Remember the film Jaws? Just in case you don’t (for some weird reason) It’s a classic American thriller starring a Great (man-eating) White shark that attacks beachgoers. The sheriff, Roy Scheider, sets out on a mission to kill the Shark with the help of a marine biologist and a shark hunter.
What did you feel when you watched it? Well, obviously, you were terrified. Why? You were concerned for the well-being of the people in the water and for the humans combatting the mean shark. In fact, once fishermen caught on to the success of the movie; it almost caused the extinction of the Great White Shark, believing that catching their own Jaws would make them a hero.
But, what if we decide to identify with the Shark? What if we take the shark’s side and actually want it to win? We would then see a totally different movie – wouldn’t we?
Of course, favoring the “bad guy” in the movies is socially unacceptable – it may even be immoral or indicative of a sociopathic behavior. But when you think about it, in real life, some of the best business people (who have created tremendous value for their shareholders) are the ones who favor the shark.
In contrast to psychologists who try to help their patient feel better and be better, the greatest businesses are the one who prey on our weaknesses. They take advantage of our so called “irrationality”.
Psychologists have to find out – together with you – what exactly has happened throughout your life to understand what shapes your behavior. It is typically an event you personally interpreted, that was significant emotionally and created a yearning for greener grass. If your parents left you alone and you felt abandoned or if your brother hit you and you felt unprotected, you would develop certain types of behaviors to make sure you’ll never be alone again or that no one will ever be able to hit you. You develop certain beliefs about what life is about, and as you grow up, you realize that you’re not happy.
We’re highly simplifying this, of course, but the fact is that most people you meet in your life feel a lack of some sort: lack of certainty, lack of meaning, lack of connection or love, they feel that they are not good enough as parents or as business people – and so on.
While the psychologist struggles, the business marketer can have it much easier. You don’t need to know which parent feels that they are not good enough – you just need to know that most of them do. And then you need to design products that make them help resolve the dissonance of “I’m a horrible Mom because I spend all day at the office” by allowing her to feel good. How? Just show her the most expensive toy for her baby and then she’ll say to herself: isn’t that why you’re working so hard? So you can buy your baby the best of everything?
This is “Anti-Strategy”.
This is about viewing the inner-yearnings, the psychological deficiencies, the paradigmatic views, the negative patterns as resources to be exploited -not as problems to be solved. This is something that many business people can and, in fact, take advantage of (but they are smart enough to deny it).
People lie to themselves and then to others. They invent identities for themselves and then try to justify their stories (If you’re a Harvard graduate, how likely you drive a Toyota corolla?). That’s why when you’re an investment banker, you have to spend the summer in the Hamptons even though it makes zero economic sense. What would people say if you didn’t? What would it mean about your persona?
Irrationality, you say? So please tell me what your opinion about the Hampton house owners is? What does it say about them when they benefit from this irrational behavior? Are they mean, or are they simply smart business people?
In reality, Entrepreneurs are not heroes coming to fight monopolies – they are attempting to create them. They are not here just to make people’s lives better – they are here to exploit their emotional deficiencies.
In the fairytales and in Hollywood, the “good guys” win.
In reality, the sharks get all the glory.