In the world of neuromarketing, we talk about mirror neurons and something I call “The Magic Mirror Principle”. When this principle is used, it tells us we can be the type of person shown or discussed in the marketing piece, if only we’ll buy this product or use this service. The imagery says things to us on a sub-conscious level that the company can’t say outright. Things like: “Use this cream and you’ll look like a supermodel.” or “Take this pill and you’ll always be happy.”
The mirror taps into our emotional need to look better, feel better, or be the person we want to be. It gives us license to do things we don’t’ normally do. As a business owner, it can be a very powerful marketing tool, but it should be used very carefully. When the Magic Mirror is used incorrectly it leads to buyer’s remorse & damages your brand’s reputation.
A client of mine recently gave me a great example of how a company used the Magic Mirror to play her husband – taking his money and leaving him flat. Here’s what she told me:
My husband thinks he’s a “manly” man. He only uses a bar of plain soap and shuns the use (and word) “moisturizer.” He says, “Body washes are not for men; a man should wash with good old fashioned soap the way God intended.”
Recently a company came to the rugby field to sell a “special product” made specifically for men to use in lieu of soap. My husband bought the whole thing. It was a body wash in a black bottle and a beauty “pouf.” The packaging was a sheet of stock paper with an explanation of the product in a ziplock bag with the bottle and pouf. When I pointed out that it wasn’t manly, it was just body wash and a poof – he threw it away.
Here’s how the Magic Mirror worked on him: In his mind (whether he will ever admit it or not) he knows there are alternatives to plain soap and water that he would like to try. But his identity and his concept of manhood will not allow him to entertain the thought of using these products. He’s seen all the ads for men’s grooming products, but because the men in the ads don’t mirror the type of man he wants to be – he won’t go near them. Along comes a product that gives him license to do something he would never do. The packaging isn’t pretty so it doesn’t threaten his self-image. The message says, “This is for the type of man who would never think of exfoliating.” If his wife hadn’t told him it was the same as every other product he might have continued to use it. But as soon as she told him it was a body wash & pouf – the same as any other product on the market – she shattered the Magic Mirror. Now he has buyer’s remorse and will never go near this product again.
The Magic Mirror is a powerful tool. As a consumer, it’s hard for us to resist this one. We’re hard-wired to fix areas of our lives we feel are lacking – both on the conscious and sub-conscious level.
On the marketing side, if you use the Magic Mirror be sure you understand what you’re reflecting and what could shatter the mirror. If you’re only interested in a one-time sale, the mirror can be distorted and fragile. But if you want repeat business, the mirror must be realistic enough to keep your customer satisfied even if someone shatters it to pieces.
Next time: How the Magic Mirror accidentally destroyed the people it was trying to help.