forget that power is not equal to happiness. 
It can even be a detour. 
Anyone, anywhere, at any given moment, can take the distinct decision: 'I am going to be happy'. 

There are shortcuts to happiness. Dancing. Loving. Painting. Cooking. 
Neither power nor knowledge are the be-all and end-all. 

Personally, I happen to love digging for knowledge regarding marketing. It's one of my short cuts. I love the intense brooding and thinking of how to put a customer in the market, and am over the moon with my customers who share this drive. 

I don't think that everyone should be studying or gathering knowledge all the time. 
Just as I do not judge those who have this drive but thousand folded. I admire people who are thirsty for knowledge, regardless of the scale. 

Gathering knowledge and insights makes me happyI'm happy with personal success, and the success of customers. It's the happiness of an athlete who has just beaten others or won the game. 
The earnings are a side-effect. 


(*) Sure, there are such signs. 'On top of the search engines for 20 Euro'! Resulting in millions of people starting to dig in that spot, making it utterly useless. 

It's almost endearing how naive we become when we turn online. If someone on the street would stop you and say 'I can make double your business' you would think: dada. Online we have no problem forever throwing 20€ here and 60€ there. 

There's still a great disparity in the split second persuasion

I cannot offer much knowledge  either - at least not in comparison to what there is out there. I'm in my 12th year of digging. And by now I know that it truly is a question of rolling up the sleeves. 'There is no such thing as a free lunch'. 

Thank You Mark 

 Thank you, my favourite photographer in Brussels, Mark Timmermans, for your gorgeous photography. I think you are worth every penny and your reputation as a gem of a photographer.